Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Got Skills? Another Important Resume Builder!

New graduates and career changers often don’t have a lot of experience in the environmental field. I was thinking about this recently and remembered a section I used to have on my resume that now that I have a lot of experience, I have deleted. This is the “Skills” or “Special Qualifications” section. I still do create a Special Qualifications addendum for some jobs, particularly those that have a positive education requirement, to be sure that the Human Resources folks recognize my courses in the right categories, but I will save that for another post. In this post, I will focus on the kind of skills you might want to highlight for entry level jobs in the environmental field.

Computer Skills
Equipment or Techniques Used
Special Training or Certifications
Other Skills

Computer Skills are VERY important to share on your resume. Examples: Hardware (PC or MAC), Software (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc.), Operating Systems: Windows (7, XP, ME, 2000), UNIX or LINUX, Statistical Packages: NCSS, Minitab, SAS, SPS, R, MARK, and, of course, GIS: ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcView, and ArcInfo.

Equipment or Techniques you have used or are familiar with are also important. You may have to volunteer to obtain these skills, but if you have them, they are worth their weight in gold! Examples: mist netting, bird banding, GPS (hand-held) Garmin or Trimble, orienteering-map or compass reading, surveying, conducting surveys of plants or animals, using spotting scopes, using Munsell Color Charts (soils), experience reading aerial photos or with remote sensing, reading topographical maps, removing invasive plants, using a botanical (or other) identification key (VERY useful skill!), trapping, conducting field inventory, taking water samples, using microscopes or other laboratory equipment, fish shocking, identification of trees, plants, fish, animals, amphibians, macroinvertebrates, bird calls, frog calls, etc. Remember to include skills you learned in your classes (using the soil chart, reading aerial photos and topographical maps, and identifying macroinvertebrates were all covered in APU/AMU undergrad courses)!

Special Training or Certifications may not refer to everyone, but here are some examples to consider: Orienteering training, CPR and First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, Hunter Safety Course, Defensive Driving course, EMT, State Driver’s License (important for MANY jobs, so definitely list it), Wildland Fire Courses, NAUI or PADI SCUBA certification, FEMA Emergency Response courses (see my earlier blog on courses to complete), and any professional certifications or licenses you may hold.

Other Skills is a catch-all for some kinds of experience that may or may not be appropriate for the specific job you might be interested in, but are worth mentioning here: Outdoor skills (working in varying terrain and weather conditions, at high altitude, etc.), experience with ATVs, ORVs, OHVs, 4WD, Snowmobiles, etc., skill with chainsaws and power tools, farm machinery, fence building, working with horses, pack animals, etc., photography skill or experience, boating, kayaking, or snorkeling skill, swimming, skiing, backcountry hiking, etc., etc. DO use language that clarifies your skill level, i.e. “exposed to…”, “familiar with…” or “very experienced…”.

This isn’t a complete list of every skill you might have, but there’s plenty here to get you thinking! Jot a comment below the blog to share any other skills you have or think of so that others can benefit from your experience!

Best of luck to everyone!

Dr. Carol Pollio

Sunday, October 21, 2012

While at The Wildlife Society, I attended the second "Women of Wildlife (WOW) Reception". I decided to make this polo shirt design with their logo to show my affiliation with this emerging group. It is not only for women in the wildlife field, but also for the men that support them! ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Are Internships Really Necessary?

I am asked this question time, and time again! Of course, there is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer to it. Here’s why:

Having experience in the field in which you hope to make your career is very important. If you don’t have relevant experience, an internship or a volunteer position will help you fill that gap. If you already have relevant experience, maybe you don’t need an internship – but consider (given the current job market) whether having more experience could in any way be a negative. I don’t think so!  Anything that makes you more competitive is a “plus.”

That said, why limit yourself to a traditional internship? Most online students or career changers are working full-time, have families, responsibilities, and challenges that they feel precludes them from participating in internships of any kind. But let’s explore a few options that might just work for them (or you!):

·         Virtual Internships
·         Volunteer
·         Join Local Environmental Groups
·         Hold Office or Head a Committee

Virtual Internships can work very well for full-time, working adults. How does it work? A virtual internship usually consists of a project with a finite project that can be done remotely. There are many ways to do this, one of which is to find somewhere near where you live that is too far to commute to, or where office hours are typically during the week and not accessible on the weekend (which often is when you have free time). In this case, you can meet with your internship supervisor initially, and then work on your project independently, on your own time. Another option is a true virtual internship situation, where you are far from your sponsor and communicate through email or via telephone. The key to a successful virtual internship is to define the duties or project very clearly. Make sure you build in a series of drafts or partial product submission dates to make sure your work meets the needs of your sponsor – online students know that sometimes what you think is your assignment turns out not to be – best to clarify with questions and rough drafts! 
I have brokered quite a few virtual internships for students and they have worked out well. In one case, a student translated science briefs from English to Spanish. In another, a student performed extensive research on a planned waste-to-energy facility and mailed the results on a usb drive to the sponsor. The possibilities are endless, really!

