Starting a new job is never easy, never mind starting an entirely new career.
In less than 2 years I have gone from working in graduate employability and recruitment in London, to undertaking an MSc in Oxford, to beginning a new career in Birmingham for not one, but two of the world’s biggest infrastructure organisations working on one of the UK’s largest transport projects.
Proving my skills capabilities
Over the last 6 months in the role, I have been striving to prove my skills and capabilities to my new boss and team, to make friendships and build professional connections, to learn completely new systems (twice) and deliver an incredibly high standard in my day to day job. I have gone above and beyond for my clients, I have worked many a 16 hour day and I have tested my diplomacy to (and beyond) its limits in an effort to meet deadlines and drive efficient and effective work ethic across the team. I have increased my excel expertise 10-fold, whilst probably damaging my eyesight in equal measure! I have taken on additional responsibilities beyond my day job, all in a bid to boost my division’s presence and reputation through PR and marketing, to drive innovation and new methodologies as part of a national working group and also to increase office engagement and staff morale as part of a focus group tasked with interpreting and improving on employee feedback.
On top of all this I am still maintaining a regular flow of professional development training (to remind me that beyond the spreadsheets I am an ecologist after-all), attending and presenting at various conferences and still getting out and about with my local wildlife trust now and again. Not to mention the fact that I have finally formally graduated from university (whoop) and even won an award from the Chartered Institute for Ecology & Environmental Management (CIEEM) for my student thesis!
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been busy.
When fuel runs low
As any ecologist will tell you, however, when you get to July and August you are usually ready to drop; people are tired, easily agitated and not always thinking as coherently as they did in March, or holding their tongues as well either. This is hard. I’m not going to lie, my fuel is running very low too. Maintaining morale and motivation is becoming more and more difficult. I’ve stopped exercising frequently, I’m not eating as well and my patience is torn. That two week holiday I booked for the end of September seems like a lifetime away.
Nevertheless, I am still trudging on, working hard and maintaining that strong work ethic that has given me an incredible career to date, whilst also taking some well-earned time in lieu to ground me once again.
Making the most of the 6-month review
In a matter of days I am due to have my 6-month review (has it only been that long!?) and I hope that the review not only goes swimmingly but also highlights key and specific development areas for me to work on. All too often company reviews don’t really say or do anything other give you a pat on the back and a thumbs up for your hard work. What I want is a plan that’s going to get me to the next level both technically as an ecologist as well as through my leadership potential and project management capabilities. Often it is addressing your weaknesses that will help open doors to your strengths, but it often needs someone to tell you what they are first. Luckily for me, I have a great boss who sees it all, reads me like a book and has already opened me many a door over my short time working with him.
A disproportionate imbalance
I guess the key note here is that ecological consultancy is hard work. Despite doing what you love, ecology means a disproportionate imbalance of work throughout the year, putting significant strain on that age-old work-life-balance during the peak survey season, whilst leaving some people itching ferociously to get out during the winter months when work is limited. It tests you on all levels of your skill and personality, bringing out the best or the worst in you.
Maintaining and developing your integrity, professionalism and diplomacy are right up there with learning about botany, bats and newts.