How To Decide on the Perfect Animal-Centered Career

By Paula Fitzsimmons

If you’ve read my article about the different career paths available for animal lovers, you know you have numerous options. This is a good thing, but can also feel overwhelming. Should you write about animals? Advocate for them? Or work at a sanctuary and take care of them?

Not every job involving animals will be a match for your particular skills, interests, and personality. You may think you want to spend your day at a sanctuary caring for retired chimps, but the realities of the actual job might be something totally different than you had anticipated. It happens. Our expectations don’t always measure up to real life.

So how do you know which career path is best suited for you? While I’m not a career counselor, I’ve found the following tips to be useful in my own decision-making. They can be used wherever you happen to be in your process – from searching for your first job to changing career paths.


Write it down.

One of the things that helps when I need to make an important decision is to pour all my thoughts about the subject down on paper – even if they seem insignificant at the time. Having all my ideas written down in one place helps me make better sense of my options. I can also more quickly eliminate the ideas that won’t work, and instead focus on those that will.

There are different techniques you can use: Creating a mind map, writing in a journal, making an outline, and even doodling. We’re all different, so a technique that works for me won’t necessarily work best for you. For mind mapping, you may find software programs to be helpful. For me, pencil and paper have worked just fine.


Who are you, really?

And what makes you tick? Having answers to these types of questions can help you better decide what it is you want to do. There are several good books about matching careers with personality, skills, and interests – one of the better known is What Color Is Your Parachute?

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If you want a thorough evaluation of your personality type, you may want to consider investing in a Myers-Briggs type test. You can also visit their website for a brief description & list of the preferences comprising MBTI® . One set of preferences used in MBTI® is introversion versus extroversion.

If you’re an introvert, someone who’s more energized by being alone, you may find yourself gravitating towards jobs such as a conservation scientist, environmental journalist, e-book writer, or data analyst for a nonprofit.

As an extrovert, you may find increased satisfaction from jobs requiring more time spent with people. . . ecotour guide, pet adoption counselor, special events coordinator, nonprofit public relations coordinator, are some examples.

This is not to say you can’t be happy in a job that doesn’t match your personality type – we’re all complex individuals. But having a guide can be useful, and lead you to research satisfying careers.

If you’d like to learn more about how personality typing can help you find a career match, I recommend a book called Do What You Are.

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What did you enjoy during your childhood?

Some experts, including Barbara Sher (described in her excellent book Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By Step Lessons

 (affiliate link) suggest looking back to childhood as a way of helping to uncover your gifts. Because we’re uninhibited as children and gravitate to activities we enjoy – not those we have to do – it can be an indicator of our true passions.

You may be thinking:  What could this possibly have to do with an animal-centered career? A lot, actually. Say for instance, you loved to create pretend businesses where you were the boss. . .  Can this translate into starting an animal-based nonprofit? Or maybe you loved being outdoors, identifying insects, birds, and other wildlife . . . It’s just possible you’d make an awesome conservationist. See where I’m going with this?

Read books, talk to people in the field, and network. If you’re still stuck, consider making an appointment with a career counselor. There is no right or wrong way to approach this – use whichever techniques get you closer to your dream of working with animals.

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