7 Ways To Kick Start Your New Veterinary Career
So, you’ve worked hard and earned the certifications to become a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinary Nurse or Veterinary Technician. Congratulations! But now, a whole new challenge lies ahead… your very first job! Making the transition from student to practicing is an exciting time, but can also be understandably daunting.
During this first year of employment especially, a great support network is invaluable. Helpful colleagues, accessible professional resources, and some mindful self-care will not only kick-start your career but will also support your mental and physical health during a potentially stressful time.
So, to help you feel more cool, calm, and in control on your journey, here are a few early veterinary career tips that we sourced from Veterinary Professionals who have “been there, done that” and not just survived, but thrived…
Find a Mentor
Never underestimate the power of a mentor relationship. Research has shown that people with mentors perform better, advance faster within their field, and even experience more work-life satisfaction!
As a fresh graduate, having a well-matched mentor to help and guide you can be very beneficial – after all, they’ve probably been through it all already! It’s recommended to select a mentor:
- Who is willing to listen, as well as provide constructive feedback
- Who has a veterinary approach and values that align with your own
- Whose career you admire
- Who is non-judgemental
- Who is honest about their strengths and weaknesses
As well as acting as a sounding board and providing direct assistance or support, a great mentor may also be able to introduce you to other helpful professional contacts. One day down the road, they may also be able to act as a reference or connect you with a new job opportunity. And as a bonus, they may even end up becoming a lifelong friend too.
And the great thing is, mentors generally receive value from the relationship too, as sharing knowledge and collaborating on ideas and practices generally benefits everyone involved. Your fresh, new graduate eyes and brain can be a valued commodity. Your mentor may not have heard of a particular new surgery technique or medical protocol that you recently learned about in Veterinary school, and may value the opportunity to learn from you!
But how do you find a suitable mentor in the first place? Consider approaching a more experienced vet whom you have particularly “gelled with”, whether in your new workplace, during your veterinary training, or at a conference or other work event. Approach the potential mentor with an honest acknowledgment that you admire their professional achievements, and a polite request to learn more about their career path. If they seem receptive, you could mention one of your own specific career goals, and ask if they could offer any specific advice on this topic. If you sense a rapport, you may then wish to enquire if they’d be available and interested to act as your mentor. Click here for some more tips about finding and engaging a mentor.
Throughout your career, continue to seek mentors and leaders in the veterinary industry who can help you on your path to success. One day, you may even find yourself mentoring others – read more on how to be an amazing mentor here.
Keep in Contact with Graduating Classmates
As you begin your career, cultivating a network of like-minded peers from the school you graduated from creates a strong group support system and learning resource. You’ve likely forged a meaningful bond with some classmates already as you all tackled and completed a very tough program, and now you’re embarking on the next career challenge together too!
Keeping in contact with your classmates allows you to share veterinary job opportunities, professional contacts, pearls of knowledge, and general survival tips! It can also be an immense comfort to know that you’re not alone if things get tough. Chatting to your peers regularly can help you to clarify what’s normal in this “brave new world” of veterinary practice, and what could actually be an issue that needs to be addressed for your physical or mental wellbeing.
Social media is a great tool for keeping in touch easily. Join or create relevant online groups via Facebook or LinkedIn, and reach out to your mates as well as any industry-leading individuals or professional groups that you admire. Networking can play a significant role in your success as a Vet, Nurse or Technician. In this highly visible and relatively small online veterinary world where reputation is key, be kind, professional and courteous as you introduce and market yourself.
Register for Online Job Sites
In addition to VET&PET Jobs Marketplace, there are many other veterinary-specific online job sites you can register for. Create specific job alerts for career opportunities that pique your interest, as even if you’re not actively job-searching, it’s a great idea to be kept “in the loop” about prospective employers and opportunities. You’ll also be able to keep your eye on your market value – knowledge that can prove very useful for salary negotiation at your current or future role.
