Why You Need Passion to Work in This Field

By Paula Fitzsimmons

Work for a rescue, sanctuary, or advocacy group, and you’ll need to possess certain characteristics: a solid moral compass, a strong work ethic, tenacity . . . and a good dose of passion.

Definitions vary, but in this case passion is more than just about liking, or even loving animals. Because a lot of people feel this way. Being passionate is about feeling compelled to improve animals’ lives – whether as an employee or activist – and remaining committed through the tough times.

You could certainly find a job helping animals without being passionate about them. Perhaps you’d get by, or even excel. But what about when those heavy-duty challenges arise, and it would just be easier to quit and find another line of work?

It’s your passion for animals that will see you through these hurdles.

When money becomes an issue

I know you’re not interested in this line of work for the money, but how you’ll pay the bills is a consideration. It is indeed possible to earn a livable wage if you work with or for animals. How much you earn is dependent on factors such as an organization’s available resources, the type of position, and your experience and qualifications.

But be aware, an animal nonprofit just doesn’t have the same available capital as a for-profit business does. So don’t expect the same types of perks – profit sharing, bonuses, healthy raises, commissions, and the like – that someone working for a business or corporation may get.  Even if the positions are similar.

Take the legal profession, for example. Per The Law Dictionary, the starting salary for nonprofit lawyers is about $50,000 to $75,000 per year; while their corporate counterparts can expect a starting salary of at least $125,000 per year. That’s quite a difference.

Without passion, what’s to stop you from taking a better-paying position at a corporation?

There’s another part of this equation to consider: the animals.

As Christopher Scott of Save the Chimps said in a previous interview: “Animals aren’t paperwork, and it can effect them if you walk away from your position.”

It’s really more than just a job – what you do matters. Without a motivator like passion, you may be more inclined to leave your job – and that’s not fair to the animals.

When you become burned out

As rewarding as it is to help animals, certain factors can take their toll . . . having regular contact with abused, exploited, and injured animals; constantly fighting for funding; working for months on animal-friendly legislation only for it to go nowhere.

Whether you decide to work as a veterinarian, sanctuary worker, bird rescue director, or advocate, the hours will likely be long – at least some of the time.  Other career fields require long hours, too, but the motivations for sticking with the job are different than that of a stockbroker, sales person, or entrepreneur.

What will compel you to stay at your job?

When you encounter adversaries

Animal and environmental organizations unfortunately attract their fair share of enemies – some more so than others, it seems. Dealing with the dirt slung by industries, individuals, and even others within the movement can get brutal – and the attacks can even seem personal at times.

Then there’s the internal office politics – the gossip, one-ups, resentments – to deal with. There are thousands of animal welfare  and conservation organizations in the United States alone (if you count the smaller rescues and sanctuaries) – so I have no idea of knowing what the political climate is like within every single one of these. Nobody can. But where there are people, there are often politics involved. This doesn’t necessarily make a group “bad” but some group dynamics are healthier than others.

If office politics is not for you, consider a career that allows you to work more independently.

I don’t mention these challenges to turn you off of working with animals, because this community certainly needs talented, caring people. But you should be honest about your level of commitment and passion – for your sake and that of the animals.

Do you believe you have the passion it takes to work in this field?


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