How a Conservation Volunteer Experience Can Advance Your Career


This article is a guest post by Tyler Protano-Goodwin a passionate sustainable travel and conservation advocate. Tyler is based at GVI who specialise in conservation volunteering with dozens of projects around the world. Thought I haven’t been directly involved with GVI myself, many friends have, and I hear great things. Tyler seemed like the perfect person to talk about conservation volunteering, so over to her!

Landing your first job is typically the biggest hurdle in anyone’s professional journey. A resume filled with extracurricular activities and summer jobs is pretty much guaranteed to get lost in the shuffle. On top of that there are certain fields that are notoriously known for being difficult to get a foot in the door. Conservation is one of them.

This means that young conservationists typically have to find alternative ways to get experience in order to stand out. Volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to take control and start opening your own doors, getting you out in the field, and beginning to acquire the skills necessary to advance your career. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. A blank resume won’t get you anywhere, You’re Going to Need Experience:

Experience, the clear front runner for reasons to embark on a volunteer experience in the field of conservation. It goes without saying that employers are predominantly judging applicants on the relevant experience that they can bring to the role.

Comprehensive volunteer programs will provide ample opportunities to develop a range of hard skills that can easily up your resume game. Gain experience with data collection and collation, species and call identification, coral reef monitoring, biodiversity studies, camera trap research methods, and habitat protection strategies. If you’re not sure what you’re interested in then don’t worry, volunteering is a great way to try a variety of different conservation disciplines.

2. Conservation is a Huge Field. You’re Going to Need Direction:

Just looking for jobs in which to apply is a task and a half, and throwing your resume in all sorts of directions will most likely just zap your energy. Volunteering lets you try out a huge spectrum of different opportunities in the world of conservation giving you a much better understanding of where your interests lie.

Having a specific field in which you are interested in not only means that you will know what to apply for, but also that when you do get an interview you will be sincerely invested in the potential of getting an offer.

Also, direction comes from passion for a particular field or topic. As much as experience speaks volumes there is also a lot to be said about a job candidate with a thoroughly explored interest in a particular area.


3. Job Hunting is All About Who You Know, You’re Going to Need Connections:

LinkedIn didn’t become so incredibly important in today’s current job market simply by chance. So much of who ends up getting the job has to do with who they know.

Volunteering exposes you to a plethora of excellent contacts and exposes you to influential organizations in the field. Getting your name out into the job market that you would potentially like to work for is key.

4. In an Interview, You’re Going to Need to Know the Lingo:

On a volunteer conservation program life revolves around the project meaning that conversations are undoubtedly going to revolve around conservation. This gives you the perfect chance to start articulating and practicing communicating about your interests and experiences.

Flash forward to an interview and you are in much better standings to impress. Fluent and natural answers typically originate when the topics are not new to the interviewee. Luckily you will be prepared to talk the talk because it’s what you were doing daily on your volunteer experience.


5. Companies Care About the Individual they are Hiring, You’re Going to Need Confidence:

Finally, as silly as it may seem, applicants who get jobs are applicants who believe in themselves. If you walk into an interview a bit unsure if you are qualified for the job, chances are that will be detected.

A volunteer experience will turn the best educated conservationist into a true knowledgeable force to be reckoned with. Simply knowing that for yourself will let you walk into any job interview with the belief that you are a stellar candidate for the position, upping the possibility that the interviewee will believe it too!

Ready to start your career in conservation? Let volunteering put you on the path towards professional success. Have extra tips? Let me know in the comments below.

Read Further:

This article was a guest post written by Tyler Protano-Goodwin: Unrelenting curiosity has taken Tyler to some of the far corners of the world. Driven by a passion to inspire others to step outside of their comfort zone Tyler writes avidly about all of her abroad experiences. Currently Tyler works for Global Vision International, where she happily spreads the word about sustainable travel and international conservation volunteering options.

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  1. Hollie

    I worked at a primate sanctuary in South Africa that took GVI volunteers, many of those volunteers were unhappy to find that they had paid huge fees to them and the majority of that did not go to the sanctuary. I agree that volunteering is essential for getting an conservation career but I would always track down the actual organisers or sanctuary and contact them directly.

  2. Courtney Halstead
    Courtney Halstead06-29-2016

    A word of advice – international conservation volunteering is brilliant!! For all the reasons above and simply because it opens your mind to travel – it allows you to meet people from other walks of life, to make friends all over the world, and usually you can find cheaper flights if you’re a bit flexible with your dates – it was £300 cheaper for me to fly there and back a week before and after my voluntary dates!

    However, many companies in the UK will also look for proof of interest in UK conservation. International experience is great, but don’t rely on it – if you can spare even just two days a month for regular volunteer conservation work, even if it’s just in your local park, it will prove that you’re not only interested in getting a tan.

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