Volunteering in the traditional sense is another great way to gain field experience. National parks and refuges, zoos, state and local parks, and many other federal and state agencies accept volunteers. In fact, federal agencies count time worked as a volunteer the same as paid time! The challenge, of course, is having the time, but if you take care in selecting a volunteer sponsor, you can find opportunities that do fit in your busy schedule. For example, most national parks employ hundreds of volunteers (thousands nationwide), many of which work on weekends. Many students have found local non-profit organizations for which to volunteer, such as watershed groups, hiking or garden club chapters, and others. Think about calling local federal agencies; EPA, USFWS, USNPS, BLM, and USFS all rely heavily on volunteers to accomplish their mission. If you get a cool reception from an individual, keep trying! I have one student that I helped to connect with a military base in Japan prior to her move there and she worked out a great volunteer situation (she’s now an employee!). Sometimes, the person you call is not the one that needs the help – don’t give up with one phone call! Try to find the “worker bee” folks, where your help is most likely needed.

Another option is to get involved in a local environmental organization. As a member, you gain experience working on projects. For example, many watershed organizations have water sampling volunteers. Learning how to be a “watershed monitor” as an example, translates very well to the position of hydrologic or water resources technician.  In addition to gaining hands-on skills, you also should consider taking on additional responsibility by serving as an officer or on a committee. Think about how many non-profit organizations there are in the environmental field – experience you gain working on committees, special projects, or supervising “cleanup” days transfers readily to paid employment in the non-profit world. Managing volunteers is a critical skill that you can then add to your resume! So are the skills of organizing, planning, and holding special events or activities for group members or the public. Lots of opportunities are out there!

Below are some great places to start your quest for the “perfect” match for volunteer or internship opportunities – good luck!!

Dr. Carol A. Pollio

Search by location, keyword, and narrow to virtual or local volunteer opportunities – a great place to start!

A great source for internships (make sure you have an up-to-date browser!)

Federal government volunteer site: www.volunteer.gov

SCA is a great organization, but expect to take off several months to participate in their intern positions.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Easy Ways to Add to Your Resume – Many of them Free!

Often, students and career changers struggle to “fill out” their resumes. Lacking field experience is often their challenge.  I’ve collected my best tips here for adding to your resume with a variety of free and cost-money-but-worth-it resume enhancing activities. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Free Online Courses
Environmental Protection Agency Free Courses and Certification
Eppley Institute Free Park Management Courses
HAZWOPER Certification Courses
Wildlife Field Courses
Free or Low Cost Extension Service or NGO Offerings (rain garden workshops, etc.)

One of my favorite resume enhancers are the free online courses offered by FEMA.  Here are some of the better titles:  An Introduction to Hazardous Materials, Managerial Safety and Health, Hazardous Materials Contingency Planning, Coordinating Environmental and Historic Preservation Compliance, Overview of FEMA's Environmental and Historic Preservation Review, Introduction to Residential Coastal Construction, Introduction to Hazard Mitigation, Technical Writing, Building Partnerships with Tribal Governments, Introduction to Public-Private Partnerships, Applications of GIS for Emergency Management. Also, if you want to target positions that include emergency response, there are at least 20 courses that are essential to adding this knowledge to your resume. New courses are added several times each year:  http://training.fema.gov/is/crslist.asp?page=all

EPA provides a lot of resources on its website. There are many watershed courses offered online through the EPA Watershed Academy page:
If you follow the guidelines on the following site, you can become “certified” by completing the EPA Watershed Management Certificate Program:    
EPA’s Air Pollution Training Institute offers a long list of air quality courses at no cost online:
To find self-study courses (meaning free online ones):
RCRA Training at your Desktop is found here:
There are other training webpages at EPA, however, some are in transition. If you spend some time using their search engine, you will likely find more free online courses in your specific area of interest.

The Eppley Institute provides online training courses in park and public land management, many of which are free. Some examples are Wilderness Management, Interpretation, Safety, and Leadership.

