Clue's occupation is, of course, protector of the domain. Photo by Kate Ota 2021
Part of the same series of helpful thesauruses as The Emotion Thesaurus, The Occupation Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is exactly what it sounds like. I’m sure you were expecting an Is It Worth It post about it, but I loved The Emotion Thesaurus so much, I knew this would be worth it.
And it is! There’s information up front about different ways to help select your character’s job to best serve the plot or theme. There’s a section about the many reasons why anyone chooses any given job (including Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which made my nerdy little ex-high-school-debate self so happy). The back also has sections where you can create your own entry or work through the logic of choosing a job for your character. Incredibly helpful stuff!
I decided that instead of just reviewing The Occupation Thesaurus, that I’d add my own entry here! This seems to be encouraged, as there are more careers on the authors’ website (here) and in One Stop for Writers (which I reviewed before.)
Let’s get into the entry! I followed the same format as the book’s entries.
Overview: A zookeeper is a person who cares for various animals at a zoo. Depending on the size of the zoo, they may work in only one area (such as primates or African Mammals), or they may rotate through every section of the zoo. Duties include feeding, cleaning enclosures (both exhibits that guests see and behind-the-scenes housing), administering medication (as prescribed by the zoo vet), and providing enrichment (such as training or making new toys).
Necessary Training: Usually a bachelor’s degree in some kind of animal or biology related field is required, although zookeeper internships exist for college students. Training is otherwise hands-on.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Being good with animals, public speaking, cleaning skills, kinetic memory, basic first aid, food prep
Helpful Character Traits: Adaptable, adventurous, alert, calm, cautious, positive disposition, hard worker, morning person, caring, nature loving, compassionate, environmentally conscious
Sources of Friction:
Guests who misbehave or abuse the animals
Being unable to help a sick or injured animal
Being unable to breed a rare species
Having to put down an animal
Public backlash to putting down an animal
Frustration when an exotic animal is kept as a pet
Getting exceedingly messy early in the day and having to stay that way
Animals making a giant mess
Needing to fundraise
Being bitten or injured by an animal
Being peed or pooped on by an animal
Needing to protect new trainees/interns/volunteers from dangerous animals
Having an animal dislike you and act out against you
The fact that despite dangerous weather, the animals need care every day
People They Might Interact With: Other zookeepers, vet techs, zoo vets, veterinary specialists, zoo guests, interns, wedding parties, other party guests, zoo director, famous animal advocates associated with their zoo, news media, animal rights groups, representatives from the Associate of Zoos and Aquariums (if US based), conservation program coordinators, breeding program coordinators, students
How This Occupation Might Impact the Character’s Needs:
Self-Actualization: A zookeeper may feel they are contributing to a meaningful goal of conservation. However, if a rare animal dies in their care, they may feel they are failing a meaningful goal.
Esteem and Recognition: The zookeeper may seek recognition for handling s a problem in a species that other zoos or keepers struggled with. However, they may also loose confidence if an accident occurs.
Love and Belonging: Zookeepers tend to bond together and have good camaraderie because of the hours and labor involved. However, long hours of lots of physical labor leaving the character exhausted may deteriorate personal relationships.
Safety and Security: The job pays a living wage and zoos can be found in cities of all sizes. However, working with certain animals poses a danger to the keepers whether from venom, teeth, horns, allergies, or size.
Characters Might Choose This Occupation Because They…
Are concerned about climate change and the impact on species around the world
Want to advocate for something/someone who cannot speak for itself
Are compensating for a past wrong against animals
Believe animals are better than people (due to a past emotional wound)
Want to fight against poaching from a distance
Want an adventurous sounding job, but to remain relatively stable
Idolize a famous conservationist (ex. Steve Irwin)
There are many occupations in the thesaurus, and many that aren’t! Check out their lists at writershelpingwriters.net and see for yourself. Got one they don’t have? Leave it in the comments!