Guest Blog: Getting into marine conservation (if you’re not a scientist!)

This guest blog comes from Reef-World‘s Communication Manager, Melissa Hobson. We know there are lots of readers who want to get into marine conservation but perhaps took a different route through college/university. Melissa has heaps of advice and inspiration for those wanting to turn to the blue side!

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my journey into marine conservation. Largely because Reef-World is growing and we’re currently interviewing for a Comms & Design Intern as well as a Project Coordinator (IT Development). As a result, my inbox is filling up with CVs – motivated professionals from around the world getting in touch to showcase how they are the best person to help Reef-World in its mission to make sustainable the social norm.

Rewind 18 months and I was one of them – a comms professional with years of experience under my belt working with a huge range of companies from tourist boards to ice creams and charities to technology companies. I’d decided to leave the London rat race and hoped to follow my passion into a career related to diving and marine conservation.

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I wasn’t a marine biologist; far from it. The last time I “did science” was for my GCSEs (and you don’t ask a lady how long ago that was!). I’d worked with charities but didn’t have direct marine conservation experience. Delving deeper and deeper into the Google black hole that is “how to get into marine conservation” just confused things further.

After much research, I came across a marine conservation NGO based in Mozambique which needed someone to help with their PR and communications (with the added bonus of jumping in the water with whale sharks and manta rays now and again). Volunteering with them for eight months was not only a fantastic experience (so much so that I’m back in Mozambique again for a visit as I write this!) but also helped me learn about the specific processes and challenges one might come across in the marine conservation sector.

The stars, it seemed, must have aligned as this placement helped me develop the “gaps” there would have been in my CV when applying for a permanent role. As I left Mozambique, I saw that Reef-World was looking for a new comms manager to help the charity raise awareness of the UN Environment’s Green Fins initiative. The rest, as they say, is history.

A lot has changed in just over a year. I’ve successfully escaped the city, adjusted the direction of my career path to line up with my passions and am using my professional skills (the same ones, I didn’t have to re-train as a biologist!) to make a real impact in marine conservation. By the way, those people telling you “if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life” are wrong. They clearly haven’t lived by the ocean.

So, with lots of candidates expressing their interest in joining Reef-World and helping us in our mission, I hoped it would be helpful to share a few pieces of advice:

First, if you’re not a marine biologist – don’t panic. There are lots of different ways team members can add value and often marine conservation charities are in real need of different skills to complement the science side of things.

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So, think about your existing skills and how they would best help a charity. Are you a social media professional that can help them bring their digital marketing efforts to new heights? A photographer or filmmaker who can help them develop incredible underwater photos and footage to showcase their work? A fundraising professional who can bring in vital funds? Or an IT professional who can manage their online platforms and help develop new products? Fantastic – you don’t have to be a scientist to have an impact. Your skills can add huge value – so take a moment and think about the best way to put them to good use.

Next, do your research. As well as checking job sites, make a shortlist of charities who are working in fields you’re passionate about and check back regularly to see if they have any relevant opportunities for you.

Once you’ve found an opportunity… Read. The. Job. Description. Then read it again. Really. This isn’t just an issue in the conservation sector but do make sure you’re applying for roles you’re qualified for and tailoring your CV and cover letter accordingly. Sure, you might not meet 100% of the criteria outlined (and that’s totally fine) but if you don’t meet any of the essential requirements, you’re wasting everyone’s time (including your own). If you don’t meet any of the specific requirements for a job currently being advertised, you might have the skills they need for a future role – it might be better to reach out and register your interest rather than just applying for any ol’ job with them. You never know what they’re going to need in the future! But, if you are getting in touch (to apply or register your interest), sending a tailored CV and cover letter is much more likely to showcase your professionalism than a one line email asking just “are you hiring?”.

nice.gifLastly, think about how YOU can make yourself stand out. There are lots of experienced, passionate professionals out there – so what gives you the edge? Do you speak additional languages, have interesting and relevant hobbies or have you lived abroad and experienced working with other cultures?

It’s hard to give examples because only you know what makes you you but bear in mind you can still be professional while making sure your personality shines through.

To all those budding marine conservationists out there – good luck!

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Originally published @ Reef-world.org

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