Putting Your Term of Service to Use

  • February 25, 2015
  • Posted by Nate Hess

If you’ve ever investigated conservation careers in the West, it probably seems like all the full-time positions are next to impossible to land (no pun intended). Openings will always be competitive, but there is a silver lining. The Pew Research Center estimates that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 14 years. Simply put, as the older generation retires, there will be a growing number of positions available for aspiring natural resource professionals.

AmeriCorps alum Ellie Rial’s story is a great example of that trend. Rial came to Montana as a Big Sky Watershed Corps Member with MCC in 2013 at the Clark Fork Coalition in Missoula.  She spent her service term formalizing watershed education programs for the coalition. She was later brought on to continue that work full time. Three years later, Rial says the need for programs and professionals is on the rise.

“When it (BSWC) started, there were only 10 of us, now there are 20!” said Rial. “I think it really speaks to the demand for and the success of this program.”

Rial admits that luck may have been on her side when she was offered the coalition’s Education Coordinator position, but that hasn’t stopped her career advancement. Balancing her personal life, her current position, and finishing a Master’s degree in Environmental Education at the University of Montana, she’s positioning herself to capitalize on Pew’s estimates.

In the end though, Rial says, you should always focus on what you love. 

“I hope my M.S. degree will open doors for me, but I want to continue working for a watershed that I deeply care for and an organization that I’m passionate about.”

An Executive Director position may be a little ambitious at the moment, but Rial points out that AmeriCorps programs have the potential to truly shape a person’s future. The experience you earn will take you where you want to go; it just takes a little time. 

“A lot of us might not be where we are now if it weren’t for our service with AmeriCorps. I think that is important to keep in mind.”

Do you have a question about watershed education or setting yourself up for success? Rial was kind of enough to supply her email and welcomes any questions you may have about life after AmeriCorps. You can reach her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).



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