In my last blog I talked about the traditional routes into conservation. Boiled down it comes to; choose your sector, or take any environmental job you can get regardless of the sector because any green job is better than no job.

Why traditional may be less than ideal: 1

Whichever sector you land up in the route is the same. You start as a junior and work your way up. As a junior you seldom feed into decision making or have an impact on the way organisation works. You have to wait till you’re in management for that to happen. If you have a vision of what you want to do to change the world and you want to start making a difference now then waiting five to ten years before you can have any influence is extremely frustrating.

By the time you reach a point where you do have some input many people are institutionalised. You think the way the organisation thinks, fall into line and forget about the great ideas you had when you were younger. This is sad because all sectors are loosing out on the passion, energy and innovation new entrants into the job market can bring.

Why traditional may be less than ideal: 2

If you follow the traditional route it may mean a prolonged period of volunteering/ interning for no or very little money. Who can afford that nowadays?

An alternative route

If you are passionate about the environment and want to:

  • have an impact and a say immediately
  • earn your own money without jumping through all the hoops set up by employers
  • set up without having to prove to anyone else that you are worthy through previous experience on your CV

Then set yourself up so that you can earn independently either through a side gig, freelancing or setting up your own business, social enterprise or charity.

It is now more possible than ever to go it alone or with a group of like minded people. There have always been pioneers of change who set up a charity or business because they see a need that isn’t addressed. But it has never been mainstream. Often people assume you have to have years of experience behind you to succeed. You don’t, you just need the confidence to go it alone, and the tools to be able to make it happen. Those tools, particularly around marketing and promotion are now very accessible.

An added bonus

If you are setting up for yourself you can create the kind of life, and job you want. You won’t have to conform to the pre-existing, cookie cutter jobs. You can be more creative about what you do and how you do it and you can mix and match activities. Want to get involved in community food growing and ecological surveys? Go ahead. Want to be a glass designer and landscape gardener? Fine. Want to drive around the country providing environmental education from the back of a minivan? Feel free.

But I can’t do this, I have no experience!

Yes you can. Think of all the young entrepreneurs you’ve heard of that started their own businesses aged 13 from their bedrooms. If they can do it you can too. There are also certain expectations that people will have of you as a young person. They will assume you are energetic, creative and adaptable. Use that expectation and deliver on it. People will also expect you have the most up to techniques and knowledge as you’re fresh out of university.

You have more advantages than you realise

You:

  • Have boundless energy and the ability to work long hours.
  • Are used to having to no money and being creative about how you get things done. This may not seem like an advantage but believe me it is.
  • Have no mortgage or children to support so you can be far more flexible in how and where you arrange work and life.
  • Have more time to devote to your project as you will have fewer distractions.
  • If you are lucky enough to have parents who let you stay at home, you have a base from which to operate.
  • You are digital native and a lot of your self promotion and networking will happen on-line via websites and social media.

I may have low costs, but I also have no money. How on earth am I supposed to get something off the ground?

It’s surprisingly low cost to get a business going, especially if you will be providing a service. All you need at that point is you, your skills, a computer, phone, access to the internet and hard work. If you are lucky to have people who can support you for your first few months whilst you set up, then great. If you don’t have that find a job, any job. That will get in the money to live whilst you set up your main project. Where possible get something you can do part time so that you have more time and energy to devote to setting up for yourself.

Convinced or at least considering it?

I will be writing a number of blogs around this topic over the coming months. I will also be running a  webinar course on setting up for yourself in conservation in the summer. Sign up to my newsletter for instant updates on the latest blogs and be the first to know when the webinars launch.


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