Volunteering with us paved the way to a new career!
Earlier this year Nicola Hume volunteered with us at Glen Finglas, the Woodland Trust’s largest’s estate in the UK, and which forms part of the dramatically beautiful Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve that stretches from the shores of Loch Lomond in the west to Kilmahog, near Callander, in the east.
Nicola volunteered as a Site Based volunteer, supporting Hamish Thomson, Estate Manager and Gwen Raes, Estate Ranger with a diverse range of activities from sorting out ecological monitoring records to helping to fix fencing. Hamish and Gwen were absolutely delighted with Nicola’s contribution, feeding back that she worked incredibly hard and would do absolutely anything she was asked to do with efficiency, skill and enthusiasm.
We are delighted to say that this and other volunteering led Nicola on a smooth path to employment in the conservation sector. Nicola is now Project Officer for the Borders Treescape Project, which the Woodland Trust is developing in partnership with the Borders Forest Trust, who are Nicola’s employer. Nicola is a shining example of how volunteering with the Trust can be a fantastic way to develop the experience required to shape a new career.
Nicola has written a piece about her volunteering journey:
Volunteering with the Woodland Trust
Embarking on a career change from design engineering into conservation, I was worried that it was going to be very difficult to find a job without a relevant degree. Conservation jobs are so competitive at the minute; as awareness of environmental issues rises rapidly, more and more people want to do something to help. I knew I would be up against a big pool of strong candidates who were better qualified than me. Why was I doing this again?
Thankfully though, after taking the plunge and leaving my permanent role to start the dreaded job hunt, I soon found that the conservation sector was a very welcoming one. It was so easy to get involved and make connections, all thanks to the huge range of volunteering opportunities offered by conservation charities like the Woodland Trust. Instead of drowning in online job applications, I was out and about meeting people, and helping with conservation projects. I found that this voluntary experience is highly regarded by employers, sometimes even more so than qualifications and so I soon landed a seasonal role as a Ranger at a Field Centre. This job was a great introduction to the conservation world and confirmed all my feelings that this was what I wanted to do; working outdoors, surrounded by nature whist giving it a helping hand. I learnt a lot about native woodland and how depleted ours is in Scotland and decided to focus on this area. Realising that I needed to gain some basic knowledge, I signed up for a one-year college course with SRUC in Forestry and Arboriculture. Part of this course was to gain some volunteering experience and the Woodland Trust Scotland was incredibly helpful in organising this for me; I spent three weeks volunteering at Glen Finglas, the Woodland Trust’s biggest site and three weeks with the Borders Forest Trust who they work closely with. I learnt so much and helped out with everything from wildlife surveys and tree planting to safety inspections, organising archives and even helping to herd cows!
Once again the volunteering really paid off; a few months later, the Borders Forest Trust got in touch with me to let me know they had a vacancy coming up to work on a project called Treescapes, run in partnership with the Woodland Trust Scotland. The aim of the project is to work with landowners to increase native woodland cover and protect ancient woodland in the Scottish Borders. Having already volunteered with the Borders Forest Trust and met the team, the interview was much less nerve-wracking than most, nonetheless, I was surprised and excited to be offered the role. The whole volunteering process worked so well for both myself and the Borders Forest Trust; they were able to see me working and find out what my skills were whilst I was able to get a feel for the organisation and what it was like to work there, a bit like a long, relaxed, two-way interview! I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone who is hoping to find employment in the conservation sector, it’s a great way to gain experience, have fun, do something worthwhile and you never know what it might lead on to.