During our recent live Webinar on Conservation Careers – where are the jobs and how do you write a covering letter – we had a number of really great questions. Most of them we managed to answer during the Webinar itself, although we did run out of time at the end. We wanted to respond to everybody who took the time to ask a question. In thinking about how to do that we thought we could cover the questions in a couple of blogs – so here we go with the first…
Q. Is it worth applying to jobs where you don’t fill all entry requirements? Obviously application experience is good but it takes a lot of time.
Our Answer: If you feel you can’t fill more than 50% of what the employer is looking for it just means that it’s not the right time for you to apply for that particular position yet. That’s growth mindset thinking (adding yet to the end of the sentence!) What that particular job role is saying to you is ‘you probably need to gain a bit more experience in the areas listed’. Excellent, then this is your opportunity to seek out those experiences. If this is the dream job, or close to it, you will find your motivation to gain those experiences naturally increase. Using your favourite search engine on the internet is a great place to start looking for how to gain those (currently missing) experiences.
If you feel you have more than 50% of what the employer is looking for then describe that first, then acknowledge you need to gain the missing experiences and start to describe your solution – how you are/intend to address your skills gaps. Be honest, open and concise. Remember that at this stage you will be unaware of the exact skills priority of the employer. Sometimes, when two candidates are equal in almost all criteria, having (say) a driving license or first aid certificate or obvious experience of safely handling wild animals, can be the positive tipping point that determines who gets the job offer.
Q. What advice would you give to an undergraduate student to prepare them for a career in conservation when their degree has finished?
Our Answer: We say to people, find something you enjoy and make it your ‘specialism’. That doesn’t mean you need to be the country’s leading expert. It just means you need to know your way around the subject you have chosen. A bird, a plant, a mammal or a rock. Your choice. What having a specialism means is that you have dived into that particular subject. That dive will mean you can not only draw on your knowledge but also on the inevitable stories that will unfold during your time engaging with your specialism. These stories provide great evidence for transferrable or soft skills – teamwork, communication, project management etc – when the interview questions is asked “give us an example of…’ you have the real story to tell. How you managed a particularly over enthusiastic volunteer who was helping you with your butterfly survey or how you had to cope with an emergency while working on your own in a remote location looking for fossils on the sea shore…
Q. If a job advertises that the applicant could get in contact over the phone “for an informal chat”, is it good practise to do so?
Our Answer: This one is really up to you. If you feel comfortable doing this then great, but we don’t think it’s a make or break. If you do decided to do it, it might be worth having a particular question ready.
Q. What advice would you give a graduate who has been continually unsuccessful in their applications for a few years. While volunteering as much as possible (and slowly losing funds to fund this way of life) employers are still focusing on lack of experience. How can I show employers my experience in my cover letter while being concise.
Our Answer: We would suggest showing your covering letter to a number of different trusted friends or members of your family. Give them the job description that goes with the covering letter. Sometimes an ‘outsider’s eye’ is really useful. Ask them to feedback in a solution focused way, getting them to ask questions which occur to them after reading your letter. These could include ‘How might you say this differently?’ as well as ‘Do you think the emphasis you place on this is sufficient?’ You might also think about approaching someone you know within a nature conservation organisation for similar feedback. The best time to do this is when they are not advertising for any positions.
If you missed this webinar, don’t worry! You can now watch it here:
We hope you find it useful!
Comment from participant: Thank you so much! Brilliant info 🙂
Comment from participant: Thanks for giving us hope!!