Animal Career Secrets Explores A Common Misconception about Careers with Animals

This post at Animal Career Secrets explores a common misconception about careers with animals. All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

Early in my career one of the industry icons of the time took me aside after a performance. I was on stage with a California sea lion who was in my charge. He said,

“You know we can see the amazing interactions you have with an animal when you are on stage. The connection is clear and you have real talent but if you are going to get anywhere in this industry, you are going to have to get better with people…”

Yikes! Talk about a shock. I didn’t really care about the people; my concern was with my charges. However, instead of being insulted or egotistic, I gave it serious thought and decided that he was right.

My point is that to get anywhere in the animal industry, you not only have to be good with animals—you have to be good with people, too.

Many people have the misconception that when you work with animals that you don’t have to work with or get along with the people, too. Nothing could be further from the truth! When working with animals there are coworkers, the public, managers, and a multitude of other people you will interact with.

If you suck with people, well—I hate to tell you this but you won’t get far.

I’ve had my ups and downs in the industry because I am very direct—I’d like to think I am a bit more refined in my style now. I’ve had years to work on my people skills but I have to say that I’ve been in hot water more than once because I won’t budge on a stand over what I perceive as a life and death situation. The well being of animals and humans is so important that I’ve actually lost a job over speaking up on the issue.

Also, I am always looking for new and better ways to do things–which can also get you into trouble. Recently I was reminded of how uncomfortable some people get over that. Someone I consider a colleague was rude…condescending actually…and rather than take her to task, I just noted that this was not the first time and probably won’t be the last she has behaved that way. So, my choice is to be polite, but that is about the extent of any interactions we may have.

My point here is that in the past, I would have gone head to head over the matter. In the scientific realm we like hard core data—but when you work with animals you also have to use other skills and techniques. More on that later…

Anyway, my point in sharing some of my experiences is that if you plan on working with animals you need to plan on working with people—and closely. So, if you are not a good people person—work on becoming better. It will help you in the long run.

And if someone experienced comes up to you and tells you that you need to improve or change something—take note and give the suggestion a shot because it could make the difference in how successful you become in your dream animal career.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and the host of the syndicated, Ark Animal Answers.

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