3 minute read

Career Interview

1. Tell us about your interviewee. Include the following information:

Name: Kaci Schmidt Phone number: (765) 479-3904

Name of employer: Columbian Park Zoo Official job title: Senior Zookeeper Email address: kschmidt@lafayette.in.gov How the interview was conducted: over the phone

2. In your own words, how would you describe your job/position and what you do? What’s a typical daylike? If there isn’t a typical day, describe the tasks/activities that you spend a major part of your timeon.

Kaci Schmidt is a senior zookeeper. Some of her duties include feeding, administering medication, cleaning and maintaining the animal's enclosure, reporting unusual changes in behavior to managers or veterinarians, assisting with veterinary

procedures, keeping detailed records, and educating the general public. I asked her what a typical day is like and “there isn’t one.” Some days she will spend half of her day with the farm animals and the rest with the primates. Other days, she spends cleaning or ordering medicines that are needed for the animals.

3. What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you dislike? What would you most like to changeabout your occupation if you could?

Ms. Schmidt, quite unsurprisingly, said that what she enjoys the most about her job is being able to watch the animals interact with what they created. She and other

employees will make swings, or other toys for the animals and then get to see them play with them. She dislikes how busy of a job it can be. “Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to get what I need to get done.” Balancing time is also difficult when there are multiple things that need to be done, such as taking inventory of meds or cleaning enclosures. There are also a lot of side projects that go on and require a lot of time and attention.

4. If you were hiring a person for your job, what would you look for? What particular strengths,qualifications, and/or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success and happiness inyour line of work? Why?

Mainly leadership. When looking for new hires, they often ask what kind of leadership roles someone has taken up. In addition, being able to work well on a team. Those are the two most important aspects. Surprisingly, any prior animal knowledge or education isn’t really required, as that can all be taught. When someone comes into their zoo with prior experience that is good, however no two animals are the same so what they learned from the past might not apply to the new zoo they’re working in now.

5. What were your childhood interests? What did you think you would be when you grew up?

Kaci said that she has always wanted to be a zookeeper because she’s always beeninterested in animals, especially wildlife. She was really influenced by Steve Irwin, who

I also loved as a kid.

6. What was your major in college (if you attended)? How well did your education prepare you? Does yourwork relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?

Kaci has a major in wildlife management and a minor in wildlife capture management from University of Wisconsin- Steven’s Point. She says since she always had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do so her degree definitely did prepare her for her career.

7. Describe your career path... What was your first full-time job? What career changes did you make?What led you to your current occupation? What decisions did you make along the way?

Other than full-time jobs in the summer during high school, this is her first full-timejob. Before this, she had done plenty of volunteer work and had 2 internships atdifferent zoos.

8. What have been the biggest influences on your career? And who has helped or influenced you along theway (mentors, co-workers, family members, friends...)?

Along the way, Kasi had a mentor and supervisor that she really looked up to. Thisperson was older and had more experience, so she showed Kasi the ins and outs ofworking as a zookeeper. Kasi watched how she handled certain situations and really

learned a lot along the way. She influenced Kasi the most because of how much sheloved her job and that just further solidified for Kasi that this is what she wanted to do.

9. What sacrifices have you had to make for your career? What would you do differently? What do youvalue most now?

When she went to college, Kasi had to move almost 3 hours away from home which was a really big sacrifice for her. Then when she came to Lafayette for her full-time job as a zookeeper that was an even bigger sacrifice because she moved even further away from home. In addition, her job requires her to work some holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s so she doesn’t always get to spend that time with friends and family.

10. What advice would you give a recent college graduate about your occupation? About life in general?

“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You have to step out of your comfortzone sometimes to find what you like and be successful.

11. Ask one additional thoughtful question of your own. Write the question here: If you weren’t azookeeper, what another similar occupation you think you might enjoy?

I briefly talked to Kasi about his earlier in the interview when she said she had always wanted to be a zookeeper. I asked again if there were any other occupations she had considered and she told me about wildlife rehabilitation. I found this interesting because this is also a career that I am looking into.

12. Another question: Do you personally get to work hands-on with the animals?

I asked this question because this is something that’s really important to me. Kasi said yes absolutely she has actually handled almost every animal that is in the zoo. Every weekend is dedicated to a specific animal for their weigh-in. So every weekend one designated animal is examined and checked to make sure everything is okay with it. There is definitely plenty of hands on experience with the animals.

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