Welcome

Do you want to work in the outdoors? Would you rather feel the sun on your face than the glare of the computer screen and at the same time do your bit for the planet?

With interest in the environment at an all time high, the good news is that there has never been a better time to get a job in conservation.

Welcome to Countryside Jobs Link, specifically set up to help you get that job!

So how do you go about bagging your dream countryside job? We spoke to people working in the sector to bring you advice and tips from those in the know. Nathan Walton who works as a Reserve Officer for North Wales Wildlife Trust in Anglesey told us: "I've always been fascinated by wildlife and love being outdoors. In the summer I'm largely involved with habitat management and in the winter I mainly carry out wildlife surveys". We found that gaining experience through vounteering seemed to be a recurring theme. "I volunteered for North Wales Wildlife Trust for a year before I got my current post. Not only did this help me get invaluable practical experience, it also helped me get my name known within the organisation so when the post came up, I was asked to apply for it"

Laura Brammer, an expert in environmental careers from Queen Mary College in London agreed. "The way into conservation jobs is by volunteering, it's crucial. When you fill in your application form it is not enough to say that you are a member of Friends of the Earth, you need to show that you have got out there and got your hands dirty. Get involved with a local environmental group or volunteer at your university". Laura launched the environmental careers fair, Environmental Futures at the University of London. Volunteering not only demonstrates your genuine commitment to conservation but it also provides you with practical experience - something employers are looking for.

Volunteering

For a great list of conservation volunteering opportunities see the environmentjob.co.uk website. It lists both conservation volunteering and paid conservation jobs. You can also sign up for their very useful weekly email update of vacancies.

Apart from volunteering another way to gain essential practical experience is from "on-the-job training". A number of schemes exist that provide this kind of training, one of which is LEMUR . "This project was launched this June to give graduates a range of pracitcal nature conservation skills to help them get a job in the environmental sector" says Project Director Phil Burton. Helen Lloyd who works as an urban biodiversity skills trainee in Sheffield said "I survey wildlife and habitats in the sity and the skills that I'm learning here should enable me to get a full-time job when the scheme finishes. Each post last nine months and 12 places are available every year for the next 3 years.

There is also the Volunteer Placement Assistant programme run by Groundwork Oldham. The VPA Programme has been running for over 10 years and has helped thousands of graduates into conservation jobs. There are up to 60 VPAs in post at any one time with many graduates moving to the North West so they can take up a VPA position. "Each placement is full-time for six months and consists of real responsibility which is invaluable when it comes to applying for a job" said Hazel Egan from Groundwork Oldham.

TCV (formerly BTCV) run a similar scheme. "Volunteer Officers are people who offer to work for us for a regular amount of time. In return we provide them with hands-on practical experience which helps them get a full-time job when they leave us" explains Tony Newby who runs the Volunteer Officer scheme. "In 2004 just under half of our Volunteer Officers went on to get a job in the environmental sector." To get more information on the TCVís Volunteer Officer scheme log onto the TCV web-site.

Top Tips

  • Don't be put off a job because you don't fit the person spec 100%. The ideal candidate rarely exists and employers realise this.
  • If the application process involves a person specification make sure you answer every point and relate your answers to your experience and qualifications.
  • CVs should be kept brief (but not too brief). 2 pages is good.
  • Start with the most important acheivements of your education or working life.
  • Tailor your CV for every post you apply for.
  • Preparation is the key to a successful interview. Use the web to find out as much as you can about the organisation you are being interviewed by.
  • Try and work out what you might be asked by referring to both the person specification and job description.
  • Ease those interview nerves by chatting to someone beforehand so you can begin the interview 'warmed-up'.

Case Study

Howard Vaughn aged 34 has been working as an Information Assistant at the RSPBís Rainham Marshes reserve in Essex since 2003.

"My job involves dealing with all the public events held at the reserve such as 'National Feed the Birds Day' and 'Trick and Tweat' which is held around Halloween. Every week I also lead guided walks through the reserve for members of the public. When I left university with a degree in physical geography in 1994 it was very difficult to find a job in the environmental sector and I ended up having to work as an estates manager for the NHS for two years. Eventually though I was able to build up enough voluntary experience to enable me to get my current job"

"If you really want to work in conservation then youíve got to persevere, never give up. To be honest qualifications are completely irrelevant when it comes to a job like mine which involves dealing with the public, youíve got to be able to get on with people. The best thing about the job is being outdoors, itís as simple as that. Iíve always loved wildlife and Iíve been a birdwatcher since I was five so I consider myself very lucky to have got this job. The pay isnít great but the most important thing is that I love my job and thatís something which is worth millions."