Wildlife Vocalizations: Deb Hahn

Wildlife Vocalizations is a collection of short personal perspectives from people in the field of wildlife sciences.

There are many things I wish someone had shared with me at the start of my career. I will touch on the ones that I think are the most useful.

First, find an advocate. An advocate is slightly different than a mentor as they are more directly involved in supporting you and your position. Having an advocate, particularly at the beginning of your career, can be extremely helpful to encourage your growth and support you and your work.

Hahn during a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network meeting on Vancouver Island.
Courtesy of Deb Hahn

Second, being able to negotiate is a valuable skill. Taking training to develop this skill is time well spent. The research shows that many women, and especially women of color, do not negotiate for themselves. They do not negotiate salary, time off, raises or to be put on a team, which are important to advance their career, make sure they are compensated appropriately, and provide them with the flexibility they need to take time off.

Thirdly, the act of leadership can come from anywhere in an agency or organization. You do not need to be in a position of authority. Learning strategies to lead without authority can be extremely useful.

Fourth, consider what work life balance (or just life) you want. What life or lifestyle is optimal for you? What will help you find satisfaction, engagement, happiness or contentment? I realize we all do not have the privilege to completely make this decision based on what make us the happiest, but I would encourage you to follow where your values lead you as much as you can when making decisions about work life balance. Also, life is constantly changing, so let your work life balance needs change with it.

Hahn at the Grand Canyon during a National Conservation Leadership Institute residency. Courtesy of Deb Hahn

Finally, take time off. Whether you want time off to travel, be with your family, help an aging parent, or just to read a book, time off is important. In the conservation field, taking time off is sometimes seen as a lack of dedication, but time off is critical to your health and your ability to bring your best self to your agency and organization. The pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of mental health and self-care, and in my opinion, the need for time away from work. I hope these thoughts are useful. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this forum.

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Header Image: Hahn during the CITES CoP 16 meeting. Courtesy of Deb Hahn