Hello - I am looking for career advice if possible. I have read through the AMA discussion on what directors look for in hiring, but would like to open up to the folks here too.
About me: I have been involved as a volunteer in animal rescue for over 10 years. I founded and directed a nonprofit dog rescue and have volunteered and fostered with rescue groups and shelters in the US and Norway. I have two master degrees not related to animal welfare. At this point in my life I would really like to switch to a career in an animal rescue or shelter. My "problem" is my current job has offered me a promotion as a FT faculty member making good money. I have also been offered a PT job in animal welfare making 25% of the current job's amount. I am ok with no money - truly because my passion is there and I've done it for free for years anyway LOL.
My dilemma is this: we have been trying to move closer to family for nearly 12 years. This next year is the year we plan to do so. My husband's job is very specialized and it is like finding a needle in a haystack finding a job for his skillset. He has a great job now but is willing to give it up finally so we can relocate. My thought is that working PT at an animal rescue for one year combined with my volunteer experience will help me find a new job when relocating. My husband doesn't believe it is needed and that staying with my promotion will help us save a lot more money for our move.
My question: Does volunteer experience (such as directing a nonprofit rescue/fostering) count when applying to work at an animal shelter? What can I do to help make myself more employable? I know when we relocate there will not be a lot of positions, they will be low pay - so I really need to ensure that I am in the best possible position for finding a job when we do move.
So sorry for the length!
I can see your dilemma! I think your volunteer history and non profit director history will take you a long way for experience. In the time you have left before your move, you can always take on line classes or webinars to round out your knowledge base while keeping your full time job. When you do relocate, a position in the animal field may not be open right away and having some extra money in the bank may be helpful as you look for full time employment. Just my two cents. What are others thinking?
Are you looking for a job specifically in not-for-profit animal welfare or would you be open to working for a municipal animal care and control agency? If you expand your search to governmental shelters your qualifications with non-animal related degrees will still get you considered. The downside is that typically a government agency will be a little afraid of your volunteer history and will not give you credit for it toward the job. However if you volunteer directly for the agency you want to become employed with or with another government animal shelter they will take that more directly as experience. In either case, come prepared with solid references for your volunteer experience. I worked in human resources and retail before being hired as the director of an animal services agency -- not one bit of animal experience prior -- but now I'm closing in on two decades as a director of a government animal shelter that saves over 90%.
What part of the country are you trying to find a job to be closer to your family? If it's Florida I'd be glad to work with you on contacts or more specific advice since I'm very familiar with the agencies in Florida.
Good luck in your search.
I am the animal services manager for a municipal shelter in New Mexico. When people apply to the shelter for positions, if they list that they have volunteer experience at an animal shelter it often will lead me to at least interview them and get a feel for what their experiences were. The degrees (even though they are not animal related) can work both for and against you. They can work for you if you applying for higher positions within a government agency as they show that you are willing to put in the work and time to get those degrees, a strong work ethic and perseverance. It can work against you if you are applying for a lower paying position as it tends to lead to the thought that you are going to leave the position as soon as something better comes along and why put in all the time and money into training you. I have found that actual experience as a paid employee can actually be more harmful as a lot of shelters do things differently and the last one I hired with experience couldn't keep up with our shelter in comparison to her old shelter. As to staying with the promotion, I agree with Lisa. There may not be a job in the animal welfare field open right away and more money is always better to give you the cushion to find that job you are truly passionate about! If you do apply for a municipal/government agency please remember it is a whole different world than non-profit and/or volunteering and a lot of people struggle with the transition.
I started in animal welfare with a breed specific rescue, and used that experience to get a job with a municipal shelter. The most important thing is to read the job description, the preferred qualifications, and the minimum qualifications. Applying for a government job is WAY different than applying for private sector.
I wrote some tips! Use them and share them!
Thank you all so much for your information. I do find it really helpful. I actually would prefer a public (county) shelter. I was a social worker previously and worked for the county so I am a bit familiar with how that works. I have also worked closely with shelters while running the rescue and will continue to learn all I can in the meantime. I have decided to keep volunteering and fostering for the shelter and keep my old/new FT job. It has been hard to find a "mentor" at the shelter or someone that could provide a future reference because they have such high turnover but I will work on finding someone to work more closely with. It is really hard to say no to the PT job, but you are all probably right and it is a good idea to save for the future move and transition then. I appreciate all your help! Oh, and my future move will be in the midwest (Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas) area.
In my opinion, your volunteer experience will count for a lot, but paid experience is better. There are some ins and outs of sheltering that you don't get with being a volunteer.
A new article called "So you want to work in animal welfare" was posted today on HSUS's Animal Sheltering magazine: https://www.animalsheltering.org/magazine/articles/so-you-want-work-animal-welfare . Check it out!
And if you don't already subscribe to Animal Sheltering email newsletter, I highly recommend it! Go to their home page, scroll down to the bottom, and sign up where it says "Get Updates/Get the Scoop! in your inbox".