Internships in Conservation

Interns Anonymous catches five minutes with another ex-intern in our continuing series of interviews. This time, we explore internships in conservation.

Interns Anonymous: You interned in the third sector. Tell me a little about it:

********: Well I was at a conservation charity for three months, and it was called an internship. It was basically an admin position.

Interns Anonymous: What did you do?

********: Filing, archiving files, moving them from paper to a computer and… that’s about it.

Interns Anonymous: What hours did you work?

********: 9 to 5, part-time, for three months.

Interns Anonymous: Did you feel like you got much out of this experience?

********: Well, I learned how to do admin. I know how to do work. I didn’t gain any skills, or qualifications which would help me get paid work in conservation.

Interns Anonymous: Was it sold to you as experience that would lead onto a paid position?

********: Definitely. Yes. That’s what they said. It will be valuable experience for charity or conservation work.

Interns Anonymous: So there were no benefits to it? Not even in your subsequent search for a paid role?

********: Well, I can put it on my CV. I am now temping. But it would not have helped me on any other job.

Interns Anonymous: Would you recommend the experience?

********: If they had no experience at all and just wanted a summer doing something then yes. I didn’t even get a reference from them, because when my current temp agency contacted them they didn’t reply.

Interns Anonymous: What about your subsequent search for jobs in the third sector?

********: Well, they are so competitive. And they hardly come up. For example I applied for an ecology internship. For 3 months. Unpaid. And the minimum requirement was an MSC. And this is to work for free for 3 months! Then I applied for an internship with an orchestra. Which was basically orchestral admin. They wanted ‘experience’ for an unpaid internship. You couldn’t get the position without other experience. This is just crying out that this is a job and they don’t want to pay people.

Interns Anonymous: How did you support yourself during your unpaid work?

********: I still had my student loan. What was most annoying was that the job I was doing came up paid just after I left. And they didn’t even short-list me.  It was a joke.

Interns Anonymous: So on that note… what would your advice be to someone trying to get into the conservation sector?

********: Probably that qualifications are overrated. Doing the practical work, which you can do without any qualifications is a way in. Going to university to study theory is a waste of time because they will always choose someone with the practical experience first.

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4 Responses to “Internships in Conservation”


  1. 1 Maryann 02/18/2010 at 5:16 pm

    It is a shame when companies exploit the talent that comes to them eager to work and learn in their chosen field. At EagerIntern we hook up interns with employers who are required to be upfront in what they are looking for, expect, and are offering.

    You know exactly what you are getting. Some offer college credit (where applicable), references (standard & advanced), stipends (regular & premium), and the list goes on and on. They also must say whether there is a possibility of employment (or not).

    Interns are able to pick and choose which positions will suit them. The cool thing is that it is all done online through our proprietary system, so an intern could take a position in NY even if they are in LA – something that quite possibly would have hindered them before.

    Yes, there are unpaid. BUT – these are not menial internships in which you sit around checking your Facebook profile, doing your homework, and maybe taking out the trash once in while.

    These are quality positions in which you will actually perform work in your chosen field that you will be proud to include on your resume – and future employers will look at as true experience!

    I completely agree many internships are a waste of time, and am proud to be a part of a system that benefits BOTH sides – whether paid or not!

  2. 2 Kuchen 03/07/2010 at 12:32 pm

    Unpaid internships are sucky, yes, BUT I don’t accept that there is such a thing as “just admin”.

    When you set out on your career path, despite your degree, you know nothing. Sorry to break it to you. You may actually be a liability to the company for which you work.

    Do the admin, keep your eyes and ears open, learn how it works, watch the examples (good and bad) before you.

    I graduated over a decade ago with a first from Oxbridge, and did several internships before working as a PA in my chosen field for two and a half years. Yes, filing and typing, but I read and understood what I was typing and filing, I got an overview of 30 years of work by my boss, and saw how she operated and how the industry as a whole worked. After that, I went on to my dream job.

    Don’t diss admin.

  3. 3 Kuchen 03/07/2010 at 12:33 pm

    Also, bosses who have never actually done any admin work themselves are awful to work for.

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