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When it comes to working with animal’s you may have big dreams or small goals, or you may simply want to understand your own pets better. All are great reasons to study an animal related course. If you are trying to get yourself into the industry and finding it to be challenging, you are not the only one. It can be hard to get your foot in the door, so I will share some of my tips and tricks on getting a job but I thought I might share my journey with you first.

As a small child I always loved animals. I was that kid bringing home injured birds and wildlife and trying to get them back to good health. While I failed on most accounts, it was clear that animals were going to be a big part of my life. Around age ten I had a bad experience with a large dog which terrified me. I didn’t want anything to do with dogs for a long time, until we got my first childhood dog Sammy. He lived almost fourteen years and taught me so many things both about dogs and about life! I’m a true believer that animals are a gift to us as people, and not the other way around.  

At around age fifteen I decided to volunteer at my local vet hospital. They needed someone to clean cages, litter trays, food bowls and to walk the dogs. I went in every Sunday afternoon to do just that. As I developed more skills and knowledge (and gained the trust of the staff), they showed me how to do other tasks such as medicating, handling and restraining animals, and setting up consultation rooms. Even though I was young and only volunteering, I felt like I was a valuable member of the team and that I was making a small difference. Less than a year had past and I worked up the courage to ask for a paid role and I was fortunate enough for them to agree. I worked in that clinic for about four years, and through being loyal and dedicated, the nurses and vets reciprocated by educating and training me on the job as much as possible.

Now, here’s where the story goes a little off the beaten track, but like a lot of things in life, it proves to work out in the end! While I loved working with animals, I was also a very keen learner at school. After the HSC I decided to study Education at university and I become a teacher. This was an awesome experience and the decision to leave the clinic and focus on university is one I wouldn’t change. I taught for a little while, but the yearning to be back with animals was strong so I did some study in animal care and management on the side.

I made the difficult decision to leave my stable job as a teacher to dive into the unknown and get myself back into the animal care industry. This decision was met with mixed opinions by friends and family, but ultimately, I knew where I was meant to be. I found it very difficult to get a job in the animal industry again. I sent out my resume to countless businesses and got very little traction. I found it so hard to get work that I decided to start my own business and be my own employer. I set up a dog walking and pet sitting business in my local area and slowly gained a good client base to keep me afloat.

After doing that for a few years, employers started to notice that my resume was growing with new experiences and skills. Because of this, they were more interested in me which led me to work in lots of different areas of the industry: dog day cares, grooming salons, boarding facilities and a rescue shelter.

A few years ago, I applied for a teaching job, but this time I would be teaching animal related courses to students just like yourself. This was a big goal of mine and it was as though I’d come full circle.

Now, that’s not to say that jobs will fall in your lap as soon as you finish a course. A lot of hard work and determination is required, and most importantly, a passion for helping animals.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting your foot in the door and starting your very own journey:  

  • If you don’t have much hands on experience, try volunteering somewhere to gain some skills if you can. Most people start out volunteering before getting paid work in this industry.
  • Get your resume and cover letter up to scratch. Check out the ‘Careers Toolkit’ in the Learning Lounge for some great advice on this.
  • Apply for as many jobs as possible. Some of the big jobs sites in Australia include:
  • Follow up your application
    • If you started out emailing a prospective employer, follow this up by either ringing the business or paying a visit in person. Bring a hard copy of your resume and cover letter with you.
  • Even if a business isn’t advertising a job, email them anyway.
  • While you wait to get a response, brush up on your job interview skills or revise your course theory.
  • Start at the bottom and work your way up. Not only does this help you gain hands-on skills, it gives you a greater understanding of how at each level of employment, everyone is valuable.

There are a lot of people who want to work with animal’s, and it can be difficult to get a lot of “No’s” when all you want is a “Yes!”. Don’t take it personally if your applications keep getting knocked back. It’s time to get excited about the prospect of chasing your dreams! Use that waiting time to get some more skills and continue gaining knowledge and your hard work will eventually pay off. I can say that the challenge is well worth it.

Profile photo for Liv Basham

Good luck!  

Olivia Basham

OCA MENTOR

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