The first job I can remember wanting to have was to be a zookeeper. I loved animals from a very young age, and still have a drawing I did in kindergarten after a field trip to the zoo. We always had a variety of animals growing up, though they didn’t quite pack the awe that exotic animals held. We also had a subscription to the magazine Zoobooks, which featured a new animal each issue, and included collectors cards. I decided these cards would be the most awesome best decoration and used them to cover as much of my wall as I could.
My whole family loved animals, but I was a bit more sensitive about it. Around the age of 13 I decided I didn’t want to eat meat anymore. It started at home, school lunches were still okay for while. I think the inciting incident likely had something to do with this. The burgers at school were still ‘strangers’, whereas the beef we had at the house had been raised by my grandfather on the plot of land accompanying our yard. And I had been part of the process that turned our furry neighbor into wormy tendrils of blood drenched goo, frozen for later consumption, but not by me.
Lots of people do this all the time, I know, and kudos to them. My sensitivity extended to the classroom too, and I realized during High School biology that I would never actually be a zookeeper. As the class dissected dogfish, I was just managing until someone discovered some fetus in theirs and started tossing them around the room. I decided I would be better off without animal biology.
This came after another slight disappointment. At 14, a recent vegetarian, I was able to stay with my grandparents for the summer in the big city, and volunteer at the zoo there. A dream come true! I didn’t realize when I signed up that I would spend the time dusting animatronic dinosaurs in a special summer exhibit. In my grandiose dreams, I’d expected to be cleaning feces out of cages, and felt like I couldn’t have been given a job further from the actual zookeeping. (This was also the summer I saw a shirtless jogger from the bus window and realized guys were gorgeous, and eventually I’d have to deal with it somehow! My ‘awakening’ as it were. -.o)
So, I resigned myself to a zoo-less life, and went into the arts. Much more practical. Along the way I got a lot of guest service experience, which helped me land my new job!
I started applying for jobs in December of last year in anticipation of my move to Seattle, and continuing through the third week of February had submitted about 20. I had only one interview (getting to stage three of a four stage process). I received half a dozen polite ‘we’ve filled this position’, ironically from those businesses I felt most qualified and experienced for such as one at the public library. Most didn’t bother to respond at all.
When it rains, though, it pours. This last week I completed and sent out three new applications, and within the week got interviews and job offers from two, and politely declined the third stage of the hiring process from another. And, finally, I’m very excited to have been hired at a zoo.
Woodland Park Zoo has been the leader in immersion exhibits since the 70’s, becoming the model for essentially all new enclosures, and is the second most awarded by the Association of Zoo’s and Aquariums for Best National Exhibit. They also have a very strong mission of education and conservation, supporting endangered species from elephants in Africa, to butterflies in Oregon.
I’ll be working in guest services, and am excited to see what possibilities open up down the line. Just a 20 minute walk from my apartment, I can see myself settling in for a long relationship with them.