Other general online job sites may have animal health-related openings too, so it’s a good idea to check these out as well. Sometimes, your dream role may just pop up unexpectedly!
Register with National and Regional Vet Industry Associations
Most Veterinary Industry Associations have staggered membership levels, offering discounted membership rates to recently qualified veterinary professionals. This can make it reasonably cost-effective to register with the National Association for your industry segment (Vet, Nurse, or Tech), plus any particular area of interest (e.g. Animal Welfare). There are usually also local chapters that you can connect with on a more regular basis.
Veterinary Industry Associations not only provide great networking opportunities via online forums and events, but can also support learning and career progression, provide discounts on continuing education events, help advocate for you in public forums, and often offer membership advice and counseling services.
Building connections within your regional veterinary community will help support your career progression, but can also promote a sense of collegiality and professional fulfillment. Also, who doesn’t love kicking back at events with a glass of beer or wine and some like-minded colleagues?
Work-life balance has become a pervasive buzzword for a reason – it’s a fundamental mental and physical health goal to strive for throughout your career, particularly during the potentially overwhelming early years!
Whilst a veterinary industry role often makes for challenging, stimulating workdays, it can also make it difficult to “turn your brain off” out of work hours. This can affect our relaxation time, our relationships, and even our sleep.
It’s crucial that you “unplug” from work regularly by spending time with family (whether online or in-person), socializing with friends, working out, engaging in fun hobbies, and taking vacations or mini-road trips whenever you can. You could also consider the regular practice of meditation or mindfulness exercises, which can help reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity, and promote restful sleep.
Completely disengaging from work at the end of each shift will allow you to properly rest and recharge – meaning that you return to work refreshed and focused. Remember that work is only one part of your life, and balance is key for happiness and health!
Build relationships within your team
Veterinary industry survival 101: foster strong relationships within the team!
Regardless of your role within the team, it’s important to communicate effectively, and treat other team members with understanding and respect (and expect the same in return). Veterinary practices need a strong and cohesive team to work effectively within what can be a stressful and busy environment. A harmonious team will help ensure optimal patient care and happy clients, not to mention better working conditions for all staff!
Be confident and trust your intuition
You may not be an expert yet, but you do have a basis of up-to-date knowledge and skills to work from, and a fresh, enthusiastic hunger to learn and grow.
In the workplace, endeavor to radiate calm, professional confidence, even if you feel uncertain. Research has shown that our body language alone not only influences what other team members and clients think and feel about us but also influences our mindset! So, as Amy Cuddy said in her famous TED Talk, “Fake it until you become it”!
It’s important to distinguish between projecting confidence, which is OK and faking competencies, which is not a good idea. Be confident of your value to the team, but if you’re unsure of how to proceed in a particular situation, ask a more experienced team member for help, and treat it as a valuable learning opportunity.
Being a Veterinarian, Veterinary Nurse, or Veterinary Technician is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world. As you begin your new career, remember that you’ll face frequent new challenges. Be open to new ideas and different ways of accomplishing tasks. Seek knowledge. Aim to learn from any failures, and then be kind to yourself and move on. Lean on your support networks to get you through. And practice self-care.
You’ll quickly gain experience, and will be looking back on your first years with well-deserved pride before you know it!
- How to build a great relationship with a mentor, 21 January 2020 – https://hbr.org/2020/01/how-to-build-a-great-relationship-with-a-mentor – As viewed on 18 November 2021
- How to meditate, undated. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate – As viewed on 18 November 2021
- Fake it till you make it – Amy Cuddy TED Talk, July 8 2016 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVmMeMcGc0Y – As viewed on 18 November 2021
- The only time it’s OK to “Fake it till you make it”, 21 February 2019 – https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanobrien/2019/02/21/the-only-time-its-ok-to-fake-it-till-you-make-it/?sh=5ea381644f60 – As viewed on 18th November 2021
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