Happy OHH #ThrowbackThursday! Today’s article was originally posted on August 17, 2012, and I still hear from people who used the tips in it to land their dream job working in animal rights. Most recently, I heard from OHH reader Jordan, who said this:
I’m not sure if you will remember me (I bet you get A LOT of emails that begin that way!) but I emailed you and Mariann a little while ago just to say thanks, and for helping me get through law school.
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve finally landed my dream job working for an animal protection organization here in Australia, and it’s not a lie when I say that your article a while back — “14 Tips on Getting a Job in Animal Rights” — really helped!
I thought perhaps the legal aspect of our campaign could be interesting for OHH’s budding animal lawyer readers. The case is against the Taiji Whale Museum for refusing entry to animal welfare observers based on their appearance. We hope the case will cause the Museum to eventually open its doors to public scrutiny, and for the dolphins inside to be released back to the wild (after rehabilitation). The case also aims to bring media attention to the annual dolphin drive hunts that take place in Taiji and are fueled by the captive dolphin industry.
Pretty cool, eh? I wanted to publish that whole letter (with Jordan’s permission, of course) because I wanted to show you the kind of monumental change OHH readers are making worldwide. (And stay tuned for a feature article that Jordan is now working on for us to find out more about this campaign.) I’m so happy that my 14 Tips were helpful to Jordan, and I hope that they’re helpful to you, too!
Working in AR is something I have been lucky enough to have found my way into. Among other jobs in the movement, I was the campaigns manager for Farm Sanctuary for a few years, and was a contributing writer for VegNews Magazine from 2006-2013. This all started prior to co-founding OHH with Mariann. All of this said, here are some general tips for those of you looking to devote your lives to animal rights in a paid capacity:
- My first tip is that you don’t need to do this. Working in “the movement” is sometimes more hype than not. Like other jobs, it involves a fair share of mundane duties — like filing, responding to annoying people, mailing things, and far less interesting things than that. Sometimes, such responsibilities can be 99% of the work. It also tends to pay like shit, as in, you might not be able to swing it unless you are insanely frugal and have fallen into a lucky living situation, or you are independently well-off-enough. This is, of course, not always the case, and since I strongly believe that people should be paid what they’re worth, I hope it continues to become less the case. My last point on this matter is that sometimes it is those who don’t work in AR who can accomplish the most for animals. Bringing advocacy into your everyday lives — including at the office, work cafeteria, or other social (and other) circles — is usually the most important way to create change. Hopefully, the ideas and opportunities that we post about daily here at Our Hen House are enough to get your wheels turning. (And for those of you lucky enough to have jobs where you make real money, donating a significant amount to animal rights organizations and sanctuaries speaks volumes.)
- That said, I can fully relate to needing to work in AR anyway, and feeling you have no choice. I can also relate to the idea that, “Well yes, I’ll be filing, but at least I’ll be doing so for the animals!” So with that in mind, some of my favorite resources for finding jobs in animal rights are: Vegan Mainstream’s Vegan Jobs board; Vegan Mainstream’s Vegan Jobs Facebook page; VegNews Magazine‘s Job Listings page; Vegan Jobs .com, VeganJobs Facebook Page, Vegan Jobs & Careers Facebook Group, and Reddit.com/r/VeganJobs/. There’s also always Craigslist and Idealist.
- I recommend making a list of the organizations you really want to work for, and making sure you are extremely familiar with their mission, campaigns, departments, and anything else you can get up to speed on. Some organizations, like Farm Sanctuary, have job listings pages. Check those pages repeatedly. If there is a job there that you want, and for which you are qualified, apply! If there’s not, send a resume to HR (if the organization has an HR department; many of the small ones don’t), and ask them to keep you in mind as things come up. But then continue to follow up, because even though I’m sure you are fabulous, the people you are sending your resume to are busy people, and they will forget you unless you remind them (gently).
- Get involved with volunteering — or better yet, interning — for the organization you want to work for. This might be the most important tip I have. I venture to guess that 99% of the time, AR organizations hire from their pool of interns (or sometimes from their volunteers). Again, intern or volunteer. Intern or volunteer. Intern or volunteer…
- Be open to moving. If you are open to moving anywhere in the country (or beyond), your likelihood of getting hired at an AR organization or vegan establishment will significantly improve. This might mean that you’ll be moving to a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, but rest assured that there will likely be others on staff who will quickly become good friends (and, let’s face it, potential enemies — it’s a small world after all). And hopefully you won’t have to move. But leave the option on the table, if you can.
- Find mentors. If there are people working in AR and doing your dream job, see if they will be open to an informational interview. During this discussion, you can ask them how they got to where they are, and how you can follow in their footsteps. Take notes! They will likely be incredibly flattered and happy to help. A decade ago, Martin Rowe — the head honcho at Lantern Books — sat down and spoke to a 24-year-old me. (UPDATE: Martin will be on our podcast this weekend — on Episode 229.)
- Prove yourself. Make sure that your resume is up to date and easy to read. Be certain that your references are strong ones — make them AR-related whenever possible — and tell the references they might get called. (There’s nothing worse than being surprised by a phone call asking for a reference for so-and-so, when you had no idea so-and-so was even looking for a job. It reflects poorly on you, too.) Oh! And for the love of dog, have someone proofread your cover letter, writing samples, and resume! I have seen extremely strong candidates with typos or simple mistakes on their otherwise impressive materials. I find it unforgivable. Call me an asshole, but in those situations, I write the typo-person off immediately, and forever. (And, word to the wise, this happened to me once, too. Indeed, I had a typo on my resume, and my potential employer called me on it and told me I was no longer being considered because of it, and she was right. Lesson learned.)
- Provide writing samples. Make them good. There are some instances when I’d say this is not necessary, but in 99% of cases, I think it’s important. So do it, even if you’re not explicitly instructed to.
- You are Googleable. You will be Googled. Be aware, and make your social networking sites count. This includes LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and the more obscure ones, too.
- Ask around for a job. Make it known that you are in the market. Sometimes people you are already connected to in AR will have ideas or connections. If you have already proven yourself to those people, they might be willing to send around an email on your behalf.
- People working in AR tend to be insanely busy. Respect that, and know that we are frequently inundated with hundreds (Update: thousands!) of emails a week from people who want us to do them a favor. Speaking for myself here, that is just not always possible, but I do what I can. Don’t take it personally if your request is not always granted. Remember, all of our missions are the same: to end the cruel exploitation of animals. Sometimes, there is only so much time in the day.
- Start with what you’re good at! If, for example, you are a vet tech, or you grew up on a farm, you might try to get a job with a sanctuary, or perhaps as an undercover investigator (famed investigator “Pete” recently discussed how to get such a job when he was featured on our podcast). If you’re a savvy writer, you might consider looking into the Communications Department at an AR organization, or start pitching pro-animal-themed stories to magazines (both vegan-focused magazines and other ones which might be open to such angles).
- Consider starting your own project/campaign/organization/business to benefit animals. That’s what we did with OHH. It takes a significant amount of time, money, and energy, but it’s so worth it. And you might find some solace knowing that you don’t have to wait to be hired; you can hire yourself!
- Hang in there. This might take you a while. It is possible though. You can find work in AR — you absolutely can. In the mean time, though, keep changing the world for animals. The animals don’t have time for you to get a paycheck first (though I’m sure they’d be thrilled if you did).
The hopeful news, for all of you job-seekers-with-a-conscience, is that the more that animal rights enters the mainstream, the more demand there will be for professional positions helping animals.
So stop reading this already, and get cracking!