Forest Management – Something Different is Always Waiting for You

Blog by Assistant Forest Manager Mike Page, Central Scotland.

“There are pretty stark commercial realities in this industry and while you are protected from these early in your career, you need to be exposed to them to continue your development.”

The last instalment of this blog maybe gave the impression that I was driving round the country with my blood pressure going off the chart. There were times in that run-up to Christmas when it did feel like the number of spinning plates was going up, and my capacity to keep them spinning wasn’t increasing in line. However, getting a good chunk of the planting season out of the way before January has taken a bit of the pressure off now, and the rest of the planting season looks remarkably achievable.

Reading back through my last blog, all of those things which seemed so pressing and in some cases a bit scary, have now performed that trick of memory whereby I can’t remember what the big deal was. Everything turned up, everyone turned up, some trees got planted and some money got made. It wasn’t too bad. There’s a good line in an Irvine Welsh’s novel ‘Skagboys’ (bear with me here), ‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.’ I often think about this in relation to my job. The workload looks mighty daunting when it’s in front of you; much less so once it’s over and the dust has settled.

One of the reasons behind starting these blogs was to give prospective forest managers an idea of what was involved in the job and I wanted to show that it wasn’t all striding across the hills and through the woods, thinking airy thoughts about the benefits of trees. There are pretty stark commercial realities in this industry and while you are protected from these early in your career, you need to be exposed to them to continue your development.

One of the ironies of development as a new recruit is the desire to be given more responsibility more quickly, only to find yourself looking wistfully back at the early period when not too much was expected of you. However, you need to keep putting yourself under pressure to drive your own development. If you ever think you’ve mastered your current role then you need to do something more challenging. One of the nice things about Tilhill Forestry is that something different is always waiting for you.

A truth that I’ve come to realise about myself and my approach to new tasks is that learning isn’t always fun. It’s nice to say you enjoy new challenges and pushing yourself (after all, if you don’t then why would any company employ you?), but being able to learn and enjoying learning are not the same. A better line, more in keeping with the quote above, would be ‘I enjoy having mastered new skills’. Trying a new skill, finding out that you’re not naturally brilliant at it, asking lots of questions and practicing repeatedly under pressure isn’t actually that enjoyable. But you can’t fast forward the hard bits so at least being up for the challenge (however resignedly) is a good start.

This is my last blog; I hope it’s been of some interest or occasional mild amusement. I’ve found the last 18 months challenging and rewarding in equal measure. For me I think it’s my perfect career. If you are reading this and want to know more or ask any questions then please feel free to get in touch with me. Details on the website or I’m on LinkedIn.