06 March 2012

I enjoy being outside, I think I'd like to work in the countryside.

One of the questions we get asked most frequently is: “I think I’d like to work in the countryside – do you have a job for me?”  The first time you hear that you think, “How do I answer that?  Where do I begin?”   We have far too much information to present it all here and for you still to be awake by the time you get to the end.  So here is a general  reply.  If it doesn’t answer your specific query please contact us and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

The countryside is a large place with an enormous variety of jobs, everything from tree surgeons to rights of way officers by way of wildlife officers not to mention rangers.  We recommend that people take a little while to think about exactly what it is they want to do and about how they want to spend their days.  Is a job outside in all weathers really the right one for you?  Do you have the patience to spend days counting plants or birds or to cope with several classes of small children asking the same questions over and again?  Would you get vertigo hanging from ropes at the top of a very tall tree?  Can you walk long distances over rough ground carrying a heavy pack?  A good way to find out what sorts of jobs there are within the countryside sector is to look at the job adverts, most of which have a brief description of what you’ll be doing and this gives you a rough idea of what the job entails.  It is often much better to eliminate jobs you don’t want than to look at the ones you quite fancy this way you’ll reduce the range and focus your efforts much more effectively.  Don’t be afraid to have a look at job descriptions on employer's websites this gives you greater details than in the advert; however, please don’t send for application packs for jobs for which you have no intention of applying and for small charities you’re using hard earned funds.  If you’re still confused then have a look at CJS Focus, this is a periodic publication each edition looking at a different area of the sector with articles from people working ‘on the ground’ highlighting specific issues.
Once you’ve worked out roughly which sector seems most suitable then a good way to ‘try before you buy’ is to volunteer, we know this is not possible for everyone but even if it’s only for a couple of days you’ll get an idea.  By being a volunteer or shadowing someone you get to see the real job, not the pretty version presented in job adverts – recruiters are trying to attract applicants and do talk up the good stuff tending to bypass the not so favourable aspects.   Spending time with someone doing the job gives you the opportunity to ask questions (but not too many - remember you’re there to help, not hinder) and maybe ask a few of yourself too.  If you discover it’s not for you then don’t worry, a few volunteer days don’t tie you to a career for life.

There are many ways to volunteer, join a work party for a practical day, take part in a survey, go on a residential holiday or sign up for a longer term placement.  Have a look at the organisations offering volunteer opportunities and also read the Focus on Volunteering published every February.

This works whether you’re just starting to think about your future career, newly graduated or looking to change your life.  If it is the latter then think about what skills you already possess and can offer a countryside employer and maybe be prepared to try for a job which is not your perfect post but one for which you’re suitable with a countryside employer and then you’ll be better positioned to move sideways

Part one of our Helpful Hints for applicants, more suggestions will follow over the coming weeks.  If you can't wait for the rest have a look here.