Jessie Sayre ’16, Psychology major at Puget Sound, is interested in working with animals, but also enjoys engaging with people. After visiting Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (PDZA), Jessie decided that working at a zoo would be an ideal way to combine her interests, gain experience, and explore career options. She found a job posted on the Metro Parks Tacoma website for a Visitor Services Associate role at PDZA and began working weekends there during her sophomore year.
CES: What does your role entail?
JS: I greet visitors and operate cash registers throughout the zoo—selling admission tickets, annual memberships, and tickets for the carousel and camel rides. I’m also responsible for knowing about the various areas of the zoo—to give directions and provide basic information about our exhibits and events.
CES: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
JS: I especially enjoy learning about the animals. Even though I don’t work hands-on with animals (unless I work at the Camel Ride or in the Budgie Buddies area), I learn something new every day about the animals that live at Point D. The best part of my day is when I get to walk around the zoo and spend time with all of the different species.
CES: What are you learning that will be valuable in future jobs?
JS: Customer service roles teach you a lot about working with people. For instance, there are times when people are rude or disrespectful, and as an employee you can only respond politely. But those types of encounters have also opened my eyes to my own day-to-day interactions. In most cases, a kind word and a smile will get you farther than a rude remark. That’s proven true for me both as a customer and as an employee—I’ve often been offered a raise or given a substantial tip because I’ve been kind and courteous.
CES: How has this experience helped you with your career goals?
JS: This experience has really solidified my passion for working in and with zoos. I can envision following either the Zoo Keeper path (working mostly with animals) or the Zoo Education path (working mostly with people). I’m leaning towards the Keeper role, but I also want to pursue more responsibility at the zoo and move up to work with the Curator or maybe even be the Curator. Finger’s crossed!
CES: What advice would you offer other students who want to work at the PDZA, or in the zoological field?
JS: Do whatever you can to get the experience! Even if you’re working in the gift shop or the café, getting any kind of experience in the zoo environment puts you ahead of the curve for future opportunities. Specifically for PDZA, we hire a ton of people for the holidays and for the summer, so if you want to be an interpreter or work in Admissions like I do, check the Metro Parks website.
CES: Which animal do you identify with the most, and why? 😉
JS: That’s tough to answer! I don’t want to be stereotypical and say a wolf or a tiger, but I can relate to their behaviors even if they are pretty opposite to each other. A part of me says sloth because I love taking life slow and enjoying whatever free time I have (plus, they’re freakishly cute and make we want to cry with joy).
But I think I’d have to settle on a cheetah because they are incredibly efficient hunters. I gravitate towards them because I have to be as efficient as possible when it comes to my free time; I work a lot and spend most of my week in classes and labs, so whatever free time I have has to be divvied up and I am forced to be incredibly aware of my time-management skills. I relate to cheetahs because they have to problem solve on the run, without wasting any time or energy, because a mistake means no prize. With me, if I make a mistake with my time management, so much is left undone and I don’t have the extra time to get back on track.
CES: Anything else you’d like to share?
JS: Having a part-time job has been both challenging and rewarding while trying to go to school full time. It forces you to stay organized and aware of everything you have to get done, but I have really loved all of the experiences I’ve had. I think having a job while you’re in school says a lot about your work ethic, and translates well to future employers once you’re applying to post-grad opportunities.
Want to talk about how part-time jobs during your time at Puget Sound can help you explore career fields, or how to translate those experiences into skills that employers value? Make an appointment to meet with a CES career advisor! 253.879.3161
© 2015 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo provided by Jessie Sayre