Tips for Conservation Job Applications

Any tips for applying for conservation jobs?

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I graduated in 2019 and I've since had a variety of jobs, only one of them with any direct conservation/wildlife link (and it was only seasonal work). Obviously, this year has made it a bit harder to look for work, but jobs keep popping up that are relevant and suit my interests/skillset. 
I think I have a good foundation of experience and skills, but hate to say that I sometimes get a bit discouraged when I've applied for a job that I meet all the criteria for and hear nothing back, even though I understand that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. 

So, the big question is to have a good shot at getting that perfect job: is it a case of relevant experience on your CV, or how well you sell yourself in your cover letter/personal statement? 
I'd love to hear tips, tricks or advice from anyone to help myself and others in a similar position. 

Thank you, looking forward to seeing your ideas! 
Kaitlyn 

PS. for some background, I'd like to get into environmental education or other similar jobs. 

Kaitlyn Elverson

BSc Wildlife Conservation Graduate, .

Hello, I'm 23 and currently based in Cornwall, UK. I recently graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2019 with a BSc in Wildlife Conservation. My passion has always been marine conservation, and my goal is to pursue a career in the sector, with a focus on sustainability, marine education and research. I have a more general employment background of working with children and young adults on conservation themed projects and also on broader levels, fundraising and research and development. As a hobby, I sing, write and perform my own music and would love the opportunity to develop this passion into a side business alongside my conservation work. I am currently seeking entry level/graduate/intern positions and experience, preferably related to marine conservation, research or sustainability.
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Go to the profile of Samantha Reynolds
10 months ago

Hi Kaitlyn,

I don't have a huge amount of recent experience, but here are a few things I do:

- Pull out keywords and phrases from the job description and make to include them in my CV and Cover Letter, some companies now use screening software.

-I tailor my CV and Cover Letter for every job I apply for to make sure I each of the competencies I have are clear to whoever is reviewing applications.

- I research the company I am applying to and will make sure I state why I want to work for them and what I can offer them. Sometimes when you read through the job description you can think of some other skills you have that aren't stated that could help. If they don't give a name for who to address the cover letter to, I try and find one. This is easier if the job description details the line of reporting.

- Sometimes cover letters can feel a bit stuffy so I try to inject a bit of my personality into it to try and make it feel like a real person rather than just a piece of paper. 

- And lastly, "you can't win if you don't play the game". You don't have to have all the essential skills to apply, if you have most of them just apply anyway, you never know what might happen. I applied for a job completely out of my sector a few years ago because I just needed the work. One of the things that got me an interview was that I had worked in the Seychelles and the manager had just been there to celebrate a big wedding anniversary. 

- Follow up. From what I have seen there's usually a two to four-week turnaround. If you don't hear anything after two weeks send them an email reiterating your interest and ask if they would like any extra information.

I hope some of this is useful. Good luck. I'm also applying for jobs at the moment, so can understand your hesitations. I'd be happy to have a read through any application documents if that would be helpful.

Go to the profile of Rosheen
10 months ago

Thank you Samantha clear and great.

Go to the profile of Kaitlyn Elverson
10 months ago

Thank you Samantha, that is fantastic advice! 
Some of your tips I try to do anyway, especially the key word bit (only just picked up on that in my last few applications). 
I really appreciate the offer of reading through some applications, and would love a second eye on them if you have the time. Is there a best way of sending them to you? 

Good luck too and thanks again! 

Go to the profile of Samantha Reynolds
10 months ago

No problem, you can send it to sam.m.reynolds@hotmail.com my experience has all been marine-based so happy to answer any questions too if you're interested in tropical/coral reefs etc.

Go to the profile of Molly Heal
10 months ago

Hi Kaitlyn, yeah it's very discouraging when you put together a good application, and you don't hear anything back, but if it's any reassurance (it certainly makes me feel better), and as I'm sure you already know, competition can be fierce (200 over-qualified people applying for an unpaid internship, etc. etc.), and lack of job success is not necessarily a reflection of your skillset or suitability for the role. Always worth keeping that in mind for morale purposes (that might just be me though)!

I've never hired anyone so all of this comes from a job-seeker's perspective, but I do think application-ing (especially the restrictions of those awful Word doc forms, as opposed to the relative freedom of a cover letter) is something of a Dark Art, which like any skill takes some time to get good at, and also requires some trial and error. Not to mention! different organizations grade/mark applications using their own criteria and agenda, so it can be reassuring to remember that there's a lot going on 'behind the scenes' that we don't know about (e.g. the organization is legally obligated to advertise the position externally, but there is someone internally who is pretty much expected to get it, e.g. their current intern). 

All that to say! and forgive me if any of this is stating the obvious / repeating any of Samantha's (really great) advice, I recommend:

- if you can, always get someone else to read over the job ad. and then your materials in the context of the specific job (a friend always used to send me applications to read over without any info on the job itself - hard to give much feedback about if they were hitting any of the criteria!)  

