5 Tips for Future Foresters
Shireen Chambers FICFor is Executive and Technical Director at the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF), in addition to being a Chartered Forester and a Fellow of the Institute. She studied forestry and soil science at Bangor University before embarking on a career overseas, working with the Government of the Bahamas to set up a new forestry department in the 1980’s. She returned to the UK to work with the Central Scotland Forest and continued as a practitioner in community and urban forestry throughout the UK. She was a board member of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Chair of the Forestry Commission’s Regional Advisory Committee for Mid-Scotland and the Edinburgh Green Belt Trust and is currently a non-executive director of Forest Research.
Here Shireen gives her top 5 tips for anyone considering a career in this diverse sector.
1 Forget about chainsaws I haven’t picked up a chainsaw in 30 years and I know many Chartered Foresters who have never laid hands on one. Unfortunately our sector continues to suffer the misconception that we’re all plaid-wearing male lumberjacks – this couldn’t be further from the reality of modern forestry. It is a billion pound UK sector which employs a diverse range of professionals from forest scientists and managers to urban tree specialists and policy officers. Whatever your gender, whether you’re an outdoor or indoor type, business or science-orientated – there is a role in the forestry sector to suit you.
2 Get ready to travel
Trees and forests are essential for human existence – so every country has them! However forests and their management vary greatly depending on climate, soils, altitude and culture. This is a job that can take you all over the world, and my advice is to seize the opportunity to travel in your early career. In the 1980’s I worked in the Bahamas, helping the government there to set up a forestry department. This experience was invaluable, teaching me about different cultures and how forestry can build bridges in communities.
3 Demonstrate teamwork and leadership
Like all businesses, forestry companies are looking for graduates that demonstrate a range of non-forestry skills such as leadership, management and teamwork. That’s why many forestry graduate programmes are recruiting from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, not just forestry. It’s a good idea to think about your future job applications while you’re in University. Are there any extracurricular activities that would look good on your CV? In university I worked at Camp America in upstate New York and travelled to Australia to work with the New South Wales Forestry Commission in my holidays. I used these experiences to show leadership skills and a ‘can do’ attitude when I started job hunting.
4 Professionalism is essential
If you’re considering a career in forestry, professionalism is essential. Whatever forestry role you end up in, and whether public or private sector, you will undoubtedly be working with other professionals such as architects, surveyors, or engineers. You will be judged on your professional competency, so there’s no better way than to join a professional body and undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD). I would encourage entrants to the profession to consider getting chartered as early as possible.
5 Know your network
I’m not sure I agree with the old adage ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know’ – but a network of peers to give help and support is of huge benefit at all stages of your career. Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a skill that can be learnt over time. Start practicing by joining a University society, or indeed engaging with the student membership of a professional body. ICF’s Young Professional Study Tour is taking place in June and there are a range of regional events that particularly welcome students.
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