So, I decided to write a blog post aimed at helping aspiring Ecologists get an insight into the industry and whether it is the right direction for them or not.  I thought what better way than to ask those already working in the sector for some words of wisdom. Here’s what we asked.

·       What’s the best thing about being an Ecologist?
·       Any drawbacks?
·       What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
·       Any reason not to become an Ecologist?
·       What are the characteristics of a successful Ecologist?
·       Any tips for those trying to get into the industry?

Here is a summary of the best answers that came back.

·       What’s the best thing about being an Ecologist?

Ecology can be very rewarding, for a lot of people Ecology is a hobby that you are getting paid to do.  So it’s a win-win!

There’s a lot of variety in the job, visiting lots of interesting places, spending time outside. You are generally working with a fantastic group of knowledgeable people who are all passionate about saving and enhancing the environment. You are always learning new skills and the industry is always evolving.

·       Any drawbacks?

The hours can undoubtably be long and antisocial, especially during survey season. It can be hard to juggle a social life along with the demands of the job.

The pay can be comparatively low, especially given how much knowledge and training you will require.

Ecology Consultancy isn’t conservation, it is like any industry business, there is stress and there are difficult clients. You can find yourself in situations with developments that make you question your judgement.

Sometimes the job is depressing and frustrating as you are witnessing a lot of decline in nature.

·       What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Soak up as much knowledge from those around you as you can especially from those with lots more industry experience.

The subject is so broad and vast, you won’t always be expected to know the answers so don’t be frightened to say, “I don’t know”.

Far more issues are caused by people who think they know what they're talking about when they don't than who are honest.

Find an area of Ecology that really interests and excites you and then become an expert in this space.

Don’t give up when trying to break into the industry. If you’re passionate enough about Ecology and do lots of voluntary work to develop your experience, your time will come.

When you’re young and energetic never turn down an opportunity, sleep in a tent or your car if you need to, but spending time with knowledgeable people is priceless.

Start in a small company – you're more likely to get involved with everything, rather than being a cog in a machine.

Keep learning!  Aim to learn something new every day.

Make time for yourself so you don’t get burnt out from the rigours of the job.

·       Any reason not to become an Ecologist?

Ecology is not conservation.  They are quite different.  With Ecology, you are often enabling development which ultimately impacts nature.  This can be demoralising.

Be prepared for long hours and it’s not going to make you rich.

A lot of the construction industry still view you with suspicion and believe you are just hindering development for the sake of it.

·       What are the characteristics of a successful Ecologist?

Always be willing to learn.  Be flexible (to a point), take advice and ask for advice from senior colleagues.  Acknowledge your areas of weakness, such as ID skills or knowledge on legislation, and improve them and learn from colleagues who may be specialists in that area.  Seek out CPD and further training opportunities to ensure continual learning.  Being willing to learn and upskill is one thing employers look for.

Be organised. The workload can be high and daunting.  Being organised can make a huge difference.

Someone who admits they don't know, is willing to learn and asks all the questions, even the stupid ones.  As a green Ecologist, always ask questions of those around you.  The good ones who have gone places and are now really good were the ones who asked all the questions and didn't stay quiet.

Good communication skills, the ability to deal with a variety of different people including developers, landowners, colleagues and the general public is vital.

·       Any tips for those trying to get into the industry?

There’s no doubt it can be competitive bidding to get that first step on the ladder.  Keep trying and applying for positions.  Use fixed term contract and seasonal work to get established.  Volunteer work is also very well regarded.  This will help you also understand what aspects of Ecology really interest you.

Be prepared to go where the job is.  You might need to apply to roles all over the country to get that all-important first job.  If necessary, be prepared to relocate, it will pay off in the long run.

Use your network, LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to meet people and ask questions and seek advice.

Make sure you have a really strong CV.  A well written opening statement and really highlight your relevant experience.

So, in summary if you are considering a career as a Consultant Ecologist, or you are actively looking to secure that first role in the industry, it is important to make sure you have carefully considered all the pros on cons.  Consultancy is a very rewarding career, but it’s not for everyone.  There are plenty of ways to gain valuable experience before diving in fully if you have any doubts.  For those determined to work in the industry yet struggling to find their first full time role, patience and persistence is the key.  You have to remain proactive and be prepared for the long haul if necessary.

Good Luck!

JM Pic

Written by:
Jeremy Money
Director, JSM Associates

I have worked within the Environmental and Sustainability sector for 20 years, making me one of the most established and well connected networkers in the market.

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