In this blog I focus on the skills the internship gave me that helped me get a first foot on the career ladder! I saw the internship as a chance to go back to my roots in the flow country (having grown up in Caithness) and build on my community engagement skills. I couldn’t have imagined how much fun it would be, that I would discover my passion for outreach work or that it would help lead me to a full time job as a Peatlands for People Project Officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland just 4 months later! To find out more about what I got up to at Forsinard you can read the blog I wrote at the end of my internship.
Debuting my peatland jigsaw at the Biggar Science Festival, September 2017
I’ve listed 5 things that are commonly asked for in applications for project officers or engagement officer roles and how Forsinard helped me to grow and develop my work experience.
Planning and Delivering Events
Forsinard may seem on the map such a remote place and if you haven’t been you’d be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much going on. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a relatively new project with a brand new field centre, employing both a community officer and a learning officer there is so much to get involved with. At larger reserves there is often already a well planned series of yearly events in place and as a volunteer your role is to just help deliver them. At Forsinard I was given a community and a learning project to both plan and deliver. Having that responsibility of planning activities, organising venues, talking to partner organisations/community groups and everything else that goes into it, really helped me gain real world experience in planning and delivering events.
Working/communicating with a range of different people
The events at Forsinard are so varied, from working with school children, to family days and engaging with adults at information stalls and out on the reserve. The field centre is the office, volunteer/intern accommodation, meeting space, event space and accommodation for visitors ranging from staff to conservationists, scientists and artists. There are so many opportunities to meet different people and network, you never know what might come from just a conversation! In addition, I also worked with community groups, local museums and schools as well as with a range of volunteers.
The staff at Forsinard are very welcoming and you are really made to feel part of the team as an intern. Going out with the warden staff on work parties and working with volunteers is great experience of team working in a remote environment. Equally going to meetings to plan events is also great experience of working alone and on your own initiative too!
Reporting to funders/admin/project delivery
This is an important aspect of any conservation job, particularly if you are looking at vacancies for project officers. Helping with reporting to the Heritage Lottery Fund and also PR reporting during my internship gave me important skills I could use in interviews to show an in depth understanding of the role. Working on some project admin, such as social media, is also an important tick for the CV too!
Written, spoken and presentation skills
This is almost always listed as an essential skill in conservation job applications. It’s important to be able to show that you can communicate with other organisations, partners, volunteers and members of the public and enthuse people about the project. At Forsinard I wrote blogs and social media posts and created learning tools. One excellent piece of advice I was given was to make a portfolio to take to interviews showing examples of engagement work such as posters of events, articles you’ve written or materials you’ve created. It looks quite professional and gives the interviewers something to refer to as you tell them about your work experience. I took a portfolio to the interview for my current job and the feedback was very positive so I’d highly recommend it!
I hope that this helps to show that while Forsinard may seem like a remote reserve it is actually a hub of activity in a stunning location, with a project that is still developing so it is a very exciting time to get involved! While my current role is also peatland related I do definitely believe that the core skills you gain from Forsinard would help you on your way to a community engagement/outreach job in any field.
I’ve been very lucky, through all my volunteering, to find a job that allows me to continue expanding my skills in community engagement whilst blending my passions for art and the environment. I can’t thank all the staff at Forsinard for all their help, advice and expertise during my time there and hope that this has convinced you to give volunteering with Flows to the Future a go!
Rebecca Crawford is Peatlands for People Project Officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland.