Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
Continuing Professional Development
Continuing Professional Development in zoos is a two way street. Improving yourself as a workplace employee is as much the responsibility of your employer as it is your own. It is in your employers interest to see that you further your knowledge and increase or expand upon your range of skills.
Within the zoo environment there is so much to learn. Nobody knows it all, nor will they. Though zoo staff do specialise in particular fields there will always be a need to learn about other areas too. The 'job for life' has long gone so it becomes essential to know something of other areas of work and so become a more efficient and useful team member.
It is pointless to study, have an interview, get a job and sit back on your laurels. You owe it to yourself, your employer and your animals to continue your professional development by learning more. It helps you not only to keep an ongoing interest in your chosen career but improves your prospects of promotion and enhances your Curriculum Vitae.
Your Employers Responsibility
In the first place it is your employers responsibility to improve on your professional development. This may mean in house training in particular fields or bringing someone in from the outside to train. Often it is preferable to have the training outside of the work environment which will be then free of day to day distractions and disturbances.
A good employer will be looking for courses or opportunities that will enhance your skills. A good employee will be looking for the same and will obtain details and will pass them on to their employer.
Remember your employer has other employees to take into consideration as well as working out staff rotas for cover. Your employer should however have budgeted for your continuing professional development and planned well in advance.
This is not a 'once in a blue moon' scheme. It should be ongoing and you should expect some training or re-training in various areas at least twice a year. More often is better.
As part of your employers contribution to your continued professional development your place of work must have a library. Though the list of possible publications is huge the essential ones are International Zoo Yearbook, Zoo Biology and JZAR Zoo and Aquarium Research.
Your Responsibilty As An Employee
Staff working in Zoos and Aquaria (and allied professions) are not usually in it for the money. They are there because they care. As animal carers they need their very best for their charges. Skills are naturally built up over time through day to day routine and the inevitable workplace hiccups. Exchange of information between staff working in the same environment is invaluable.
One of the most important thing that zoo staff can do is join their professional organisation. In the UK this would be the Association of British Wild Animal Keepers in the US it is American Association of Zoo Keepers. There are similar groups in most countries around the world. Usually the cost of membership to such bodies can be offset against tax and so membership is free.
Membership is important though. It demonstrates a commitment to the work you are doing. Some zoos actually pay for their staff to be members which is a huge bonus and allows you to join another similar group. Membership is something that you can put down on your CV should you apply for another job.
Though your employer may have a library most professional Zoo Staff will have one of their own. Your own library will contain both general zoo reference works as well as those which appertain to your specialist field.
Continuing Professional Development is an ongoing learning experience. Becoming a member of the Zoo News Digest and Zoo Biology groups (this group closed when Yahoo closed their group feature.. moved over to Facebook and now not as active) again are both something which will help. Both are useful for information updates and networking but can also be included within a Curriculum Vitae to show prospective employers that you know just what is going on in the profession.
Being a member of the Facebook Zoo News Digest Page will help you to keep updated too. It has more followers than any other similar group on Facebook and tries to keep all informed.
Be Alert For New Information
Enhancing Your CV
You could enhance your CV still further by showing where you stand in your continuing personal development by writing and publishing on line. Here you can share information. Putting the links on to your Curriculum Vitae are a good way of showing what you know.
If you attend a course and then apply it to your daily work then there is a personal perspective. That perspective is important. It shows that you are aware and that you can contribute. By writing this up and publishing you can help with the continued professional development of others.
HubPages is an ideal place to publish (this article is written and published on HubPages). Hubpages are free to join, very quick and easy to learn. The bonus here is that they can, if you wish, earn you a small passive income as well. If you have in your head what you are going to write about you could have an article up and published in less than half an hour from joining.
It is never too late to begin improving yourself. It is a duty for all zoo staff to continue their professional development.