Elora Dodd, 22, had just started her first job helping out at a local dog kennel when the events of March 2020 put an abrupt end to it.
"I wasn't making a bunch of money, but it was a very important step in becoming more independent and doing things I actually love for a job," the Oklahoma resident said.
Dodd said she's fortunate to have "amazing parents who very much understand that life is hard for their kids right now." She started giving history lessons on short-form video-sharing app TikTok under Online 1 Room Schoolhouse during the lockdown. She's built an audience of 186,000 followers.
Dodd's fondness for her time in pet care is palpable. While she plans to focus on growing her social media brand, she could see working for a kennel again.
"People can just stab you in the back," Dodd said. "But with dogs, it's like 'Rub my belly.'"
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job seekers who would like to work in pet care are searching at a time when the overall employment of animal care workers is expected to grow 22% by 2029. Workers pushed out (or opting out) of hospitality, restaurants, and retail may find a more welcoming (and cuddly) long-term career path in pet care. Here are five occupations to consider:
5 pet care jobs women can get now
- Animal caretaker. Employed by veterinary clinics, zoos, shelters, and other facilities, as an animal caretaker, you'll be in charge of providing food and water to animals, cleaning the area, helping the animals meet their exercise needs, and helping vets administer treatments. Higher education isn't necessary for some positions, as most training is on the job. Still, some employers, particularly in zoos, prefer candidates with a bachelor's in biology or animal sciences.
- Pet sitter. For many people, their pets are part of the family, so they want someone responsible, compassionate and energetic to take care of their pets while they're away. Most pet sitters go to the owner's house to feed, walk and play with the pet, typically a dog. Sometimes they're also tasked with bathing or grooming them if it's within their scope of expertise. In most cases, only a high school diploma is required, but both the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International offer a home-study certification program if you want to solidify your knowledge.
- Veterinary assistant. This role works as the right hand of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technologies. Your responsibilities will typically include feeding, bathing, taking care of animals, cleaning and disinfecting cages, monitoring and caring for animals after surgery, giving medication and assisting with other daily tasks. Most veterinary assistants only need a high school diploma, but a certification such as the Approved Veterinary Assistant, provided by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians, is a great way to demonstrate expertise in a field projected to grow 16% by 2029.
- Animal trainer. As an animal trainer, you're responsible for teaching animals various skills, like obedience, performance, riding, security, and even how to assist people with disabilities. Most trainers work with dogs and horses, but some work with marine mammals, such as dolphins. Animal trainers usually need a high school diploma, though some positions, like marine mammal trainers, may require a bachelor's degree in marine biology or a related field. Key skills include compassion, patience, customer service, problem-solving, and attention to detail.
- Animal control worker. Maintaining public safety and ensuring animal licensing laws and humane care regulations are being met is just the cherry on top of this job. Animal control workers are generally employed by a county, city, or the federal government to capture dangerous or stray animals, investigate animal cruelty cases, rescue trapped animals, and provide expert testimony in court cases. With a median salary of $36,330, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to pursue this career. Some states require the completion of a certification course, so you should investigate the specific requirements in your state.
How to build a pet care resume
Now you're ready to write your resume. There are three different resume formats you'll want to consider:
If you've never worked in pet care, you may want to consider using a functional resume to highlight your skills. Focus on transferable skills that you gained in other jobs that will be relevant in the new one. Skills may include excellent communication, compassion, attention to detail, physical strength and patience.
Here's an example of what a functional resume might look like:
Combination resume format: Perfect when you want to put equal emphasis on your skills and work experience
The combination resume is a great option for job seekers with some work experience in pet care. It provides an equal footing for your skills and work history, highlighting both. You should include the skills most relevant to the job you're applying for, like knowledge of surgical instrument sterilization or animal monitoring. You should also go beyond daily tasks in your work history, and show the hiring manager how you've progressed in your career.
Here's an example of what a combination resume might look like:
Chronological resume format: Great when you can show solid career progression and clear achievements
The chronological resume format puts your work experience and career progression front and center. If you've worked in pet care for many years, use this format to show how you've grown through the years and why the next step in your career is the most logical choice.
Here's an example of what a chronological resume might look like:
How to explain career gaps on a pet care resume
Whether planned or not, employment gaps happen, and explaining them is a lot easier than it seems. Additionally, the pandemic led to millions of people getting laid off or furloughed, so hiring managers won't be so surprised to see gaps in resumes.
While the pet care industry is no stranger to the pandemic's impact on its workforce, it also experienced an incredible surge in pet acquisition and adoptions — ultimately pushing overall pet industry sales (this includes food, non-food supplies and veterinary aid) to $107 billion.
That being said, if you're interested in joining this industry or have some experience and want to get back to work, here are a few things that could come in handy in filling career gaps on your resume:
- Reach out to your local animal shelter and volunteer. Most shelters are always looking for people to lend a hand and this is a great way to gain experience and skills if you're just starting out. Volunteering also shows proactiveness and passion, two traits that are highly valuable in the pet care industry.
- Enroll in an online course to gain more knowledge. There are many great online resources for different roles within the pet care industry, from courses for pet sitters to veterinary and animal care courses that will teach you everything you need to know — and you can do it at your own time.
Find a pet care job with a flexible schedule
Finding a job with a flexible schedule in the animal care industry is possible; however, some jobs may require you to be "on-call" for emergencies on some nights, weekends and holidays. When searching for a job, look for words like "flexible schedule" in the job description and make sure to read it thoroughly to know what they expect from you. You should also establish your needs clearly and politely during the interview to ensure that the employer is on the same page and can organize your schedule accordingly.
You can begin your search for a job on major boards like Indeed and Glassdoor, then expand out to include industry-specific sites like AVMA, National Animal Care and Control Association and The Humane Society of the United States.
You better than anyone understand the unique challenges that women face getting back into the workforce. It's not enough to find a job. You have to find a job that works for you, your schedule and your needs. Building a resume that's tailored for jobs currently available is a major step in the right direction.