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Graduate Q&A Jess Hotten (BSc Marine Biology)

As an 18 year-old, Jess Hotten had an ambition to work in marine conservation.

She graduated with a degree in Coastal Marine Biology before completing a Masters in Marine Environmental Management, and now works as a Graduate Marine Environmental Consultant with Mott MacDonald.

Her work is fast-paced and varied and gives her opportunities to get out into the field, working with ecology and environmental teams.

Marine Biology Graduate Jess Hotten
Marine Biology Graduate Jess Hotten

When you were 18, did you know what you wanted to do after University?

Not completely, I just wanted to work in marine conservation.

What made you choose the career path you are on?

I’ve always been interested in nature and wanted to be a scientist. When I was a young teenager, I collected National Geographic kids and one put a spotlight on different careers in nature, like primatologist and oceanographer. I saw the oceanographer and decided that was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t good at physics, so I decided I was better suited to marine biology. At university I enjoyed my courses and learned lots about the marine environment. I found that I had an interest in marine plankton and plants. My MSc was based around consultancy, which I enjoyed as it looks at human interactions with the environment and how to protect the environment, whilst improving infrastructure. This interest in human impact and management has led me to working in consultancy now.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the variety of projects that I have been working on and the people I work with. I started in January and it has been a bit of a whirlwind but I have already learned so much. The team is supportive and I love that I get to work on marine projects.

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Q. What’s a typical working day for you?

It’s really varied. I help out with the ecology and environmental teams as well. So, I can be writing an environmental impact assessment or scoping for a project, which is interesting. I have had a go at water framework directive assessments, fisheries scoping, written a methodology for a seagrass survey and alternative methods and I have recently started collating background information on another project. Everything is quite fast paced, which is enjoyable.

I’ve not been doing all office work, with ecology I have been out working on local projects doing different surveys and ecological clerk of works. I enjoy this as I get to be out of the office and go to different sites. It’s interesting to see the ecology side during the construction phase.

What can students do during their time at University to increase the chances of getting their dream job?

LinkedIn is a really useful tool to connect and network with different people in the industry.

It’s hard to find entry-level jobs, so don’t be discouraged from applying to a job that is above what you think you will be able to do – you can contact them explaining and show your enthusiasm.

At university, network, look for work experience and seasonal roles over the summer. Annoyingly, most ecology jobs require driving. If you can’t drive, applying for a larger consultancy is usually better as they pay for public transport, and smaller ones require you to drive your own car. I didn’t learn to drive until my first seasonal role.

At Hull, there is a good opportunity for summer work. Ask your lecturers if there are projects you can help on. These are usually unpaid but good experiences. I did one and got to be a co-author on a paper. There are also two consultancies within the university and that's a good experience as well. I did a summer with Hull Marine Lab, which can help build up benthic ID skills. 

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Q. Have you got any tips from your experience on how to smash the application and interview process?

Have a casual chat beforehand – some places let you do this and you can gauge what they are looking for to make your application strong.

Networking again – you can sometimes just send your CV to someone to pass it to their manager rather than filling in an internet form.

When interviewing make sure you have questions at the end – good ones include:

  • What projects will I be working on?
  • What do you expect to see from me in the first 6 months?
  • What do you think I will struggle with?

If you are struggling to remember the questions you are being asked in an online interview, ask for them to put the question in the chat box so you can refer to it.

Why did you want to study biological sciences at university and why Hull?

I knew I wanted to do marine biology. When looking at universities I had no idea that Hull did marine biology. I went on a college diving trip and it turned out they had been there a week or so earlier and one of the students was still out there working – he was my group's divemaster. He went to the Scarborough campus and told everyone how good it was. So, when I got back, I went to see the campus and loved it. The lecturers made it the place I wanted to go to as they were passionate and really nice.

If you had your time at University again, would you do anything differently?

No, I don’t think so. I loved my time at university and learned so much.

Q. How has your degree helped you in your career?

Marine Biology Graduate Jess Hotten

Doing some terrestrial studies allowed me to work as a seasonal ecologist, which helped me gain some experience in the industry.

The job I applied for at Motts was a higher position but as they were expanding the team and I had a MSc in Marine Environmental Management, so this led them to creating a role for me as a graduate consultant.

Do what you love, or do what pays the most? What do you think?

Always do what you love but make sure companies don’t take advantage of it. 

Interested in studying Marine Biology?