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Where to Start?

Jump In

Dog Run

It's in your heart to work with animals, but you don't know how to get there.

There are two main parts to getting started: 1) You aren't sure what you want to do; 2) You do not know how to translate your experience into a resume and cover letter that will get noticed.

The Steps

  • Learn about yourself, what you offer an employer and what you might want in a job.

  • Learn about careers.

  • Write a resume and, for many, a LinkedIn profile. Practice interviewing.

  • Network and gain experience.

I've listed questions (below) that can help you think about careers.


You can do this. Just start!

Think About

Jobs have many parts. For example, you might want to be a veterinarian because you want to help animals. But veterinarians also have paperwork and deal with insurance companies. Many say that handling owners is the hardest part. Being a vet can be your goal, but you also have alternatives such as being a researcher, vet tech or zoo keeper.

These questions will help you refine your interests. If you still aren't sure after reading this, think about what you don't want to do--that's usually easier.

Start Here

Pick one:

I want to work directly with animals most of the time?

I want to help animals but do not feel I have to touch them (for example, marketing pet products)?

I want a a mix of the two?

I want to do the same type of work I am doing now, only with animals (for example an accountant who wants to do finance for a rescue organization or a teacher who wants to teach schoolchildren about why it is important to treat animals with respect?

I have no idea. (And, that is OK.)

Whether you seek a paid job, internship or volunteer position, you have many opportunities and may want to explore what is out there. At the same time, think about what you are really good at--or at least really like. If you are a student, don't just think in terms of classes. Think about the other things you do well--maybe you are a leader, a good organizer, a great athlete or an excellent listener.

It's fine if you change your mind later.


I don't want any more classroom training but will if I need to.

I want more training.

The highest level of specialized training I want:

  • High school or post-high school certificate

  • 2-year college

  • 4-year college

  • Post-college certificate or master's degree

  • PhD (science or non-science) or DVM/VMD (both are veterinarians)

I don't know.  It depends (for example on the cost).


I Like (rank the Top 4)


Writing/Marketing/Public Relations


Health care

Selling things

To have my own business




To raise money for animal causes


Other (list)

I have no idea! (That is still OK.)

I Don't Like (check all that apply):



Writing/Marketing/Public Relations


Health care

Selling things

To have my own business




To raise money for animal causes



I Want To Be a Veterinarian (only if applies)

I really want to be a vet and love and excel in science.

I want to be a vet but I am not good at and don’t like science very much.

I want to be a vet and while I didn't do well in science before, I'm doing better now and ready to give it a shot.

I plan to be a vet, but I want a fallback—a transitional step just in case I don't get in.

Skills: What I Do Well (if this is hard to answer, ask your family and friends for their opinions.)

Customer service (tact, empathy, patience)

Attention to detail

Working with animals

Computer skills (non-programming, such as web design, database design, desktop publishing)

Computer skills (programming)


Creativity and imagination


Social media, publicity

Analysis (science, math)

Finance, Business


Problem solving

Persuasive, "an influencer"--sales, fundraising

Giving presentations







I have no idea.

Setting: Where Do You Want To Be?

Inside (at a desk)

Inside but where I walk around a lot

Outside (going to different businesses or homes)

Outside (outdoors)



Close supervision

Team environment

Informal--not a lot of hierarchy

I don't know.

What Do You Want To Wear?


Suits/business attire


Business casual


Whatever I feel like


I don't care

Hours, etc.




Doesn't matter

I want to be able to determine my own hours.

A Word About Money

Don't let the salary information dissuade you from your dream. Money is important, but first figure out your direction and put money to the side for now.

Put Your Answers Together: Skills, setting, hours, likes, hates, degrees, etc. Look for patterns. If what you want to do involves a lot of science and you don't like science, you should at least explore other ideas (while not giving up on your own dreams). More? The careers listed on the site will give you ideas. Then you can read more about them and talk to people in those fields (read my two blogs on informational interviews). As you read about different careers, compare the information to your list of preferences. You may be able to jump into a new career or you may need a transitional step--a job between your dream and where you are now.


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