Building a career through volunteering

Jack Ward, our Deer Stalker and Reserve Officer at Beinn Eighe NNR, tells us how he got into deer management through volunteering.

Jack out stalking. © Cameron Waite

Jack out stalking. © Cameron Waite

I have volunteered for different organisations since the age of 15. Initially for a charity called the Deer Study Centre, monitoring deer populations, as well as other wildlife. This was my first experience of deer management and ecological methods to survey various wildlife.

I have also volunteered for organisations such as the Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, assisting with general reserve tasks, as well as volunteering for SNH at Creag Meagaidh NNR. Over the years at Creag Meagaidh, I have assisted with deer management, as well as other reserve tasks, such as path building work and woodland management work.

Why did you choose this particular type of volunteering?

I knew from an early age that I wanted a career with wildlife, so I volunteered in the right field to gain experience. I also enjoy being practical outside, so all these positions allowed me to do this. As well as allowing me to travel and work in various locations, I gained an insight into how various organisations are run. This all helped me to identify my career path, and tailor my volunteering to get paid work with my choice of organisation, doing the job I aimed for.

The Beinn Eighe team, with Beinn Eighe in the background. © Doug Bartholomew/SNH

The Beinn Eighe team, with Beinn Eighe in the background. © Doug Bartholomew/SNH

What skills did you gain from volunteering which aid you in your current position with SNH?

In several voluntary positions I was responsible for locating and monitoring deer populations and movements. I was also involved with deer management and learned how to write management plans.

I had opportunities to use a variety of tools and machinery which I now use in my current position.

Jack working in the larder. © Cameron Waite

Jack working in the larder. © Cameron Waite

What do you consider the most enjoyable aspect of volunteering to be?

Being able to travel to places which I may not have visited otherwise, and contribute actively to various sites. As a volunteer, I definitely got to know places much more, than if I had just travelled on holiday.

How have your career/life aspirations been influenced by the volunteering you’ve done?

Volunteering definitely provided me with direction for my career aims. It enabled me to better understand the role that I wanted to achieve, and learn about what was involved, and how best to prepare myself to achieve it.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about volunteering?

If you are volunteering with the aim of building a career, then I would say to have a few personal aims whilst volunteering; even if they are small, as they will provide some guidance for your experience. For example, I was keen to get to use various equipment, such as tree winches and fencing equipment.

Secondly, I would suggest gathering a variety of experience. This will keep it fresh and interesting; it will also broaden your experience and allow you to discover different organisations.

If you are able to identify a career path and a preferred organisation, then I would advise targeting that organisation as a volunteer, to try to volunteer in and understand the potential role as best as possible. It will also really help them to get to know others within the organisation.

Find out more about volunteering with SNH here.

Read about how sustainable deer management benefits the people of Scotland as well as our nature and landscapes here.

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