Get clarity, save nature and boost your career with The RSPB

Taking small actions such as Big Garden  Birdwatch will increase your interest in  conservation and help build your knowledge  (Rahul Thanki
Taking small actions such as Big Garden Birdwatch will increase your interest in conservation and help build your knowledge (Rahul Thanki
Logo: RSPB

Is figuring out what you want to do as a career challenging? Talking to your career guidance advisor at school, looking for the first job after university or college, or thinking about a complete career change later in life can be daunting with so many options. You may be considering volunteering to find out more about your chosen career or organisation you are interested in, but not everyone has the time or the resources to be able to volunteer for long intense periods.

If you’re looking to volunteer to gain experience in your chosen field or hoping for clarity on your career choices, it’s good to remember that the RSPB has many ways to find out more about us as an organisation and work out if a career in a charity is really for you. A little of your time really does go a long way and you don't have to leave home for 6 months to do it (unless you want to of course - more on that later).

If you have an hour or less then micro volunteering sees people coming together to each give small amounts of time that join up to make real change. The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch every January is a great example of this. Just one hour to count the birds in your garden may seem like a small amount of time to give, but taking regular actions to help nature and wildlife shows you are committed to conservation and will show prospective employers that you are taking opportunities to grow your knowledge and develop your interest in nature.

For busy professionals working full time, volunteering is becoming increasingly popular. Taking the opportunity to get involved with one-off interesting projects at a time and commitment that suits you can help you meet other similar professionals involved in your chosen area of work. You only give as and when you can meaning you can fit your volunteering around your day job. At the RSPB we have a medical panel which includes doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and legal experts as well as learning and development professionals working together as coaches and leadership experts, all giving their time and guidance on developing our workforce of employees and volunteers. Regular phone conference meetings allow them to network with each other about their volunteer mentoring and the work they are doing as a volunteer team.

Schools on reserves and Schools Outreach are also areas you can  get involved in (Eleanor Bentall
Schools on reserves and Schools Outreach are also areas you can get involved in (Eleanor Bentall

And it's not just about birds at the RSPB, there are opportunities around the organisation in areas you wouldn't normally think of as being somewhere you can volunteer. Marketing, communications, corporate services, information technology, human resources and outdoor learning/working with children are all areas that have volunteering opportunities and one day a week volunteering can help give you essential experience. Keith Leonard volunteered with the IT team at RSPB Headquarters before moving into a permanent paid role as a Systems Engineer “Volunteering allowed me to gain knowledge in a subject that interested me while playing a small part in saving nature”.

Opportunities to live and work on a reserve give volunteers important skills and experiences to take forward into their chosen career. Our Residential Volunteering scheme has been running since the late 70s and sees over 600 volunteers each year staying at 46 reserves around the UK Countries. From one week to six months or a year, there are opportunities to suit your time frame. Ieuan Davies volunteered at Lake Vyrnwy for two weeks “The experience has given me an insight into the world of conservation and enabled me to see first-hand how people are trying to protect threatened birds”. Gavin Chambers, who volunteered at Mersehead before moving on to become an Assistant Warden at Lake Vyrnwy also felt the experience helped give him essential experience “The variety of work I have been involved in, from manning the visitor centre to counting thousands of geese, has been the perfect stepping stone to a career in conservation”.

Many organisations give their employees time out from work to  volunteer (Heather Stuckey
Many organisations give their employees time out from work to volunteer (Heather Stuckey

If six months to a year does appeal to you as a volunteering opportunity, we have residential and non residential volunteering internships available. Sophie King’s career in conservation started with becoming a volunteer intern “I knew that if I wanted a career in conservation, then first I needed some real, tangible work experience”.   Sophie used the experience she gained from volunteering to move into a paid position as an RSPB Membership Development Officer in northern England “I’ve been supported throughout my internship, from getting to grips with the role and developing the skills I need for a career in conservation, to advice and encouragement in applying for jobs”.

And let's not forget the feel good factor of volunteering. Many organisations now offer their employees the opportunity to give back to their community as part of their role, giving them some opportunities for personal development along with the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference to their local community.

Whatever your age, skills and free time, whether you only have a little time to volunteer or can donate your time and talents to give a year to live and work on a reserve, there is an opportunity at the RSPB that could work for you.

Rhoda Ludford, Volunteering Development Coordinator, contact:

To find out more information on our 600+ opportunities have a look at:

Volunteering opportunities: 

Residential volunteering: 

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with RSPB on 18 September 2017

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