For many of us, it is the thrill and reward of being able to see and protect some of the world’s most beautiful and endangered animals that attracts us to conservation volunteering, but it’s a little known fact that there are numerous other benefits that this exciting style of adventure can offer. Chief among these, perhaps, is the substantial boost that working as a conservation volunteer can give to a CV.
Widely published wildlife photographer, zoologist and conservationist Mark Carwardine tells us that having voluntary experience in conservation is almost a mandatory requirement if you wish to secure a full-time, paid job in the field, due to the sheer volume of candidates applying for such roles. Being able to demonstrate having worked as a volunteer on your CV not only shows potential employers that you’re genuinely committed and dedicated, but also allows you to gain valuable field experience. That’s not all, however. Many paid conservation jobs, according to Carwardine, are actually awarded to high achieving volunteers on completion of their stint, and even if you don’t get offered a position immediately after finishing your role, you still “get to hear about forthcoming job vacancies before the outside world hears about them”.
What really sets conservation volunteering apart from other types of work experience, however, is just how few pre-requisites and training qualifications are required to begin enjoying it. Anyone and everyone is welcome, whether you’ve just left school and are looking for an adventure, or if you’re a seasoned rover searching for the chance to give something back to the world and its endangered inhabitants. Though most trips are accompanied by a fully trained and qualified biologist, no scientific background or in-depth animal knowledge is necessary to take part just a basic level of fitness.
Although working in the field of conservation is sometimes portrayed as, well, simply working in a field: alone in the wilderness without any comforts or amenities nearby, this is by no means always the case. Volunteering to help vulnerable wildlife can actually prove far more of a fun-filled holiday than might first be thought. Not only can you choose to travel to almost any destination in the world, just as with a real vacation, many organisations provide full package trips consisting of catered accommodation and wholesome food. In short, you needn’t been torn between an opulent holiday or excitement-filled gap year and the chance to improve your career prospects or the state of the planet – why not find the best of both through working as a conservation volunteer.
Alongside this, many trips provide a safe and trustworthy way of having fun, even if you choose to travel to some of the world’s most notorious areas. While it is true that there have been a number of ‘cowboy’ institutions operating in Europe, offering opportunities to work as a conservation volunteer for extortionately high prices, this is not characteristic of most companies. In fact, many expedition providers are fully accredited by the official regulatory bodies of conservation volunteering. The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) all offer extremely reliable forms of accreditation, and many of their approved firms, such as Biosphere Expeditions, a non-profit international wildlife volunteering organisation founded in 1999, enjoy a long and well-documented history of providing volunteers with award-winning trips that are both enjoyable and safe.
Wildlife volunteers not only get a chance to pick up basic practical skills relevant to their trip but also interpersonal skills, boost in confidence, and learn to become solutions focused which are all important personality criteria for the working world. By volunteering to help some of the most needy and exotic animals you could ever find, you’ll not only be having the time of your life in a safe and secure environment, you may even be laying foundations for a lasting and rewarding career.
By Katherine Ogilvie
Edited by Helen Kinsella
Image sourced: Chesapeake Bay Programmetagsconservationeco tourismgreen careers