“So, You Say You Want to Work With Dogs…” – Part 3
Breaking Into the Field…
You’ve made your decision. You know you want to work with dogs, build your knowledge, gain experience and get paid. You have convinced yourself, now you must convince a prospective employer that you are a worthy candidate. For many great dog professionals, this is a daunting task. First, you must do it on paper. You need a resume. Include the basics: Contact Information, Education, Awards/Honors, Certifications and Work Experience.
The employer needs to be able to learn something about you from this piece of paper. Even if you don’t have much experience, highlight any that is relevant. For example, if you were in charge of your pets’ care at home or if you worked as a pet sitter even just for family or neighbors, include it. If you have room, you can include Volunteer/Community Service Activities and Hobbies, particularly if they are related to animal care or welfare.
If your work experience is not obviously relevant or your resume is already a full page or two long, include a targeted cover letter. This is where you explain your passion for dog care, your work ethic and commitment, exemplified by your grades and productivity to date. Highlight your customer service skills, your patience and your desire to learn.
Some employers may prefer an eager but admittedly “green” person over one with more experience. Employers like new staff members who are trainable and open to their policies and procedures. Make sure your resume is neat, legible, and grammatical. If you are responding to a classified ad or job post, be sure to complete any other forms the employer requests such as applications or questionnaires. If possible, send your paperwork to the employer electronically.
You’ve Been Called for an Interview; Now What?
An employer read your materials and contacted you for an interview. What’s your next step?
- RESPOND QUICKLY. Call and schedule an interview as soon as it is mutually convenient. If the employer is not available, leave a detailed voice mail. Follow up with an email confirming your interest and give some available dates/times when you can meet with them. If you don’t hear back in a day or two, call again. Try to speak with someone. Find out if the employer is away for a few days and the best time to call back. Once you’ve scheduled your interview, be prepared. Get detailed directions to the facility, phone numbers in case of emergency, a copy of your resume, a list of references, appropriate interview attire (you need to be neat, clean and not too casual) and, most importantly,
- BE ON TIME. Remember that you are trying to “sell yourself” as the perfect candidate for this job. Punctuality is very desirable in an employee. You should always be a little early, so you’re ready to start on time. If you have an emergency (a real emergency) call the employer as far in advance as you can and decide together if you must reschedule. Straight-forward communication and common courtesy rule!
During the interview, ask questions. Get a feel for the culture of the business, the team and your specific duties. Find out if the company has a dress code and what you should wear to work. Will you be working directly with the dogs, with the customers or both? What is their dog training and dog care philosophy? Take a tour of the facility. Is it spacious, clean and safe for the staff, the dogs and the clients? Find out if there is room to grow in the position and/or the company. Do they offer training? Are their any incentives? What are the hours like? How was your drive to the facility and how might it be during your work hours?
Finding a fit with your employer is a two-way street. How do you feel about everything you’ve heard and seen? If you have misgivings about what you will be doing or where you will be doing it, then speak up or keep looking. However, if you can see yourself in this new position, then take the next step. Find out the employer’s timeline for making a decision before you leave the interview. Be sure to keep in touch through a quick thank you note immediately after the interview and a follow up email or call if you don’t hear back within the time they specified.
If, in the meantime, you find a better fit, let the employer know as soon as possible. Always end your encounter on a positive note; you never know, you may want to try again later if you didn’t get a position this time.
Return to our next blog post for some tips on what to expect when you get the job.
“So, You Say You Want to Work With Dogs…” – Part 4