A key piece of advice is that if you decide to spend money on training, I highly recommend that you do it to obtain a marketable skill. One example is 24 hour or 40 hour HAZWOPER Certification.  This is a credential that is much desired in the hazardous materials field. Yes, it does cost a bit of money, but it does lend credibility to you and strengthens your resume. One vendor I have used is National Environmental Trainers:  http://www.natlenvtrainers.com/courses.htm
This vendor also provides other training that is very useful in the environmental field. If this is your area of focus, these courses would be very helpful, as well.
If you are interested in fish and wildlife management, the Northeast Chapter of the Wildlife Society offers an outstanding Wildlife Field Course every year.  It will definitely help you gain the field experience you need and the instructors are outstanding!
Some universities also offer summer field courses. Here is one example:

Finally, don’t forget about local environmental organizations and your County Extension Office. They often hold free rain garden workshops, or dune restoration workshops, etc.  You may get a day of volunteer experience from their workshop, in addition to learning how to install a rain garden or plant dunegrass, but it’s all worth it to add these skills to your resume! 
Here are some examples:

I hope these suggestions are helpful! Please comment below if you have additional suggestions!

Dr. Carol A. Pollio

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dealing with Rejection - 5 Ways to Bounce Back

This is a tough topic this week – how to deal with rejection in the job market. I will share with you that I’ve applied for many jobs in my 35 year career that I didn’t get. Sometimes up to 100 each time I wanted to move on. Discouraging? Yes. Hopeless? No. Here are some of my best tips for dealing with rejection:

You’re Not Alone
Follow up
Consult an Expert

You’re Not Alone. Everyone fails at something. Abraham Lincoln went to war as a Captain, only to return a Private. Walt Disney was fired early in his career, because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Stephen King’s manuscript for the book “Carrie” was rejected 30 times (and he threw it in the trash!). As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen plenty of job rejection in my time. I used to keep a file of rejection letters – some say that’s depressing, but it actually helped me past more than one self-doubting moment. When I felt rejected, I would pull out those letters and read through them. I would think about each job and the information I had learned since then. Sounds strange, but I always felt that better things were coming after reading those letters; that the best “fit” for me must still be out there. Choose to move on (mentally and emotionally), but make every effort to learn from the experience!

Follow Up. One important way to learn from the experience is to follow up. Call the Human Resources (HR) Office and ask for insight on your resume and qualifications. Identify gaps, make sure you’re applying for the right level position, ask questions about what they feel you’re missing (experience, training, etc.). If you were interviewed, call and ask the interviewer for feedback. Find out what made the selectee the “best candidate” and what you could do to improve your chances of being selected the next time. Recognize that few people like to talk in negatives, so be prepared by having some specific questions to ask. It is easier to answer a direct question, than to respond to “What did I do wrong?” If you really want to work for this agency or company in the future, the follow up call should be treated the same as a second interview – be gracious, yet purposeful in the conversation.

Retool.  Whether you’ve gained some new information or not, take time to step back and evaluate where you are in your job search. Do you need more experience? training? Are there unexplained gaps in your resume? Think about ways to address any issues. In short, retool your image. Think about finding a volunteer position in your chosen field, if you’re lacking experience. Consider taking some training – there are many online resources that offer free training courses to enhance your resume.  Join local environmental organizations. If in school, join student chapters of professional organizations. In short, find ways to fill in any gaps you’ve identified. Remember, it is a tight job market, and it may not be that you lack anything – it may be that the competition is just too stiff. In that case, you aren’t hurting anything by continuing to develop your skills and experience, so why not do it?

Network. Use your personal and professional network to find job leads. One way to do that is to completely fill out your LinkedIn profile and include the link on your resume. Believe it or not, I’ve had quite a few potential employers check my LinkedIn page – ask work and school contacts to endorse you on the site.  Join local or student chapters of professional organizations. These often have monthly meetings and periodic networking activities. Make up simple business cards that you can hand out when you meet people at these events, or when you’re out doing other errands. Go to local environmental organization or agency events. In short, make as many connections as you can. I remember reading a book about being unemployed and it said that looking for work was a full-time job – they recommended putting together a weekly “to do” list. On this list, put down how many contacts or activities you are going to do each week – and get out there and do them!

Consult an Expert. I hesitate to recommend this, only because like any good advice, one must be careful to select a trusted source for it. If you have access to a trusted source, such as a university career counselor, use it! It is in their best interest for you to get a job, so they are focused on your success, not your consulting fee. Likewise, many professional organizations offer career mentoring for free, linking you to a mentor in your field of interest. If you know someone in your career field (a friend or relative, a professor), ask their assistance. Use your resources (and your money) wisely!

I know rejection isn’t easy! I hope that these tips help you rebound and have you finding your dream job soon! 

Dr. Carol A. Pollio  

P.S. Please comment and provide me with feedback my blog!