Hey there, this is my first time blogging so bare with me 😛 (But you know what they say, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!)
Graduating from university can be a daunting prospect, especially when you still don’t really know what you want to do with the rest of your working life, and it is likely to be the first time you have no solid plans for the near future. The majority of my friends seem to be in the same boat frantically looking for the very few jobs available, trying to avoid signing on.
After looking at job description after job description and discovering the importance of experience in your desired career field, I thought I should give it a go, and it’s been surprising what I have learnt.
Growing up near the Lake District many of my hobbies include outdoor pursuits. Mountain biking; fell walking; canoeing. I’m a pretty active girl, and would really prefer not to be cooped up in an office for long periods of time. So when the opportunity arose for me to spend some of my summer (after my second year at university) in the Lakes carrying out field work not too far from my house I jumped at it!
Work experience offered through any university interface (websites, emails, etc, etc) is something I would strongly recommend looking into, as I found it to be a convenient way to apply and it was relatively simple to organise. I was actually miles away in Canada on my study abroad year when I volunteered to become a field assistant to Beth (a PHD student from Lancaster Environment Center) the first time! This meant Skype came in very handy so don’t be afraid to organise a time when you can video call. It may seem a bit weird, but it’s a great way for you to discuss the reasons why your best for the job!
This was our office for a couple of weeks the first summer in the field, where I had the opportunity to develop an understanding for the project and to gain hands on experience identifying many grass and flower species.
Beth managed not to scare me off during the time I spent with her over the summer and mentioned how she would love for me to help again the next year, however it would have been difficult for me to give up so much time as I would be just finishing uni and really should be starting to look for a job. In the penultimate term of my university life I received a general email off a PHD student, who had received funding to employ field and lab assistants and they needed to apply with an example blog and why we would be great employees. It turned out it was Beth and after volunteering the previous year it meant I had a pretty good chance at being employed this year 🙂 It also meant I had the opportunity to experience an interview.
That’s a soil corer you can see in the picture, I spent most my time using this discovering muscles which I didn’t even know existed and getting incredibly dirty hands! After pushing this into the ground several times it soon became a relief when it managed to reach 60+ cm on the first attempt to avoid having to do it again another two times in the same place before moving to the next location!
The week consisted of lots of bag labelling, where we could put the soil samples we collected using the corer. These were then stored in many cool boxes taking over the house where we were staying (The house rabbit, Jess, was fascinated by them all!) . For each sample taken there was a series of notes and numbers that had to be recorded (on WATERPROOF paper :O) for the purpose of the write up and analysis of the samples which I will be doing in the lab next week. Using BORIS a Russian peat auger and by digging big holes we could also gather soil which will be used eventually to determine the bulk density of the soil.
I wore shorts 100% of the time I was in the field (I was optimistic and even wore them on a day it rained the whole time we were out!) apart from when I had to cover up in the bracken to avoid tics! The picture below shows why!
The main vegetation in this plot is Pteridium!
Although field work is physically and mentally challenging, it can be extremely fun, especially when the end is celebrated with a wild swim in the nearest Lake! Next week will be something new for me and I will be learning how to prepare soil for analysis and being introduced to life in the lab!
I’ll keep you updated,
Amy . . . x