- I like to use the criteria/specification of the job ad. as a sort of Q&A template for the structure of a cover letter. I copy and paste all the requirements of the role in a Word doc, then go through and 'answer' each one with an example of how I meet it. They might not all end up in the final letter, but it's a good way to flesh out and start to structure things at the start, and extra examples can be good to read through later as part of interview preparation.

 - as an extension of the above point, be careful not to just list things you've done or can do, but rather clearly set out how your role / actions / results etc. enable you to meet the job criteria (think it's called the STAR approach, to be honest I find it a bit awkward / unnatural, but since I started using it, I've had a lot more success getting to the interview stage)

- Some people recommend asking for feedback if unsuccessful at he application stage, but in my experience (fieldwork) very few places have the time / resources to provide that unless you get to interview (and not always then, either) but it might be better in env. education?

- look up who already works there (and people who used to) on their website and individual Linkedins. Seeing their CV and how they built up their experience can give you an idea of how your experience etc. matches up with people in the same role and where you might want to fill in a knowledge gap - but I also find it really helps remind me a 'real person' will read this application at some point (screening software aside!), vs. loosing motivation as you send another application off in to the unknown.

Only have a little experience of env. education stuff but very happy to read over any past applications and see if there's anything that jumps out! (molly.heal@gmail.com)

Go to the profile of Rosheen
10 months ago

Molly good reminder no response is often not personal. Made me smile the Dark Arts skills of which i personally have not mastered however thanks to you have a name that also provides so levity.

Go to the profile of Kaitlyn Elverson
10 months ago

Hi Molly, 
Thank you for all your advice. And it's an extremely good point you make; it's easy to forget that employers aren't turning you down on purpose to make you feel bad! Gaining and keeping that upbeat spirit is definitely a skill in itself when looking for jobs I think. 

I would love any feedback you have if you can spare the time, I'll be sure to drop you an email. I'm also very happy to have a look over anything also (kaitlynelve@hotmail.com). Thanks again! 

Go to the profile of Samantha Reynolds
10 months ago

Thanks for the reminder about the STAR approach. Will definitely remember that while I'm applying for things now.

Go to the profile of Molly Heal
10 months ago

Thanks Rosheen :)

Go to the profile of Molly Heal
10 months ago

Thanks Kaitlyn, and sorry if it was a bit stream of consciousness - I didn't realize how much I'd written until it was published! 

Go to the profile of Molly Heal
10 months ago

Cheers Samantha, I really liked your advice, especially the point about applying for things even if you don't tick all the boxes - something I know I should do, but I continue to really struggle with.

Go to the profile of Rosheen
10 months ago

Hi Kaitlyn

Firstly thank you for asking the question. All the recent advice I have been given regarding CV and cover letters Samantha Reynolds put very well in her response. My only additional advice that I have been given is Network for example LinkedIn and have your LinkedIn profile match your CV (not exactly as tailoring happens for individual CV"s). Also Beth said in the first session yesterday that she would be happy to connect and there were some generous suggestions regarding volunteer conservation roles. Volunteering networks and shows others that you are motivated and keen. Good luck. Once again thank you for asking this question the responses of others have been great to read.    

Go to the profile of Kaitlyn Elverson
10 months ago

Hi Rosheen, 
Thank you for your advice, it is extremely helpful, and also for reading/replying to all the others posts from Molly and Samantha. It's wonderful to see such a supportive group of conservationists! I think I will make another post about LinkedIn if you are personally interested in connecting, and hope others will start connecting to. 

Go to the profile of Beckie Garbett
10 months ago

Hi all!
Really valuable conversation, and I'll also really benefit from all of the great tips from Samantha and Molly!

I've been applying like mad for jobs since August, so can offer a few titbits. Coming back to the STAR approach that Molly mentioned, in my cover letter I tend to try and use stories relating to the key points in the job description/role requirement. For example, "In my role as ....., I worked on a project where I was required to....., this made me realise that...., and as a result, I altered....., which resulted in....". Or something along those lines! 

As Samantha and Molly have said, I've found that when adding some of my personality and write so that it's relatable to REAL people and not just an organisation, then responses are better. Absolutely agree with Molly. Use LinkedIn! It's such a great tool. Research who you're talking to if you're applying for a job, keep your profile in-line with your CV and information that you're sending out in job applications, and be proactive in reaching out to people that you'd like to work for or with. 

Lastly, transferrable skills! Samantha puts it really well - you have to be in it to win it. Even if you might not fit the job profile exactly, emphasise the skills and experience that you have that you can transfer across to the role, and say that you're always looking to develop your skills and knowledge.

It's definitely a competitive game in the conservation field, but be confident in yourself and remember that everyone you speak is a human being! That mentality really helps me, especially during interviews! Be bold and go forth! :-)

Go to the profile of Kaitlyn Elverson
10 months ago

Hi Beckie, 
Really helpful info on the STAR approach there, thanks for that!

Something else I've just been advised on that might help everyone (which might seem like common sense) is to split your CV up into 'Relevant' and 'Other' sections, so that all of your 'relevant' experience can be seem front and centre on your CV and is easy to find and read. 
Hope that helps and thanks Beckie and everyone for all your advice, I feel a lot more confident now!