Oct 7, 2009 at 3:29 am #1239987
@antigLocale: Pacific Northwest
This is not so much of a poll than it is a desperate plea for help. I am having a life crisis and I feel that this forum is the most appropriate place to ask. Even though our differences may be highlighted at times, we all love the nature and the environment.
Ever since I was young, I wanted to work with the Sierra Club (as a paid employee rather than a volunteer). I've always wanted to do something related to the environment or more precisely, something that would allow me to be with nature. Being a part of some sort of environmental watch group is just a means to that goal. Though, I do categorize myself as a modernized granola-hippy. Somewhat.
My question is:
For those of you who currently have a career in the scope of that field, how do I go about sticking my foot in the door? How difficult would this be without a degree in environmental science or something like that? I have a retail job and college degree in English.
EDIT: Oh, I nearly forgot my manners. Thank you so much in advance!!Oct 7, 2009 at 6:16 am #1533807
@arichardson6Locale: North East
I'm currently in this transition. I can't type much now, but I'll let you know what I have going on when I get a chance!Oct 7, 2009 at 3:32 pm #1534012
I got an environmental science degree back in the day thinking that it would lead to a career working outdoors. I was both right and wrong. I ended up in a consulting position helping to clean up contaminated properties. So I get outdoors but when I do it's normally at a gas station or Superfund site. Better than being in a cubicle 9 to 5 but not exactly was I had in mind as a college freshman. More recently I've gotten into some work with wetlands regulations. That has got me out of the concrete jungle and into some more "wild" places.
If you were going to get a degree, and wanted to work in "backcountry" type areas, I'd recommend one in Natural Resource Management, Ecology, or Wildlife Biology. I've been trying to get a job like that (for the Nat'l Park System for example) for a while now but they have very specific education and experience requirements. Doesn't seem easy getting in there.
I haven't tried with any of the non-profits so I can't comment there. Good luck with your search.Oct 7, 2009 at 3:54 pm #1534017
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
No reason you couldn't begin the process by volunteering and putting your English skills to work–writing articles and press releases, editing newsletters and papers, etc. This will gain you a journyman's knowledge of the organization's issues and internal workings of 501(c)(3) entity, as well as build your all-important professional network. If there's no local environmental organization to volunteer with, pick a community based organization whose mission is of interest. There will me more similarities than differences and you'll be gaining applicable experience.
Ultimately you'd benefit from working technical knowledge (exactly which ones will vary depending on the organization and the environmental area in which you'd like to work). Wildlife, water policy, land use, conservation, sustainable development, recreation…many are science-based, but others focus on law, politics and policy.
A fast track avenue is via grant writing and fund raising. If you develop skills and a track record here, you can get on board pretty much anywhere.
I've worked in environmental engineering but that's a whole other kettle of contaminated fish.
RickOct 7, 2009 at 5:25 pm #1534050
Jeff, if you just want to work outside, there are jobs like forester or perhaps surveyor. Some professional environmental jobs end up being desk jobs. Brad and Rick have good advice.
My experience has been mostly as a volunteer. For the most serious environmental work (activism) I've done, I had to have a day job. I am on the Board of Directors of two local environmental groups, so I've helped hire staff for these groups and I have some clue what goes on in non-profits.
First, reread Rick's post above 3 times, especially the first and third paragraphs.
"A fast track avenue is via grant writing and fund raising. If you develop skills and a track record here, you can get on board pretty much anywhere." Believe him on this.
Start with the skills you have: "I have a retail job and college degree in English." So, you must have some experience in sales and some writing ability. As long as you're working in retail, try to pick up as much knowledge/skill as you can while you're doing it. One group I worked for years ago was started by a really good encyclopedia salesman who decided that the same methods could be used to benefit the environment. The group raised money by door to door fundraising, training us just like Collier's Encyclopedia trained their sales people. The money was then used mainly for legal actions against polluters. A number of environmental and community organizations were trained in these door to door methods (including the Sierra Club).
Before you go back to school, figure out what you want to do and whether you need more training to do it.
Right now, funds for non-profits are really tight.
Drop by a Sierra Club Office and offer to volunteer. http://sierraclub.org/ca/ In any event, start volunteering with whatever organization you can find that does the closest to what you want to do.
Consider if what you want can be met by finding a good paying career and living in a great place for outdoor activities.
You can take a look at my group's web page to see if it's at all like what you'd be interested in: http://recworcester.org/
Good luck!Oct 7, 2009 at 9:12 pm #1534131
@antigLocale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks for the advice, seriously. It has made me realize that fund raising is a big part of this industry considering that the majority of the population has no interest in environmental ethics. I will join a club and volunteer. Hopefully, that would help me create a network of connections while I work on the aspects mentioned.
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