Get That Animal Welfare Job – 8 Ways to Stand Apart From the Pack
If you want an animal welfare organization to hire you, the stuff you bring to their table has to be pretty special. If a company or organization has 50 people applying for the same position – and most of these applicants have similar skills and experience – it’s too easy to be forgotten. You need creative ways to stand out (in a positive way!) from the horde of other applicants, and give your future employer a reason to want to hire you.
The following ideas may not necessarily guarantee you the job, but they may indeed help give you an advantage.
Know the organization inside and out
It’s so easy these days to research an organization, that there’s no excuse not to get at least basic information before applying. But in order to impress, you’ll want to know much more than the basics.
When Karen Windsor, co-founder of Foster Parrots (a parrot sanctuary) was conducting interviews for a sanctuary director, she came across someone who took her researching skills to a new level: “I was impressed to learn that not only was she familiar with the work of Foster Parrots; but she had also written a paper during her Master’s program at Tufts University, using Foster Parrots as a sanctuary model.”
Now you may not need to go as far as to write a thesis on the organization, but you’ll want to show them you understand what they’re about – including their mission, accomplishments, and history, for example.
Focus on what you can do for them
Karen says she’s interviewed people who she believed were judging her and Foster Parrots: “I’ve even sat across the table from people who seemed to actually be interviewing me, trying to determine if this position was something that was going to work for them. Why would I ever consider hiring someone like that?”
It’s not that you shouldn’t ask a potential employer questions . . . you want to know if the job will be a good fit for you, and that’s ok. It’s just that you’ll make a better impression if you keep most of the focus on them.
Take a course
Taking a course demonstrates your initiative – that you want to learn even when it’s not required. Read my article for ideas on where to find free and low-cost training & educational opportunities.
Dress the part
Are you thinking of wearing a tee shirt and yoga pants to your interview? Don’t! Appearance matters . . . even if you’re applying for a job as animal caregiver. Animals may not care what you wear, but your appearance signals a certain level of respect – that you care. An employer may think that if you can’t take basic pride in your appearance, you may be just as lax in how you do your job.
Christopher Scott, human resource generalist & executive assistant at Save the Chimps says: “Appearance isn’t everything, but you should be neatly dressed in well-kept clothing. You may be interacting with guests or donors at some point, so make sure your appearance is tasteful and respectful!”
You don’t need to wear expensive clothes or look as if you just stepped out of a fashion magazine, but dress like the professional you are. This can vary on the type of position you’re applying for. If it’s for an executive, administrative, or government relations position, dress as you would for an interview at a corporate office.
If it’s an animal care position you’re vying for, you may not necessarily have to don a suit, but you should still strive for basic professionalism – shirt with collar, nice pants or skirt. If in doubt of what to wear, network to find your answer. Do you know anyone who works in a similar position who can advise you?
Show your gratitude
After the interview, take the time to craft a thoughtful thank you letter. People like to be thanked – including potential employers. It shows a level of professionalism and respect . . .and gives you another opportunity to show them your personality and character.
• Thank them for their time – that you appreciate the opportunity & would love to work for them.
• Thank them for the good work they’re doing on behalf of animals or the environment.
• Offer a concise recap of your interview (they’ll know you paid attention).
• Remind them of the different ways you can be an asset to the organization.
• Mention that even if you don’t get hired this time, that you’d like to be considered for future positions.
Create an online presence
This is especially important if you’re a writer or web designer, since you’ll want to be able to showcase your work. But everyone can benefit from having an online presence. There are many options available – from setting up a basic LinkedIn page to creating a website using WordPress.
Volunteer like you mean it
Do you have volunteer or internship experience? Even if it’s not with an animal welfare organization, including it on your resume or CV can be beneficial. That’s because many skills are transferable – fundraising, administrative, customer service, to name a few.
If you’re looking for opportunities beyond what local organizations can offer, check websites such as Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch.org. Or find out if any national organizations are looking for volunteers – some even offer remote positions.
Join a professional association
Aside from it being a great learning & networking experience, as well as a source of potential jobs, joining a professional association or organization will stand out nicely on your resume, CV, or website.
There are professional groups for almost every field these days . . . including writers, fundraisers, grantwriters, animal welfare administrators, and nonprofit professionals
Gaining an edge in any job market – especially in a competitive one such as the animal welfare field – doesn’t have to be super complicated. But it’s important to find ways to stand apart from the crowd . . .and to show initiative.
Whichever strategies you use to gain an edge, be yourself. Don’t fake it during the hiring process. . .because employers will expect you to deliver on your promises.