So you want to work for a well-paying wildlife conservation body in Kenya or anywhere around the globe? You might find a tip or two after reading this.
One of the things I do on a daily basis, of course as a result of idling, is Whatsapp group-gossiping . This is actually one of my favorite places to waste my life on, and as you probably have already guessed, I’m administrating a million groups made up of necessary, slightly necessary and completely unnecessary ones.
So recently, in one of those slightly necessary groups, someone as idle brought up what I would describe after a second thought as a “hot” topic, and which I felt would help thousands of other job-seekers in this field including graduates and graduates-in-waiting, if well put into context.
In his exact words, Kosgei wrote “Here is the information, guys a career in Wildlife management will only lead you to a series of internships and no job. I chose a wrong course”.
At first I agreed with him, but then suddenly changed my mind and disagreed. You see, I agreed with him because that’s what first hit my mind, considering it has been two full months and still counting, after completing my university studies yet I haven’t landed my dream job as the senior-most warden of Nairobi National Park, the world’s only National Park found in a capital city! This is also supported by the fact that I actually possess a whopping three months experience under my name, in the name of field attachment attended while I was in my third year in campus. I have also done my undergraduate project on birds and I’m member of Nature Kenya! That’s a lot; in fact I don’t understand why the president is hesitating to nominate me as the Director, Kenya Wildlife Service.
But this is often more false than true. The fact is, finding a job nowadays is not a walk in the park, on any part of the world, let alone in countries like Kenya where corruption scandals are the topics of the day, making unemployment a third world issue in these third world countries.
Leaders here are more concerned on how much public property and funds they can grab. Count the number of days without power in their rooms in order to cause a day-long parliament discussion, provide evidence on who fixed who at the ICC, exaggerate procurement expenditures, and waste public funds on foreign trips which are as useless as some of my Whatsapp groups. Then, how many jobs can they create for youth before their terms end?
As the saying goes here, finding a job is the real job. Sorry to you if your career doesn’t fall in the trending areas like sales and marketing, where people have to pay rent and feed themselves, have to walk everyday covering distances a train would take days to reach, in order to sell an insurance policy for a firm whose pot-bellied manager is probably sited at the 9th floor of one of the tallest buildings in town, checking out Instagram photos of urban ladies celebrating the World No Bra Day, grinning and double-tapping them childishly. Or, rather he is ordering in advance for 4 kgs of ‘nyama choma’ for him and his clandestine chick insisting it has to be ready by 4:30pm, knowing well his ever-curious wife will be expecting him home by 7pm . Meanwhile, sales person has no salary in his/her account at the end of the day, if he/she doesn’t sale an insurance policy.
Conservation falls in those areas I like referring to as the “wait a bit” careers. The non-trending jobs category. It teaches you patience, just to make sure you have what it takes to be a conservation manager. In the meantime, you can continue being a conservationist, or as some end up being, conservation activist.
Back to my brother Kosgei and his information. So you say, or basically inform us, that a degree in wildlife would only lead one to a series of internships? Here is my reason why you desperately should be looking for the internships anyway, rather than the Kshs. 10,000 ($ 97) cyber cafe attendant jobs in town or worse, the commissioned sale of insurance policies in town.
Let’s pick it from here, as a conservationist, you have to be smart, I mean head-wise. You have to be experienced in most areas of your operation. You see, as a manager, you won’t be able to correctly account for revenue collection, for example, if you have no basic idea on how finances are managed in such an institution. A conservation manager cannot live on research alone.
This and many other practical knowledge, skills and abilities are not things you may have covered before, in your short field attachment period. Most employers do not count the period anyway, as they know very well, that just as during their days , a great time of your attachment job was spent serving tea, ordering cheap meals for junior staff on their broke days or preparing conference halls for work review meetings alongside your fellow students on attachment with the aid of some ever-complaining ground staff who had developed wrinkles at an early age due to so many odd jobs that they had actually forgotten their initial job descriptions. The grounds men, had in fact acquired yellow, wide and weak eyes, products of cheap liquor they took during enticement as the only way to try their luck in securing broke female students on attachments, before their seniors got a good note of the ladies. These eyes were also adapted to noting any slight changes in their bosses’ attitudes.
Internships play a great role in shaping you as a potential manager, whether it’s a single, quality internship or a series of them. The knowledge, skills and abilities you gain complement your degree a lot. Paid or not. Trust me: a quality internship would land you a good job faster than a person with higher education qualification than you, with no single experience. Being educated is factor too, though.
