As anyone who has studied veterinary medicine knows, a career treating animals is as rewarding as it is challenging. But finding – and staying – in the right job isn’t always easy. We caught up with some of the best minds in the profession to ask what their advice is for recent vet graduates looking for their first role.
- Stay on top of the latest technology
Recent graduates are often relied upon to bring new technology and techniques into their first practice. “Take advantage of your time in clinics while you’re in vet school,” Dr Stephan Carey, Small Animal Internal Medicine Specialist, says. “Get brushed up on ultrasound, dentistry… it’s going to be incumbent upon you to be competent in the skills that practices want to be on top of.”
- Don’t rush into your first job
Don’t feel like you have to accept the first role you’re offered. “I often find that recent graduates take their first job for the wrong reasons,” Stephan says. “They’ll take it for money or location, rather than what is of real value to them. I advise all graduates: be honest with yourself. Ask if where you’re headed aligns with your values and if it’s going to make you happy at the end of the day.”
- Put your patients’ wellbeing first
Look for a clinic culture where the emotional health of the animals is first and foremost. “Make sure you find a job where the emotional aspect of the patient is a top priority,” Dr Martin Godbout, Board Certified Veterinary Behaviourist, says. “It will increase your own quality of life by assuring a good team spirit, as well as a greater general satisfaction at work.”
- Brush up on animal behaviour
Knowing about animal behaviour will give you an edge in the job market. “If you can explain to your new employer how to handle animals, you will be well in line for a good job,” Dr Kersti Seksel, Veterinary Behaviour Specialist, says. “If you know how to handle animals, how to approach them and how to not stress them out, the clients will be happy to see you. It’s also a safety issue; you won’t get bitten, you won’t get scratched because you know what you’re dealing with.”
- Keep an open mind
A degree in veterinary medicine can open a lot of doors. “Don’t forget that vets are involved in all kinds of roles across society,” Dr Sean Wensley, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association, says. “We’re best known for what we do in clinical practice, but we work all over the place, in government, in industry and in public health. There are all kinds of meaningful jobs that vets are doing. So be open-minded.”
- Do your research
If you’re considering a job offer, take your time to find out about the company culture and the level of support you’re likely to receive as a new vet. “Go spend time at the practice,” Sean says. “Have a think about the staff turnover – if there is high turnover that can be indicative of an underlying dissatisfaction. Ask questions that go beyond what's written in the job description to actually start to get a feel for the place yourself.”
- Be prepared to work hard
Veterinary medicine is a rewarding field. But, as with anything, you will get out of it what you put in. “My advice is to join a large practice and work harder than anyone else,” Dr Brian McErlean, AVA Benevolent Fund Trustee, says. “Hard workers make great veterinarians.”
Hear from these speakers and many more at the AVA Conference in Melbourne from 4 – 9 June 2017.
Register before 24 April to take advantage of early bird discounts.