Last week, we had a really lovely and interesting talk by Mark Mitchell from the RSPB. He gave us a wonderful insight into how you can get into a career in conservation (or whatever you want!) if you work hard and just keep at it!
Interestingly, Mark did not study Zoology or any kind of science – he attended Stirling University where he did Media Studies. Once he graduated, however, he realised that this was no longer a path he wanted to follow and so instead he pursued his new-found interest in wildife, particularly birds.
Moving from his home in England to Scotland opened Mark’s eyes to the fascinating and beautiful wildlife we have in this country. He was keen to share his interest and enthusiam for wildlife with others, and that is what inspired him to get involved with the RSPB!
However, getting the job that he wanted was not easy – there were many stepping stones that had to be crossed first! After graduating, Mark moved home and got a full-time job at a reputable clothes shop in his hometown. Of course, this was not the kind of career he wanted to get stuck in and it was challenging and sometimes stressful, but it was an extremely worthwhile experience. Mark gained a great number of skills from this job, and significantly improved his confidence and ability to talk to people even though it was something he didn’t like doing.
Whilst struggling through his full-time job, Mark began volunteering for the RSPB in Leighton Moss on his days off. This is where it all began! Using his growing skills and confidence from his job, he forced himself to expose his enthusiasm in the RSPB and really engage and talk to people throughvolunteering and attending many RSPB and related events. Being shy made it difficult, but Mark’s ambition pushed him to keep getting better.
Mark then began tirelessly applying for jobs with the RSPB as he wanted to get more involved in the reserves. He had many rejections, but he was never deterred! He asked for feedback after unsuccessful applications and interviews and slowly built on that until, finally, he was accepted for a 6-month RSPB job in the Lake District. Here, he was stationed at an Osprey viewing site and was responsible for recruiting new RSPB members. He even did background research into Ospreys so that he could talk to members of the public about them and answer their questions. Not a bad job when you get to watch Ospreys and see red squirrels every day!
Eventually, though, his time in the Lake District came to an end and the job hunt had to begin again. Mark went through several similar temporary jobs, building on his skills and becoming more confident all the time. Even when he was not employed by them, he continued to attend RSPB events and network with their staff so he would stay in the loop and people would get to know him. This networking definitely did the trick!
Mark’s second major job with the RSPB was at the visitor centre in Lochwinnoch, where he spent 2 years. He was so committed to getting the job that he travelled to vist the Lochwinnoch centre and learn about it before his interview – and it worked! He was able to take his interviewer on a tour round the reserve and talk to them about the wildlife – something he would never have been able to do a few years before.
Now, Mark is working with the RSPB and an organisation called Tarmac on the Whitesands Quarry Restoration Project to restore it to a suitable habitat for wildlife. All his hard work paid off and he is now in exactly the kind of career that he aspired to have!
So, if you’re like Mark and are desperate to have a career in conservation, then volunteering is the key! Volunteer, get as much experience as you can, network with as many people as you can and, most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR AMBITIONS!
It might be difficult, but if Mark can do it, then so can you!
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY: the RSPB are looking for area co-ordinators to manage teams of volunteers in their fundraising pin-badge scheme! If you are interested, email louise.conn@RSPB.org.uk
For more info on the RSPB and how to get involved with them go to their website!