Nature Canada

Women for Nature Webinar: Discussing Career Planning with Mary Granskou and Tara Topping

On Tuesday, August 31st Nature Canada’s Women for Nature mentorship program held its final webinar session for this summer. The webinar focused on Career Planning and featured two guest speakers: a) Mary Granskou who has been a leader and mentor in the environment sector for over 30 years and b) Tara Topping, an educator and former Education Manager at Project Learning Tree. They shared their valuable insights on career development and planning. 

What advice can you provide for turning a young person’s interest in nature and the environment into a viable career option?

Tara explained the importance of making sure to keep “blinders off” as you never know where your dream job may be. She went on to explain the importance of open-mindedness and knowing that your education does not have to limit you. Broadening your scope could mean not everyone is meant for the office and not everyone is meant for fieldwork but being open-minded to all opportunities will put you in a better position to know what you want.

Mary emphasized the importance of volunteering, how it fosters viable work experience and allows you to get your foot in the door. She also added that one should be flexible. The first role may not be perfect but every experience has its benefits. She further elaborated on drawing on the people, even if the job is not perfect one may still find great leaders, coworkers, and connections.

What is the best way to map out a career plan?

Mary reflected on how there is no one size fits all solution, some people prefer to develop a detailed plan and others follow their gut. She said to lean into your passions and skills as they will help guide you. She encouraged all the attendees to do things that might scare or challenge them; it is difficult finding your path but following your head and your heart will guide you.  

Tara answered by posing an important question, she told attendees to ask themselves “Is this going to work for me? Is this challenge going to work for me?”. She emphasized assessing one’s values and not being steered by external sources such as social media or a supervisor. Moreover, she explained the importance of continuing to assess our values as over time they change and grow. She also encouraged taking risks and going for opportunities even if they seem “above head”. She encouraged attendees to think about what experiences they can gain right now, what steps they can take in their current spot whether that be volunteering or job shadowing. She went on to explain that a career is more than a job, it is the education and experiences you gain, it is building a life not just finding a dream job.

When a person encounters a crossroads in their career, what advice or resources do you recommend for them to decide which path to follow?

Mary said to know in your heart whether a crossroads is a result of burnout. In the conservation sector, there are so many hurdles and challenges that burnout is common so finding support in the people around you is important. Once you can take a step back and regenerate you can better assess whether a crossroad is due to burnout. 

Tara said to take a breath it may not be a crossroad at all and if it is, then it can mean choosing a new organization or new direction. Reevaluate your career pathway and ask what do I want to do and what do I need for a workplace? She added that changing paths do not have to be a drastic transformation such as a new degree but applying your transferable skills. 

Tara went on to share her career expertise as a former career education manager. She explained how important it is to listen to your inner voice. She asked these essential questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? Who are we? And using these as guidelines for what you want. 

You can hear more by checking out the webinar recording below. 

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