SORT SWITCH: Sarah - from Dentistry to Wildlife Conservation

Sort logo
Sort
4 min read

Sarah Parmor is originally from North Wales, and after going to University in Cardiff to study dentistry, she worked as a dentist for nearly 20 years, but decided that she wanted to switch it up, moving into wildlife conservation work. She now works for the RSPB

What is your current job role? 

My current job role is Visitor Experience Manager at Newport Wetlands, overseeing the visitor experience operations on the site. As it’s one of the busiest RSPB reserves in the country, we have a lot of visitors. I manage the team who run visitor activities, events and the front-of-house welcome. We have educational activities on-site where schools come to visit; we show them things like pond dipping and mini-beast hunting and run various nature themes for schools, which is part of their curriculum now

In terms of your switch from dentistry to conservation, what inspired that particular transition? 

It was a mixture of not really enjoying the work, not liking the dentistry career that I was in and also finding it very stressful. Dentistry didn’t suit my personality but I stuck with it because after all that niche training I felt like that’s what I had to do, and that’s all I could do. It took me a long time to realise that I didn’t actually have to do the career that I trained for, especially if I didn’t like it. I thought about things that I enjoyed doing - I loved being outside in nature, and I loved wildlife and visiting nature reserves.

The big turning point for me was doing a week of volunteering on Skomer Island, which is a residential volunteering placement you can do with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. That week on Skomer changed my life, because after that I knew exactly that’s what I wanted to do. So from then on, I pursued this pathway, volunteering at my local nature reserve, getting more residential volunteering roles and finally ending up with an internship position on Ramsey Island. I learnt about habitat management, wildlife monitoring and visitor engagement. I ended up spending three whole years out there. That was the start of my conservation journey.

How did you transition into a conservation role from dentistry? 

It’s essential to get practical, hands-on experience. If you spend time volunteering and building the knowledge, skills and experience, conservation jobs will open to up you. I did long-term placements - 6-9 month positions - on nature reserves.

Alongside that, I began to study for a Master's degree with Edinburgh University in wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystem health - this was a part-time course over three years and totally distance learning. I could do that alongside my volunteering which worked well for me. There are so many of these distance learning courses now which gives you that flexibility. Although it’s hard volunteering when you’re not earning, if you can do it, it’s really helpful.

What would your advice be for people considering a career switch?

It depends on your personal situation. I was lucky enough to have some savings from my previous career and the RSPB internships include free accommodation and bills so I could live cheaply. For people who might not have that luxury, then you might have to try and fit part-time work alongside it. I would recommend trying to get the full time volunteering roles because it is harder to get the real nitty gritty experience if you’re not in a role that is similar to an employed one.

What’s your current favourite part of your conservation job role now?

I still love the people-side of things, especially with the climate and biodiversity crisis we’re in. It’s so important to get people on board and get them interested. I have years of experience in people engagement and am comfortable talking to people from all walks of life - transferable skills like these have really helped me in my current role. The skills I gained in dentistry aren’t wasted - I just don’t have to do the drilling and filling and all that stuff.

That really came up in my interviews for various conservation jobs. The fact that I’ve done other jobs actually worked in my favour. I sometimes worry that I haven’t got enough relevant experience, but all experience counts.

So, if anyone is thinking of changing careers, don’t be afraid, thinking that you don’t have enough experience for that particular career, because so many skills are transferable.

I have been involved in recruiting in my current role; when I’m looking at CVs and applications, I’m looking at everything - all the little things they’ve done as well – if that’s cleaning or hospitality, it all really counts.



If you or anyone else has undergone a career switch that you know, get in touch! We'd love to hear your story. Email us at admin@sortyourfuture.com.

Related articles
Emily Hanson
Emily Hanson
8 min read

How to get off the career conveyor belt and find your true ...

Do you ever look around at where you are in life and think 'how on earth did I find myself here?'. A little like when...

Sort logo
Sort
4 min read

How To Deal With Recruiters When Applying for Jobs

Did you know there are more than  12,000 recruitment agencies  in the UK? Each one has hundreds of clien...

Sort logo
Sort
7 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Alex - Senior Assistant Producer at Sky Sports

Do you love sport and have a knack for creating content? We recently chatted to Alex Emery, Senior Assistant Produ...

Sort logo
Sort
6 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Cat - the Future of Work

We spoke to Cathryn Barnard, co-founder and director of Working the Future , who provide work trend intelligenc...

Meg Timbrell
Meg Timbrell
3 min read

Job search habits to leave behind in 2021

If bringing in the new year means bringing in a new job, then keep reading to find out if you're still making any of th...

Sort logo
Sort
11 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Tim Campbell - on The Apprentice & ...

Tim Campbell MBE won The Apprentice back in 2005, and has come full circle to work alongside Lord Alan Sugar to judge...

Sort logo
Sort
6 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Scott - Founder of Coaltown Coffee

Scott James is the founder of Coaltown Coffee , a specialty coffee roastery based in South Wales in a small tow...

Sort logo
Sort
6 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Howard - music producer & Jamiroquai band ...

Howard Whiddett describes himself as a producer, performer and Jamiroquai band member, using computers and music produ...

Meg Timbrell
Meg Timbrell
2 min read

Construction apprenticeships

Working in construction can be a brilliant career pathway, and there are a surprising number of routes you can follow....

Meg Timbrell
Meg Timbrell
2 min read

Netflix's advice for those who want to enter the TV/film ...

The film industry is an exciting and dynamic place to work, whether you're wanting to tell your own stories as a sc...

Sort logo
Sort
9 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Keith - from cancer to Kanye

Keith Gray is, without doubt, a success story - a Creative Director who has worked with the likes of Toma...

Holly Chapman
Holly Chapman
6 min read

Starting an apprenticeship at 30 - Holly's story

I’m Holly, I’m 30, I’m a mum of two and I’ve just become an apprentice. I was one of those kids at school. You...

Meg Timbrell
Meg Timbrell
1 min read

Business apprenticeships

Why a business apprenticeship? To get your foot in the door of the business world, apprenticeships are an excellent wa...

Meg Timbrell
Meg Timbrell
1 min read

The very best of 'how it started' vs 'how ...

If you're in need of career inspiration or feeling stuck, it can help to look at where your role models started out, no...

Sort logo
Sort
1 min read

Accounting apprenticeships

What is accounting? Accounting involves the measurement and management of the financial information of an individua...