Paths to a career in conservation
On the 22nd of November 2022, two young professionals were invited to share their experiences and things they learned in their “path towards a career in nature conservation”. A large crowd was eager to listen to their stories. One of the speakers was Lydia Cornu, a PhD candidate at Wageningen University, working on biodiversity resilience. The other was Jorian Hendriks, both a partnership developer at Borneo Nature Foundation and a master’s of Forest and Nature Conservation student at Wageningen University.
What these two young people shared with the eager students is the many trials and errors which created a path for them in their career in conservation. The running theme of the discussion evening was the transformative field work experiences. Both Lydia and Jorian have encountered life changing moments getting their hands dirty, which they were keen to share with the students, searching for their own way to a career in conservation.
Both Lydia and Jorian shared which experiences gave them the most clarity in what to pursue further. For Jorian this was doing his thesis research in the depths of the rainforest, waking up and going to sleep along with orangutangs, slow moving turtles, and a plethora of dragonflies among others, cemented his conviction that this is the field and a type of work he wants to do. For Lydia, an opportunity to work on a project in South Africa which centred on African wildlife management got her interested in further working on wildlife management.
Working in the field helped them in knowing where to go further. An important point was that these experiences came to be because they got creative in their search process and kept on approaching different projects. Lydia says, “If you don’t see the kind of opportunities that you are looking for being advertised, you can create your own!”, that is by approaching the organisations you find exciting or inspiring. And even more importantly, do this knowing that by choosing one opportunity, you are not actually closing other doors.
Many of us go through a painstaking process of choosing one path or another when it comes to study programmes, internships, job opportunities. The fear is that if you choose one, you will be forced to keep going down that path. Both Lydia and Jorian acknowledged that even though you choose one thing first, you can always end up where you need to be by being proactive and creative. By being flexible and taking on opportunities that might not be directly connected to the dream goal, Jorian and Lydia have learned many lessons and skills that ended up being the most worthwhile in their path to a career in conservation.
Ultimately, nobody knows the right path, if such even exists, but there definitely is not a straight one in any career. The best chance of ending up where you need to be comes with being proactive, daring to choose a door even if it’s not a perfect one, creating opportunities by asking, and trying out many different things to find the ones which you love most. With such tried and true messages the lively discussion evening was closed, leaving the audience more inspired.
By Greta Galdikaité