What do you do for a living?

My co-workers and I posted “We’re Hiring!!!” notes on our Facebook accounts to help recruit two more Environmental Officers to join our team here in El Nido. Practically all the comments are in the same vein – “Wow this sounds like a dream job!”, “Wow Palawan!”, and “Wow, nice job to get away from the city!”. Now, I’m not saying that they’re wrong exactly. It just seems like people have a romanticized idea of what it is that I do for a living, especially since I only post the good stuff where we snorkel, dive, hike, kayak, interact with scientists, and produce nature videos. Like any other job, there will be good days where we get to do all the fun stuff and bad days where we just want to quit and go home.

Things to remember about applying for a job like this:

1. A degree or background in the natural sciences is a must.

Our boss, Rima, Kring, and myself all have BS Biology degrees from the University of the Philippines-Diliman (biased much? LOL). This was intentional because part of the job description is being the resident “environmental expert” for the guests and staff. I’ve had people ask me to identify a snake based only on the vaguest of descriptions (black, long, and with a pointed head), not realizing that the Philippines is home to hundreds of species of snake. Concerned staff wanted the resident doctor (for humans!) and I to look after a large water monitor lizard that had bloody scratches on its belly.Yes, we really went to Cove 2 and Doc Raymond really brought his rolling medical kit even though we couldn’t do anything for the lizard. People expect you to know why jellyfish abound during a certain time of the year and the name of the bird they heard singing. My co-workers and I don’t know everything of course, but you have to be at least two steps above the non-science person.

2. You must be able to handle long bouts of loneliness.

You are on a literal island, separated from your friends and family for weeks at a time. Unless you adapt, make new friends, or maybe hook up with a fellow staff member, you will get lonely at times. And hooking up with another staff member has its own pros and cons. We stockpile DVDs of movies and TV shows whenever we’re in Manila. On our days off, we go out every single day and try to meet up with as many people as we can. I finish one novel a week when I’m here. I did more work on my masters thesis in the past two weeks than my past month in Manila because there’s really nothing else to do (erm, this would be a good thing I think?).

3. You will meet people from all walks of life and everyone will have something to say. You may not necessarily agree with them, but you will have to be non-judgmental.

4. You will have to do things above and beyond what’s officially included in the job description simply because there’s no one else to do it.

In my short time here, I’ve had to learn how to us Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Soundbooth, and Premiere Pro, Windows Movie Maker, and Microsoft Publisher to produce videos, short stories, placemats, coloring books, guidebooks, calendars, and other collateral that are not normally within the skill set of a Biology major. EOs also get recruited to host the company Christmas parties. Apparently, EOs don’t move up the corporate ladder – they move across.

Those four things said, I really like my job. Depending on what’s happening when you ask me (e.g. seeing a hawksbill sea turtle while snorkeling in Miniloc), I’d even say that I love my job. This post is intended to temper expectations, not discourage. If you still feel that this is the job for you, then go for it! See you in El Nido 🙂