Navigating the Path to Professional Success

Symposium
ROOM: Room 240 – La Cienega
SESSION NUMBER: 18
 
Whether you are a current student, a recent graduate, or an early career professional, navigating the wildlife profession can be a daunting task. How do you make sure your resume stands out? How do you make a lasting impression on a potential employer? How do you develop and direct your career path? During this session, attendees will gain insight on all of this and more. This symposium and panel discussion brings together professionals across the wildlife fields (academia, state agencies, federal agencies, and NGOs) to discuss with students what it means to be a wildlife professional, how to be a wildlife professional, and how to foster professionalism within their student chapters, schools, and beyond. The speakers will share their diverse experiences as well as offer tips, tricks, and suggestions to improve professionalism in age of social media, technology, and increasing social familiarity. Established wildlife and career professionals will cover topics including interviews, networking, TWS certification, and TWS Student Chapter involvement. The knowledge and advice gained during this session will enable young professionals to confidently forge their path in the wildlife profession.

1:10PM Selecting the Right Applicant: Critical Examination of Resumes and Applications
  Merav Ben-David
A crucial step in securing a job in wildlife biology is assembling a competitive application. An impressive resume, a well-constructed cover letter, and great recommendation letters are key components of successful applications; those that rise to the top of the pile. Using real job announcements and representative (made-up) applications, teams composed of professionals and students from the audience will embark on the task of selecting the right applicant for each position. This will be followed by a discussion of the criteria each team used in their selection. The activity and discussion will provide participants with the understanding of what employers are expecting from competitive applications and how they should develop their resumes and cover letters. The discussion will also provide guidelines for the steps needed to secure high-quality recommendations from past supervisors.
1:50PM Climbing the Career Ladder Starting from Below the Bottom Rung
  Colleen Olfenbuttel
How does one end up starting below the bottom rung? Well, it may happen when you don’t attend a university with a TWS student chapter. And it doesn’t help when your advisor is adverse, at best, to student involvement with the state and federal wildlife agencies in the area. So, without local opportunities for gaining wildlife experience, I found myself looking beyond my school and state, and ended up in remote Alaska, where the only access was by float plane. After Alaska, all my job opportunities came from out of state, and for several years, I would not even unpack my station wagon before heading to the next job. From 1995 through 2007, I had been employed by 9 different agencies/organizations, had 11+ different addresses, and worked with approximately 20 different wildlife species ranging from raptors to wolves to brown bears. During that time, my career developed from being an intern to a technician to a wildlife biologist to finally a species biologist. And it all started with that first job, as venturing into the unknown jump started my ascension up the career ladder to my dream job. Though my nomadic trajectory is not the only path to a dream job, each point in my journey was instrumental in my next climb up the ladder and led me to becoming a species biologist by my early 30’s. The years after graduation are critical in your development as a wildlife professional; this is the time when you should step outside your comfort zone to experience new adventures, ideas, and challenges. Experiencing a diversity of agencies, positions, locations, people and wildlife will guide you to your specific passion within the wildlife field, while also widening your career potential.
2:10PM Making and Working Connections to Open Doors
  Nova Silvy
To prepare yourself to become a wildlife professional, you must take charge of your career. You need to decide early in your education where you are going and how you plan to get there. Obtaining a position in the wildlife profession is not just what you know as it is as much as whom you know and who knows you. During your education, you need to obtain credentials that are of significance to your career. Make yourself different from others by taking honors program, obtaining field experience through internships, study abroad programs, and undergraduate research. Contacts made with professors through undergraduate research, internships supervisors, or people you meet during study abroad may be of help when looking to obtain a wildlife position. However, the best way to get to know people that can influence or help you with your career is to become a member of The Wildlife Society at all levels. Most Student Chapters bring in wildlife professionals for their monthly programs which is a great way to get to know these professionals. Attending (better yet presenting undergraduate research at) a State Chapter, Section, and National TWS meeting will get you important exposure to many wildlife professionals. The most prominent mistake that I observe with students who attend, State, Section, and National TWS meetings is at socials where student set together and do not individually set at tables with working wildlife professionals. There is no better way to meet working wildlife professionals then to spend an evening at a table where you are the only student. Remember, people who know you are more likely to hire you if you have the right credentials.
2:30PM Professional Paths in Wildlife: Pursuing Your Passion
  Quentin R. Hays
Future wildlife professionals face a multitude of choices when it comes to career paths, many of which arise before graduation. Should budding biologists choose graduate school? Perhaps entry into an internship program such as Pathways with the USDA Forest Service is a viable option? What about a life of research and teaching? Are finances and diversity of work driving factors? How about leaving a mark as a conservationist? What career path is best at emphasizing particular strengths or minimizing certain weaknesses? These are all questions future wildlife professionals must answer when determining where and how they ply their trade. Traditionally, wildlife biologists work in one of four main occupational fields: within the public sector, private sector, non-governmental organizations, or academia. Each career category offers benefits and drawbacks. Knowing what drives you as an aspiring wildlife biologist is important as you work toward becoming a professional, which brings many responsibilities as well as many privileges. In addition, recognizing one’s own strengths and weaknesses is of critical importance. This presentation will cover the basics of wildlife positions in each occupational category, including the upsides and downsides of each, and will attempt to outline strategies for achieving one’s chosen wildlife career.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Involvement in Professional Societies – Being More Than a Member
  Susan Ellis-Felege
Professional societies are the cornerstone to scientific disciplines for sharing knowledge, networking, and overall professional development. Becoming members of societies should be a part of becoming a professional. However, selecting which societies to join, how many, and how to be involved requires understanding what you want to gain from the organization and what you can contribute. Much like education, you get out of a membership what you put into it. Navigating memberships requires asking yourself important questions about goals and skills you can provide and want to develop and then doing some homework to determine what societies match these. Using The Wildlife Society as a case study, I will describe the process of selecting a society that fits you. I will provide guidance on how to get the most out of your membership while helping the professional society meet its overall mission. Further, I will provide insights on what societies should do to facilitate the continued growth of the organization through student memberships.
3:40PM TWS Student Chapter Involvement – Your First Stop on the Road to Success
  TWS Student Chapter of the Year
The Stevens Point student chapter of Wildlife Society works hard to provide wildlife students with opportunities to grow as wildlife professionals in training through the organization of workshops, participation in research, and connections at all levels of TWS. Our students are involved in all levels of the Wildlife Society, university, local, section, and national chapters leaving a strong impact on the field of natural resources. Hosting the 2016 Midwest student conclave helped connect us to other student chapters in the Midwest and collaborate future events and workshops with these chapters. 2016 student conclave also created an opportunity for our younger members to volunteer. Many of these volunteers later became project leaders and officers. Our chapter understands the importance of encouraging members to become leaders. In 2016, our members participated in 21 student collaborative research projects in addition to several independent research studies. Many of our projects are operate in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Much of the data collected by our members is used in future management practices giving our students technical experience in the field. Faculty advisors for these projects provide guidance while encouraging independence in order to best prepare the students for the future. We are constantly creating new ways for students to get involved and network with professionals. Students in our chapter demonstrate a high level of professionalism illustrated by previous project leaders and officers. All of these aspects are essential to our program and the reason for its success and widespread influence. Receiving the Student Chapter of the Year award is an incredible honor that encourages our students to continue to progress in the study of wildlife.
4:00PM Panel Discussion
 

 
Organizers: Robert Lewis, Utah State University, Logan, UT; Kristi Confortin, Ball State University, Muncie, IN; Lara Pacifici, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
 
Supported by: TWS Student Development Working Group, TWS Conference Arrangements Committee

Symposium
Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 24, 2017 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm