A Career in Ecology- Part 2

If you enjoyed the first part of this paper, A Career in Ecology, back in April, you’ll be eager to read this next part, to aid your quest for that perfect job.

Actively looking for a career in ecology

Which ever route you have taken to begin your search for a career in ecology, then you now need to work on your marketing and sales skills. What? But I want a job within the natural environment, not selling stuff! Well, you need to get over yourself and into the mindset that you are so worth employing and it would be to the employer’s benefit to offer you that job, right now! That’s a big leap for someone who has little or no experience of actually working in the environmental sector. So, let’s back up a little before you start applying for any old job.

Skills gap

If you’ve clicked on some of the links already provided within this blog or, hopefully, done a huge amount of your own research into potential employers, jobs and career progression, then you will need to address the skills gap. What is it your potential employer is looking for? Can you honestly meet or exceed their expectations? If not, then you will need a plan of action.

Plan of action

Your plan should include either a short-term goal (e.g. secure an assistant ecologist role) or a long-term goal (e.g. help advocate for the restoration of biodiversity). To achieve your goal, you will need a road map to get you there. For a short-term goal this is going to be relatively straight forward. Using our example, your plan would be to identify the essential and desirable skills and traits required to secure that job and work towards obtaining or further developing those areas.

If it’s essential that you have your own car but you can’t drive, then you know what to do! If it’s desirable for you to have a year’s experience of working with an ecological consultancy (I know, a catch 22 situation), then could you gain that experience by volunteering your time for 1 day per week?

Your mind will put in barriers – usually “I don’t have the time or money to do those things.” I’m afraid that simply is not true. What you really mean is that you can’t be bothered to work to acquire those skills and that maybe you’re not as ‘passionate’ about the natural environment as you first thought! Harsh, but likely to be true if you are honest with yourself.

Aptitude for ecology

So, do you have the right aptitude? Depending on your answers to the questions and comments above, then you will need to not only acquire technical skills and knowledge, but gain an understanding of what other traits make a great ecologist. We use a simple, yet effective, analysis on behavioural characteristics on eight known personality types using the Insights Discovery questions. It’s a great way to recognise your dominant behavioural trait and find out how you typically react to people, and conversely how you should treat others! So, which of the following describes you on a good day:

  • Sets standards – Product knowledge – Analysis
  • Planning – Organisation – Time management
  • Listens – Loyal – Team approach
  • Helps others – Flexible – Shares Ideas
  • Persuasive – Creative – People skills
  • Drive – Enthusiasm – Positive thinking
  • Results focused – Decisive – Assertive
  • Determination – Monitoring performance – Discipline

Chances are you may relate to two. Also, you may also identify two or more that are not you! I’ll save the analysis for another time.

Of course, that’s all well and good, but what’s that got to do with getting a job? Well, if you are a very detailed orientated and analytical person (e.g. it has to be perfect) then you probably would not fit into a highly creative team (e.g. spend ages talking about something, change your mind and then get it out there as perfect is for later). Equally, if you work for a result-orientated company with deadlines that must be met, then you are not going to thrive in a company if you’re more of a team player, listens to everyone’s viewpoint before deciding. That’s not to say these polar opposites could not work together, but everyone should recognise their strengths and weaknesses.

In summary, find a company that either mirrors or respects your values and not one that is going to be antagonistic (unless, that is, you have been brought in to make serious change to their culture).

Richard Dodd, Principal Ecologist