Gaining practical experience is invaluable not only to break into ecology, but also to progress within the profession. This is normally achieved through volunteering with local organisations and charities. Unfortunately, volunteering often takes place in groups and much of this was cancelled and delayed in 2020, though hopefully this will change in 2021. Below are links to organisations who often have volunteering opportunities. The links are not geographically specific as you will need to find the groups local to you.
Another option for gaining experience is to shadow ecologists on surveys. Smaller to medium sized companies are likely to be able to offer this more readily.
This can be achieved through prospective emails to a number of companies, asking whether there would be opportunities for you to shadow an ecologist. Even if there are no opportunities at that point in time, they will likely add your CV to a list and contact you in the future if opportunities arise.
In order to make the emails stand out, try to tailor your email and CV. If the company offers specific surveys you are particularly interested in, make sure to let them know. Additionally, sending the email directly to the ecologist you would like to shadow means it is more likely to get picked up, especially during the busy survey season. Information on the company team and their specialties can often be found on company websites.
If you already have some experience and are looking to gain paid work to further your skills, subcontracting while job hunting for full-time permanent positions can be valuable. The Spring and Summer are the busiest time for ecologists, and consultancies may put out advertisements for subcontractors as early as January and February in preparation. Again, using the prospective email technique above can be helpful or alternatively, try looking on LinkedIn and the Facebook groups linked below.