Getting your first role in the research or applied sector of wildlife research and conservation is not always easy. Roles are often advertised asking for candidates who already have experience. But how do you get that first piece of experience on your CV? This is something I get asked by students reasonably often so I thought I'd summarise my thoughts and advice on this here.
1. Email relevant people to ask about possible opportunities. This may well seem daunting but a well-worded email is very effective. Universities, NGOs and research institutes almost always have profiles and contact details of their staff on their websites. Take some time to look through these and identify people whose work you are interested in and then get in touch. 95%+ of people you contact will probably say no but you only need one yes. Sometimes the offer of help with a project will make someone think that actually they could yes - an extra pair of hands would be useful for that project. Even when someone replies saying no they’ll respect you for taking the initiative and asking and are likely to remember you in the future if and when they do have opportunities.
Some tips for writing that email: Write a personalised email to each person (even if you're adapting from a template). Identify some specifics about their work that you are interested in. Convey your enthusiasm and motivation. Be concise, max ~200 words - people are likely to stop reading a long email. Carefully spell check your email - first impressions really are very important!
2. Look for opportunities at local and national conservation and wildlife organisations. Conservation and wildlife organisations often rely on volunteers and actively advertise for them. You may only be able to commit to a few hours a week alongside work and/or academic commitments but these opportunities can provide valuable experience and contacts. Having them on your CV will demonstrate initiative and motivation when bigger opportunities crop up. See the list at the bottom of this piece for some relevant organisations.
3. Sign up for updates from relevant websites and mailing lists. Opportunities are often advertised on wildlife and conservation orientated websites and mailing lists. These include:
Environment Jobs (this is different from the previous link)
Twitter (get an account and follow any relevant person or organisation)
Wildlife and Conservation Organisations
Here are some national and local (being UK and SW London/Surrey based) organisations that often have opportunities:
These lists are not exhaustive by any means but hopefully provide a good starting point. Above all be enthusiastic and don't be discouraged!