In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. – Aristotle
Today I attended the BES undergrad careers conference in Charles Darwin House, London! The annual conference is designed to give 100 enthusiastic students the opportunity to learn about the variety of options open to them within the field of ecology and advise as to the most efficient methods and techniques to achieve the ultimate goal; an exciting, paid job in this highly competitive field.
The morning included a range of talks from academia and education to ecological consultancy and political policy, enabling the open questioning of experts by delegates to gain a true insight into the opportunities available. Academics and professionals generally began by regaling impressive career repertoires, revealing the diversity of entry methods, career paths and research areas to be explored by the budding future generation and gave advice regarding how best to follow in their footsteps. The value of certain skills were especially highlighted, networking and communication skills being the most regularly mentioned, followed by initiative, data analysis and old fashioned interest and enthusiasm. It was especially interesting that each an every career path should be approached in entirely different ways, requiring different experience and skills, yet most of the experts presented varied careers, having generally moved from undergraduate experiences to their current jobs along a very complicated road of jobs, internships and volunteer posts, both in the UK and abroad. I think the take home message from this is that students today must be flexible and move through their careers with an entirely open mind. Indeed, an interest in a specific subject is profitable, giving focus and allowing the scope to become specialised, but too many students have the next 10 years planned and are not prepared to deviate from their perfect undergrad –> postgrad –> job visions, perhaps preventing them seeing the variety within science careers. On the other hand, such students tend to be very driven, and with the right skills, may reach their dream job quickly and efficiently by making the best decisions for them at every turn. I have always been interested in writing, whether academically, scientifically or recreationally and hence the talk by Roz Evans was especially interesting! As founder of Biosphere magazine, a small publication aiming to make popular ecological science more accessible but based on real and recent research. The magazine is still small and faces challenges with keeping up to date, involving research and review to choose a range of content to interest variety of readers but the weekly mag shows great scope for growth to rival BBC Wildlife etc. Writing a cover letter for a possible internship is high on my to do list!
The afternoon was more general, exploring the importance of voluntary work, internships and work experience despite a lack of funding in many cases, and a CV and cover letter workshop gave some top tips to help beat the competition for graduate jobs. All in all job targeting seems to be key; be open minded in the long term but focussed when looking to score the job you want. Work hard, read around, have confidence and be yourself!