7 Ways Volunteering Can Kickstart a Conservation Career

This post is greater than 6 months old - links may be broken or out of date. Proceed with caution!

Logo: TCV

By Melanie Rendle, TCV Volunteer

Pennywort removal by TCV volunteers
Pennywort removal by TCV volunteers

Conservation is an increasingly competitive field to enter, especially when preserving wildlife and natural resources is so topical and urgent. Environmental concerns are taking centre stage in Government policies across the globe and pledges made at the much-anticipated COP26 in 2021 included the conservation of forests and terrestrial ecosystems.

Due to the extent of the work needed in this area, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities available. These can take many forms: from getting involved in more practical conservation activities, for example tree planting, pond management or species identification; through to helping to promote protection of the environment by creating marketing materials or engaging with and providing education to the wider public.

So how does volunteering in conservation help increase your skills and experience to get a foothold into the sector?

1. Gain practical experience

This almost goes without saying but is too important to leave out. There is no substitute for hands-on experience: volunteering will teach on-the-job skills and give invaluable experience, which will be directly transferable to future employment. Candidates with relevant experience who have demonstrated initiative in getting it are considered more attractive to employers. Even outside the employer perspective, the experience will give you more confidence in your abilities and often greater resilience and adaptability.

2. More access to inside industry information

Woodworking at TCV’s Hollybush centre
Woodworking at TCV’s Hollybush centre

Often volunteers go on to be employed directly by the same organisation. Even where that isn’t a possibility, you will still retain more access to news, job vacancies and contacts within the sector. You can network and gain information into different areas much more easily. Also, the inclusive nature of volunteering means getting to work with a diverse range of likeminded individuals from a range of ages and backgrounds, again building up environment-based connections.

3. Learn about your own interests, motivations and choices

The reality of conservation work could never be conveyed in writing alone, so volunteering can give you a good idea of where your interests lie. It helps explore whether you feel you have the skills required or how to develop them. The type of work needed in certain areas can be physically tough, for example, and volunteering provides an idea of the level of practical work you can manage or alternatives that might be better suited to you. You will learn how passionate you feel about conservation and whether it is the career choice you wish to pursue, or simply a hobby you can enjoy in your spare time.

4. Demonstrate your commitment

Volunteers learning from TCV expert
Volunteers learning from TCV expert

Working in conservation - although rewarding - can be hard work and sometimes isn’t lucrative, especially when starting out. Success often needs commitment and passion. Demonstrating this early on is extremely helpful to open up future opportunities.

5. Volunteering can be flexible

Not everyone is in a position to enter a career in conservation immediately. You may have other life commitments, be working in an entirely different sector or have spent many years out of work, and jumping into such a career without prior knowledge of what is involved or any experience could be difficult. The flexibility of volunteer work means that you have control over how much of your time you can commit and how many hours you are prepared to give. Even a small amount of volunteering from time to time is enough to get a taster and to bolster a CV.

6. Gain valuable skills

TCV Tree Nursery volunteer
TCV Tree Nursery volunteer

As conservation activities are mostly team-based, volunteering and traineeships often enhance social, team-working and leadership skills. Depending on the opportunity, you may also gain essential skills like finance and budget management, literacy and numeracy, and project planning and management. More specific skills can include training in risk assessment and safeguarding, first aid training, tool safety, managing other volunteers, and specific conservation tasks. The list goes on depending on the area of interest. An added bonus of outdoor volunteering is an increase in fitness levels and mental health, especially after the isolation of lockdowns.

7. Gain knowledge

There is always something new to learn about the environment! Through volunteering, you’ll be introduced to a wealth of knowledge when working with conservation, botany, or ecology experts. These experts will share what they know and do, and why they do it. Like skills, the knowledge you’ll gain depends on the type of volunteering project but could include further information about the environment, habitat management, ecological principles, or data collection.

These are just some of the ways that volunteering in conservation helps pave the way for a career. However, by far the most important thing we hear from volunteers is that the experience has given them a sense of being part of something worthwhile, a sense of wellbeing and a feeling of having made a positive impact.

The best thing about volunteering for conservation comes back to this point: whether people choose to do it to help their career prospects or simply to give something back to wildlife, nature and their local community, it’s always greatly rewarding and fun while benefitting both volunteer and planet!

The Conservation Volunteers has a wide variety of environmental volunteering opportunities where you can meet new people, improve your local green space and learn new skills along the way. You can find more information and get started here:

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in affiliation with the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) on 28 February 2022. Read the full issue here


More from The Conservation Volunteers

More on:

Posted On: 08/02/2022

Built by Jack Barber in Whitby, North Yorkshire. Visit Herbal Apothecary for herbal practitioner supplies, Sweet Cecily's for natural skincare, BeeVital for propolis health supplements and Future Health Store for whole foods, health supplements, natural & ethical gifts.