Imagine you’ve spent the last 4 or 5 years in college/university busting your butt to learn as much as you can to begin a career in Ocean Conservation; or maybe you were working in another career (business, marketing, tech industry, engineering) and you want to switch to a more meaningful career path. This is an exciting time for you – I get it. I’ve been there. You graduated or you quit your less meaningful job…NOW WHAT?!?!?!
By this point, most of you have been looking for a job, gone back to school for a graduate degree, or – and I hope this didn’t happen to you – given up and got a job doing something else because you had to pay the bills. These are the 3 scenarios that typically occur while trying to achieve a career in Ocean Conservation.
The ideal situation would be to get a job that is in line with the career you want or go back to school because it will get you closer to career you want. If you are truly passionate about your career, you will want to stay away from the 3rd option, giving up and getting the first job in another industry. There are ways to avoid the 3rd option though, so don’t worry too much about getting to the point where you are thinking of option 3.
Not many young Ocean Conservationists, or Marine Conservationists (we can use these terms interchangeably), employ strategies to starting a career in this industry; or to just getting a job for that matter. I did not use a strategy when I first graduated with a BSc. in Marine and Freshwater Biology. I applied to everything and anything I could. I applied to jobs for which I knew I didn’t have the qualifications or experience. I suppose I just applied to show myself that I was trying to get a job. However, there was a problem with my “Apply for Anything and Everything” strategy.
The problem was this: I focused more on the quantity of jobs, to which I applied rather than the quality of jobs to which I applied. I submitted some pretty low quality applications because I wanted to make sure I applied to all of the jobs available. Of course my call back for an interview rate was pretty bad. It wasn’t until I sat down and thought about what I was doing, and spoke to some friends in the same industry, that I knew I had to implement strategies that were very different from the one I was following.
I put together some strategies below that will help anyone (whether you just graduated or you are switching careers) get started the right way in your career in Ocean Conservation career. It doesn’t matter if you are a marine biologist, a marine advocate, a policy maker, an environmental lawyer, or any other job title that fits under the Ocean Conservation title. These strategies will help you focus your career building objectives.
Strategies to Build a Career in Ocean Conservation
1) Have a Plan for your Ocean Conservation Career – Planning is the most essential part of your Ocean Conservation Career building because the Ocean Conservation field is so diverse you need to pick 1 or 2 career paths (although, preferably, you would pick 1). Once you established a career plan, you can see where you want to be in your career 10, 15, 20, even 30 years down the road.
Your plan will not only include your final job, but it will include the goals you will set for yourself throughout your career. Your goals can include getting education that relates to your career, or gaining experience that will help you get your next job. It could also include where you want to work or with whom you want to (company/organization or animals).
2) Find the job titles that meet your career goals – Once you established a plan, it’s time to implement that plan and search for jobs that meet your career goals. If you are searching for a position working with coral reefs, then you don’t want to look for jobs that deal with whales, sharks, sea turtles, etc. You want to look for jobs that involve coral reefs. You will end up applying to less jobs, but you will submit applications that are great in quality and relevant to the position.
3) Build Up Your Resume with Pertinent Experience – You can apply to 100s of jobs, but you won’t get the job until you have the right experience for the position. So you have to build up some experience if you don’t have enough – or any at all. For instance, if you just graduated and you want a career working with island communities to help the communities establish marine protected areas, you are going to look for jobs with a government organization.
However, since you just graduated, you will need to earn some experience in this area. One way to get experience is to volunteer or become an intern with an organization like OceansWatch, which travels to remote islands in the South Pacific to help the communities manage their marine resources and establish marine protected areas. You might have to pay money to get to the headquarters, but the experience you earn will get you closer to building a great career in an area that interests you.
4) Customize Your Application to Meet the needs of the Job – You probably have a general resume that outlines all of your experiences, education, knowledge, certifications, references and so on. However, you can’t submit a resume that is not tailored to address the qualifications advertised in the job vacancy. The skills and experiences you possess must match the qualifications (at least the required qualifications).
Submitting a generic resume demonstrates two attributes about you to the hiring manager: 1) You don’t want to put in the extra effort; and, 2) You don’t understand how to read instructions and follow them. Think of a job advertisement as a set of instructions. Each instruction tells you how you need to address each qualification. “Must have a Masters Degree in Marine Biology” means you need to tell the hiring manager what degree you have and where you acquired it (Don’t lie because many employers will ask for the original copy of your degree. Address each qualification for every job and you will increase your chances of getting that email/call for the interview.
5) K.I.S.S.Your Application – I don’t mean to physically kiss your application (well you can kiss it for good luck). I mean K.I.S.S. your application. K.I.S.S. stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. It means to make things so clear that anyone can understand it.
Let’s dive into this concept a little further. When writing an application for a job (including cover letter, resume, references, and any other samples the announcement requires) you want the hiring manager to be able to pinpoint the specific information for which they are searching. So if the job requires 6 years of experience in handling a boat, then make sure you add in the phrase “6 years of experience in handling a boat” and then provide an example or 2 of the projects that required a boat. Don’t say “I have experience with handling a boat” because you didn’t mention 6 years of experience. Don’t think the hiring manager will assume anything. Lay all the information in a clear manner.
These 5 strategies will not only help you get started on an Ocean Conservation Career, but it will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. A customized application that clearly highlights the pertinent skills and experience required to handle the job will out perform any generic application – no matter how well written it will be.
Have a clear plan of your career and set goals that are attainable and flexible (life happens and things can change…adapt!).
Be the applicant who is prepared and willing to put in work to get the job. You will get more interviews for the jobs you want.