Career Journeys: working at a conservation charity
Nina Seale works in communications and fundraising at a London-based international wildlife conservation charity. Here she shares what the role entails and tips for working in the sector.
|BSc Biological Sciences (Zoology)
|Year of Graduation
What path has your career taken since graduation?
Conservation was my greatest interest throughout my degree, and when I graduated I signed up for job alert emails from environmentjob.co.uk and Conservation Careers to keep track of what opportunities there might be in the sector. I kept an eye on them and applied for a couple of communications roles which interested me, going to interviews even when I knew I wasn’t quite ready for that position, just for the experience and to talk to people working for organisations I was interested in. In 2016, a ‘dream role’ came up as a Writer/Editor for a wildlife conservation charity I had supported since I was a student, and I threw everything I had into the application (I already had a lot of background knowledge on the organisation, having been a supporter), and got the job. I had to move to East Anglia for the job, and gave up quite a lot for the opportunity, which was worth it for my career, but after a few years I was ready to move on, which is when I left for my current role, which is in communications and fundraising at a London-based international wildlife conservation charity.
What is your current role and what does your work involve?
Part of my role is purely communications: writing blogs, managing the organisation’s social media accounts (more than just posting funny captions, I’ve had to learn!), assisting with video production, providing support for our partners on their communications etc. The other part of my role uses similar skills of writing, editing and creating narratives, but applies them to fundraising. This includes helping to write and edit donor reports and proposals, managing donor relationships and providing support to the CEO and other colleagues who have meetings with key potential donors.
Before I started in the conservation sector, I became a safari guide in South Africa. It was an incredible job, and I saw some really amazing things. But part of the reason I moved back to the UK was that I didn’t want to take a job away from a South African, and I wanted to have a greater impact than just eco-tourism. Even though I now have an office job, and I’m not in a tropical country doing practical work, if I do my job well here, I am enabling local organisations doing vital work to protect ecosystems around the world- and that is worth getting up for.
What experiences do you feel helped you get to your current position?
Having a background in science, particularly zoology, has helped me a lot when it comes to understanding complex issues or doing research behind a blog or report. However, I don’t think it is necessary to have a science degree to do what I do, as actually the skills in written communication which I developed through two years working on The Student, and other freelance writing (such as reviewing during the Edinburgh Fringe, freelancing for magazines etc.), are the ones I use every day. This experience is also what got me my first job, which is always the hardest- conservation is a small and competitive world, especially when you are trying to ‘break in’.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in your area of work?
Look for opportunities to meet people you want to work with. The international conservation sector is a small one, with lots of organisations clustered in London and Cambridge. Follow them on social media, sign up for their newsletters and look out for events you could attend to meet the staff and learn more about them.
Sign up for job alerts from environmentjob.co.uk and Conservation Careers- even if you aren’t looking yet. See which jobs catch your eye, and look at the skills and requirements. This can help you figure out what experience will be relevant through internships or volunteering.
Do your research. Sign up for newsletters that will keep you updated on organisation news, and for news bulletins from the Guardian and others which will keep you informed about the environment sector. This will give you the edge when you are writing your cover letters and preparing for interviews.
Conservation exists as part of the wider third sector. If you’re looking for a job in communications, management or fundraising, but struggle to get a job in conservation straight away- look for similar roles in different types of charities to gain more experience. If you are looking for a field role, think about other field-based jobs which could get you more experience in research or land management, even if they aren’t in conservation.