Yes, Job Opportunities Do Await Animal-loving Baby Boomers
By Paula Fitzsimmons
I recently stumbled upon a quote that gave me pause. It’s by 19th century novelist, George Eliot and reads “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never fulfill certain childhood dreams. (Fat chance of becoming an Olympic figure skater.)
But barring physical limitations and factors outside our control, career options are pretty much limitless for those of us in our second act of life.
This applies to careers in the animal welfare world, too.
Animal agencies generally seek to hire people based on abilities, maturity level, and attitude – something we baby boomers tend to have in great supply.
If you’re a caring person in your second act who wants to make a difference in the lives of animals, I hope the following will offer you encouragement. . . .
Animal protection careers are not just for kids
If you need convincing, consider primatologist Jane Goodall. At 81, she’s vibrant as ever, travelling the planet, and spreading her conservation message – and she even carries a stuffed chimp with her.
Jane Goodall is by no means the exception. According to Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook, about nine million of us are working in idealist-type careers, and “another 31 million are keen to move in the same direction.” Referred to as encore careers, examples include community health workers, geriatric patient advocates, and nonprofit administrators.
In the animal welfare world, technically any job can be considered an encore career – whether it involves writing grant proposals, running an animal shelter, or starting an animal nonprofit. If it gives your life meaning and contributes to the greater good, it’s an encore career.
The workforce landscape has dramatically changed in the past few decades – we’ve become a gig economy, one in which people are changing jobs and careers more often than they used to, whether by choice or necessity. According to a study compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year, baby boomers born 1957 through 1964 held roughly 12 jobs from ages 18 to 48.
None of us has to stick to a pre-written script – life is not a trajectory.
Think all the great resources are reserved for the high school and college set? There many helpful tools for baby boomers who want to pursue meaningful careers in their second act. A few suggestions . . .
• Community colleges: Venues for learners of all ages. Check out the Plus50 Program at the American Association of Community Colleges for information on college programs, trends, and other ideas.
• Encore.org: This organization offers fellowships, networking opportunities, a conference, and helpful articles. They also partner with national universities to better prepare non-traditional students for meaningful careers.
• My Lifestyle Career: Run by Nancy Collamer, author of Second Act Careers (a book I highly recommend picking up), this site is worth checking out for its useful articles. While there, be sure to check out “100 Great Second-Act Career Resources” for even more ideas.
It’s not too late to become whatever you want.
Even a veterinarian, if you choose. In this article from Vet Street, Patty Khuly, VMD, says it’s common for vet school classes to have students in their 40s and 50s. Not only are older students being accepted to vet schools, they’re thriving, too. Patty says “Far from being leery of older candidates, admissions departments are well aware of their capacity to excel.”
Baby boomers are returning to school in increasing numbers. Universities and community colleges have caught on to this trend, and are extending effort to accommodate non-traditional students.
You’re in a good place if you aspire to change careers.
Your skills and experience are often transferable
You don’t necessarily need experience working for an animal agency to break into this field. Many advocacy groups are more concerned with attitude, and how your skills and experience can benefit the organization.
If you want to work as a vet, wildlife biologist, pet massage therapist, or in a similar career, then yes, you’ll need specialized training and relative experience. But there are many more careers in which skills from your previous positions will transfer over – a few of these include administrative work, public relations, writing and creative, marketing, fundraising, and grantwriting.
If you’re in your second act of life and want to make a difference in the lives of animals, don’t let your age be a deterrent. If anything, your experience, maturity, skills, and compassion are quite marketable. George Eliot made her statement about being able to achieve our dreams in the 19th century. We live in a time and place where the opportunities – and the means to get there – are limitless.