I’m going to be totally honest right off the bat… I meant to do this about a week ago. But between potentially breaking my finger and also WordPress just not working most days, posting got pushed back.
I won’t be putting this in a typical Q&A format because I wasn’t able to take that detailed of notes and do not have the ability to record phone calls. If you would like that kind of format in the future, please let me know! I’ll do my best to make it a reality.
Without further ado, I (finally) present the result of speaking with my first company’s representative: Jason Behrens at the Great Basin Institute (GBI). Jason is part of their Human Resources department and was extremely helpful. He was kind enough to accept undergoing an impromptu interview of sorts on October 5. I got a lot of information from Jason, so I will put as much as I can in this post.
GBI offers mostly seasonal positions for ecology research and restoration, but also aims to educate the public about ecology. They have four programs, two of which I’ll highlight because of their relevance to this blog: the Nevada Conservation Corps and the Research Associate program. The Corps program offers jobs with restoration and some conservation internships. It targets greenhorns, so to speak, who want to explore the field before venturing into something like graduate school. The Corps program can also be used to work with GBI again in the future as a Research Associate, for example. Research Associates often have a few seasons of experience and are completing post-graduate work.
For most jobs, they generally look for a related degree, but experience related to the job is always a plus. This includes if it’s from a relevant class. For those who are past having class-based experience and have a little more field experience, it isn’t uncommon for GBI to hire outside the region. Apparently, the knowledge carries over pretty well. Who knew?
Specialization is also surprisingly important. Applying to jobs with a variety of organisms, instead of focusing on one group of organisms, seems to send a negative message. Being chronically unfocused can result in your application not being taken seriously. I found this really surprising, but considering that entry-level positions can get nearly one hundred applicants, it seems to make some sense.
Most successful applicants (generally speaking) are focused. The jobs are created and marketed that way — even entry-level can require a pretty hefty amount of experience. While some jack-of-all-trades applicants can get hired, it is much more often that specialized new hires meet “preferred” qualifications.
If considered for hiring, applicants could often hear back within a few days, especially with their Corps program. For more specialized or higher-up positions, there are usually less applicants. Hearing back for these positions can also take longer, though it seems worth the wait! Even leads for research positions have to opportunity to return if they performed well their previous seasons.
In short, research jobs are as competitive as they are rumored to be. Even though this discussion was over a week ago, I’m still reeling at the almost one hundred applicants. Only a quarter of these applicants tend to be viable, by the way. Some of the more interesting jobs, such as their Condor Recovery program, can receive an overwhelming number of applicants, many of whom are simply throwing their name in the hat in hopes of getting in (guilty… sorry).
Even with all this competition, I hope some of the confusion about research jobs have lifted. I’m not sure how much of this would give you an “edge”, but at the very least, it might give you some hope or comfort. While it is hard to get in the field, it certainly isn’t impossible.
I want to quickly point out that the sooner you work your way into ecology research, the better. GBI has one other program that is relatively relevant to this blog — the International Conservation Volunteer Exchange. I don’t know too much about it, but it’s one of those volunteer/internship opportunities that house you in another country. There, you do largely restoration, but also some monitoring.
If you haven’t graduated yet or recently graduated, I highly recommend participating in something like this. Not only does it look good on a resume, it could be a really unique experience! You get immersed in another culture, exposed to a bit of what you are going to school for, and you get exposed to a different environment.
Of course, I can’t speak too boldly about most of this information, outside of what Jason told me. I’m still learning and don’t know too much about what I’m doing. If you have any questions or comments that can make these kinds of posts more helpful or informative, please let me know!