8 Ways for Animal Lovers to Find a Dream Job
By Paula Fitzsimmons
Ask ten different people working in the animal care field how they got their job, and you’ll likely get an assortment of replies. There are no right or wrong paths to gainful employment – what works for someone else may not necessarily be ideal for your situation.
Getting hired is sometimes simply the result of great timing, knowing someone who knows someone, and even luck. More often that not, it takes dogged determination and an awareness of which tools to use to your advantage.
I can’t help you with the determination part – that’s completely up to you. But I can share tools and ideas to help you succeed. The following are suggested paths you can take to find your own animal lover’s dream job.
Check free niche job boards
The trick is to find good niche boards (those targeted to a select demographic) that deliver a reliable stream of legitimate opportunities. The last thing you want is to waste valuable time wading through hundreds of unsuitable ads. Examples of niche boards include those at Animal Sheltering, Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, and here on Animal Jobs Digest.
Give a little bit of your time
There are a lot of good reasons to volunteer with your favorite animal welfare organization. Giving of your time is not only beneficial to your personal well-being, but also can be beneficial to your career: You get to test-drive different types of careers without a lot of risk, secure a job reference; and you’ll be in a prime position to learn about job openings.
Become an intern
According to a 2015 study compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 56.5 percent of those who held an internship or coop position received at least one job offer. To put this into perspective, only 36.5 percent of those without internship experience were offered employment. These statistics are not specific to the animal welfare field, but they do speak to the importance of securing a good internship.
Read “Find the Right Internship for Your Animal Career” for suggestions on where to search for internships, as well as a list of animal care organizations that hire interns.
• World Animal Net. A comprehensive database of international animal welfare organizations. Listings include website, mailing, and email addresses. What makes this site especially helpful is that you can ssearch by issue, such as pet adoption or farm animals.
• Charity Navigator. Offers detailed information about charities, including contact information, expense and revenue breakdown (helpful for determining if they can afford to pay salaries), and a comments section.
Build lasting relationships
I’m not talking about the superficial kind of relationships in which your sole purpose is to get something. That’s too obvious. Forging meaningful relationships with people in the field may take time to cultivate, but they’ll last longer. If this route doesn’t produce any job offers, at least you’ll have met new friends and contacts.
Where can you meet people who are as passionate about animal protection as you are? Aside from the organization where you volunteer or intern, are there local and national seminars, meetings, and other events you can attend? For example, Animal Sheltering (an arm of the HSUS) holds Animal Care Expo, a national conference for people interested in animal advocacy work. Sites such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch are great places to search for events and other opportunities.
Send a letter of interest
Some freelance writers send what’s referred to in the industry as a letter of interest (or LOI) to potential clients. It’s a method we writers use to introduce ourselves to potential clients, offer our services, and hopefully snag future writing gigs.
LOIs are not just for writers. Sending an introduction letter to a potential employer is a great way to create an initial connection and get your name out there.
To get an idea of what an LOI entails, About Careers has a decent collection of sample letters. Remember to write your letter in your own words, and to address it to an actual person, instead of Dear Sir or Madam. Form letters are obvious and often not very effective.
Go directly to the organization’s website
Many organizations post jobs directly onto their websites. Sign up to receive their RSS feed if they offer one, so you can be one of the first to learn about openings when they’re posted. To read your feeds, you can use a service such as Feedly; I use the free version and highly recommend it. Feedly lets me check all stories in one place without having to go from site to site.
Reap the benefits of LinkedIn
Having a complete and up-do-date LinkedIn profile makes it easier for employers and recruiters to find you. You can also use LinkedIn to find jobs and potential employers. To do this, click “Jobs” at the top, then enter search terms – either an organization’s name or keyword . . . and voila, jobs and employers will appear, some you may not even have been aware of.
Follow on Facebook & Twitter
Some organizations post their job openings on social media. It’s not the most reliable way of finding a job, but it can’t hurt to follow an organization’s page. If anything you’ll be kept informed of important animal advocacy issues.
Do any of these ideas sound promising? Don’t get overwhelmed and feel you have to attempt every one of these ideas in one sitting. Choose the ideas that seem the most doable and start looking for your dream job. And that’s the important thing – that you start.