What does your job involve?
I work as an environmental consultant with a rural consultancy. I provide supporting information on the condition of habitats as part of the agri-environmental climate scheme (AECS), and I also write all the supporting reports. AECS is a funding stream that can be accessed by the farming, crofting and estate community across the Highlands, and is an integral part of the agricultural support system across Europe for marginal communities.
What did you study at the University of the Highlands and Islands and how does it relate to your current job?
I studied Environmental Science, and specialised in marine environments, environmental planning systems and rural development. This has been an essential part of the knowledge that underpins my new role, and gave me a great head start in what is an incredibly diverse role.
How did you get into your job?
I was fortunate at university to have been taught by some inspirational lecturers, and subjects like EIA, ecology and rural development were cornerstones of my degree. Following my interests, I decided to research areas that I thought would open doors in the environmental sector including agri-environmental practices.
That is only part of the story though, as it is essential that you stand out from the crowd if you want to get a role in your chosen career. I realised very quickly that I had to stand out from the crowd and develop skills that related directly to a role I was trained for. I volunteered with Scottish canals, became a STEM ambassador and mentored fellow students.
Ultimately, it was down to that background of research and practical experience that opened the first door - and of course a fair bit of luck.
Where would you like to go with your career in the future?
I am now looking at developing a mapping and GIS element of our business alongside a crofting advisory service with my employer.
We are in a unique position already in that very few people have attempted to meet the demands of the new AECS programme and this puts our business ahead of many others. Where do we go from here? - well, with a bit of luck, knowledge and perseverance we will still be around in five years’ time and you can ask me that question again.
Do you have any advice for current students?
Your time at university will teach you more than anything how to get the best from yourself. It is a process, a challenge, and ultimately you will become a very different person at the end of your course.
Take the time to learn how to learn, build on your strengths and address your weaknesses. I used a personal development plan consistently throughout my time at university and it was one of the most important tools I had.
Most importantly, understand that getting practical experience through volunteering and work placements can very often be the deciding factor for employers. It gets you noticed, and in a crowded employment market it could well be the edge that gets you the job - at least it did for me.