The brighter side fact is that with the ever-increasing pressure on our wildlife resources and nature in general, the world really needs people like you to help. Your help can only be in form of work, whether voluntary or paid. The need for conservationists is ever-growing, and sadly, so is the competition for the jobs. It’s harder to land a conservation job now than decades ago.
A second-hand truth lies in the fact that most conservation jobs pay handsomely. All you need is to have what it takes, have what will enable you out-compete others and have what will make you stand out as the one who can make the whole difference.
What are you adding to the organization? Or what new aspect are you bringing in?
Here are 6 quick notes on what to do in order to have what it takes to land a conservation job:
Have your priority in experience first, not money. In simple terms, volunteer. Gaining experience in conservation is hard, with all the field work, training, research. Remember, that with no experience, getting paid is unlikely. Instead, you should have the view that whenever you are volunteering you are being paid in terms of knowledge and experience. For me, that is far more valuable.
Also, lots of people who start out as volunteers or interns end up being offered paid jobs by those same organizations, a few months down the line. Think about it: having worked there, you now have exactly the experience they are looking for, and they have confidence that you’re a hard-working and highly motivated individual (if you are!); they will most definitely hire or recommend you for an opening.
Have passion. This is a statement I first heard during my first year in campus from my Introduction to Wildlife management unit lecturer, Dr. Ayieko, who once threw me out of his class for coming late.I think that is what he meant by telling us to have passion in our course. Last week during a bird walk, our head guide told us to always “love nature and you shall know it”. This got me thinking of the importance of passion in this field. But then I realized that passion comes with fulfillment and you will always feel at home while working for nature. On your free time, watching Nat Geo would serve you better. A friend of mine, Jack, is already working on converting an idle swamp in Budalangi, Busia Kenya, into a county nature reserve. That’s working passion!
Be on the Know. Have an idea, preferably information, on what is going on in your career area. For example, it will catch me by surprise if a person claiming to love wildlife and Conservation is unaware of when World Wildlife Day or rather World Environmental Day is celebrated; leave alone the latest developments like the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. This also applies to knowing available opportunities. In this line, also get to know people. I mean helpful people. The greatest secret to this is being outgoing. Learn and share. Make new friends. Be nice to people, it counts. With the job market expanding all the time, knowing what type of role you’d like to do is one of the hardest steps to take. Start by familiarizing yourself with the jobs which available at sites such as Conservation Careers, Stopdodo, EnvironmentJob and the Countryside Job Service.
Work on your profile. This is often forgotten but very important. This is how people see you. Before I changed my e-mail address, I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine from Slovakia and his first response was Kelvin, you need to work on your e-mail address. This got me thinking of just how bad an impression of yourself you can create by simply having those fancy e-mail addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org when your real name is Kelvin Lunzalu. Haha!
This also applies to crazy Facebook names like Luiz De Capy and Wepukhulu Yule Mluhya wa Busia Mtiajizii. It comes with a challenge of having to confuse your friends a little bit by changing names but it’s worth it.. Work on your CV and ask your friend, who is not your lovely mama to proof-read it for you. It helps and works. He/she should assume a boss position and critique it. Another friend has also been very instrumental in helping me develop my LinkedIn profile and resume. She sent me an e-mail saying the picture I was using on my CV makes me look much younger for a serious job, so I replaced it instantly with another one with an older face. You see!
Have a well-developed LinkedIn account. I had to put this separately. It is one of those ways you market yourself as a professional. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about Google it. In fact, most job applications nowadays require a link to your LinkedIn account. After working on your profile, join groups in your area of specialization and feel free to participate in the conservation. Don’t forget to endorse my skills though, just saying. If you do, I will endorse yours too, if I personally know you. Facebook is good for gossip and useless groups, but just as my Whatsapp groups, it won’t kick you out, not as far as your career is concerned. A great compliment to this would be a Skype account and always remember your Skype name, just in case.
Lastly, Stay focused. The first job is the hardest to get. Once you secure that first job, you’re on the ladder and now have control. You decide when you want to move into a new role, and can wait until the right opportunity comes your way, safe in the knowledge that you’re being paid and building your experience.
As the search continues, remember to stay focused, have patience, learn from many sources and be kind.
Good luck! Kindly share with like-minded. I don’t mind a comment too, if you have one.