Want the secret to becoming a zookeeper quickly and effortlessly? Sorry, that was an oxymoron. Becoming a zookeeper is a bit like climbing Everest, or running a marathon. I’m only half joking… I’ve never actually climbed Everest or run a marathon. But I know it’s not for the fainthearted, and neither is this career path. While there is no “one pathway” to becoming a zookeeper (this is just my story), it may be of some insight into what that long, windy path might look like should you choose to tackle it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to dishearten you, merely give you the reality check necessary before you commit. You don’t want to be hallway up the summit and think “why didn’t someone tell me how cold it was going to be?”!
So a summary of what to expect in those early years (yes, I said years).
- Expect contract life.
Two weeks here, maybe three months part-time there… and then maybe nothing again for a month! This can be difficult to juggle. I was working 3 part-time jobs when I was trying to get contracts at the start; weekends being a zoo tour guide, workdays as an assistant (office filer) at my sister’s law firm, and some late nights at a bar. It was exhausting, but if you can hang in there, the contracts can become longer and on-going.
- Don’t expect permanent employment
After 5 years of contract life, at the age of 29, I was made permanent full time. And I’m one of the lucky ones; I was working a full-time contract most of those years. But still, it’s kind of like the longest job interview in the world. New positions don’t appear too frequently; someone typically has to leave or die for that to happen. But while it’s taken other people longer than me (and some people less), it’s never been a short wait for a permanent full time position.
Feeling a little deflated? Maybe zookeeping isn’t for you. Feeling determined? Maybe it is. Getting the dream job isn’t easy; competition is high, openings are rare, and options are limited. So, is it worth fighting for? You better believe it.
* I am posting in a personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed are my own and do not represent those of the organisation I work for.