The Many Roads to Employment

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A picture of Harriet holding out her hand with nature on it (Blackpool Council)
Harriet Gillespie (Blackpool Council)

My name is Hattie Gillespie. I am a 26-year-old woman from Norfolk, currently living in the Northwest of England. I work for Blackpool Council as a Park Ranger, which I have been doing for the last three months. As a Park Ranger I work within the Revoe Park Community Garden running volunteer sessions to encourage the local community out into nature and the use of skills development, in regards to land management and horticulture. I also help to run outdoor education and play sessions for children aged between 0 – 4 years old, with the aim to connect Blackpool families with nature, focusing on development through nature play and use of their local parks.

I have always had a keen interest in nature and the outdoors, this led me to participating as an Education Volunteer for the Broads Authority while I was in college. This opportunity helped me to develop a passion for protecting the environment along with strengthening my determination (commuting for nearly two hours via buses). I then went on to study Environmental Conservation at Bangor University, in which I took a placement year to work for the National Trust in Northern Ireland. At the time I contacted multiple companies and organisations, which took a lot of courage as I wouldn’t particularly call myself a people person, but through perseverance and asking a lot of questions I was able to identify and play to my strengths.

After graduating I struggled to find a job, so began volunteering again within my local primary school, focussing on forest school and outdoor education within their local nature area. This led me to the realisation that I really enjoying teaching outdoor and environmental education. I then began working for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, running outdoor events and activities for school groups, engaging young people with the wildlife and natural spaces local to Norfolk.

Revoe Park Community Garden (Blackpool Council)
Revoe Park Community Garden (Blackpool Council)

Around this time, I was offered a job with the Field Studies Council in Pembrokeshire, so within a couple of weeks I had packed my life up and moved across country to rural Wales. While there I was running field work sessions for A Level groups in Biology and Geography, this helped to improve my confidence in teaching as it allowed me to expand my teaching range outside of primary and cement my knowledge on a variety of topics. From there I had found myself more intrigued in the teachings of Forest School, so I enrolled in a Level 3 course which took me north. On the course I was very lucky to meet a wide array of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of those connections that I made ended up becoming my colleagues. They helped not only with recommending me for my current job at the Council but have been incredibly supportive and kind.

I believe my employability comes from the experiences that I have had. My advice would be to take every opportunity that you are able to, this may be in the form of anything from doing a volunteer placement at your local site, to moving across country for a job. Whatever you are able to do, do it, as every experience leads to lessons learnt (whether good or bad) as well as the opportunity to meet and network with a variety of people. I also believe that once you find something that interests you, you should take training courses so that you can broaden and understand that topic further, which may even lead into further opportunities. It is important to sell yourself, whether that’s at networking events or just through connections (LinkedIn is a great place to get started), use those connections to ask questions, even for help and guidance, most people are friendlier than they seem. Finally, have a goal, it does not need to be detailed or even well thought out. Understanding what you want and using that to dictate what you need to do to get there is vital. I knew that I enjoy working outside, so I developed my skills to ensure I am able to work within an environment that suits me.

If you are looking to volunteer with Blackpool Council please contact

First published in CJS Focus on Employability on 23 May 2022. Read the full issue here


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Posted On: 06/05/2022

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