Earlier this week I tweeted about the new private veterinary school opening up in East Tennessee. To paraphrase my tweet, now that I have more than 140 characters to work with, I commented that we need another vet school in North America like we need more lay dentists. There are hardly any jobs for new grads in vet med regardless of the species. I think most of us are aware by now that there is not a shortage of vets in rural practice, instead there is a shortage of clients in these regions that can afford vet care, let alone the case load to justify a full time vet. This was my explanation to a vet student on Twitter who wondered why I was so negative about this new school. His next question asked what should a vet student or new grad do to make themselves more attractive to job opportunities. Here is my response.
1. Be realistic about work/life balance.
There are plenty of unemployed vets who would like to give up some of their idle days for a job. Work/life balance is good but you need a job before you can have that work/life balance. I received an application recently for a vet position we were trying to fill. The vet applying for the job mentioned wanting a work/life balance twice in the opening paragraph of his letter of application. He only mentioned once that he was a hard worker, dedicated, etc, etc. Guess what the impression I was left with. This guy would rather play than work so I would rather keep on looking for a new vet.
2. Be creative to make opportunities
Applicants who want to work a regular work week are the norm, nothing unusual there. What would catch my eye is the vet who wants to work evenings or weekends to cover emergencies, or will work Saturdays or late day shifts, to develop a clientele of horse owners who get to see their horses after work outside of normal business hours. I would also be interested in someone who wanted to work part time. There might not be enough work to keep a full time vet busy, but enough for a part time vet. Also, if you are amazing at dealing with clients, and can develop a clientele, all you should be worried about is getting your foot in the door so you can show off this ability to your bosses. Offer to work at horse shows or to travel to underserviced regions outside of the practice area. It may take a few months or more to develop a clientele but if you can show you can build a practice any practice will take you on. The problem is that you have to prove it and not just say you can do it. Part time or shift work is better than no work.
3. Move to where the jobs are
If there are no jobs in your home town or State then move to see where there are jobs. Take a chance and go overseas or even Canada. The market for horses is exploding in Russia and China. What a great opportunity to spend some time in these countries while you are young with few responsibilities. Go East young man (woman).
4. Offer non Veterinary Medicine services
Many established practices are dipping their toes in the social media world but are struggling to figure it out. If you are under 30 odds are you are pretty good working with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Suggest that part of your job could be social media co-ordinator for the practice.
5. Realize veterinary medicine is a people business
Unfortunately, most students are never taught this until they get out of vet school. Outside of racehorses, the animals we treat are an excuse to deal with their owners. A sad truth is that a vet who is an ok vet but is amazing with people will have a far more successful practice than an excellent vet with poor people skills. If you are not a social person, and have a hard time with small talk, take a course at Dale Carnegie or something similar. Poor social skills are the biggest impediment to veterinary success.
I hope the vet student I was tweeting with today finds this helpful. It is not an exhaustive list but it certainly highlights the key points in making yourself attractive to practices that are hiring. It is a different world in veterinary medicine now and I am not sure how long it will take to return to the boom times of 5 years ago. The key is to find something that makes you different from all of the other vets looking for jobs. Make it easier to be hired by finding a niche that can help you make the practice better.
Does anyone else have suggestions for new vets searching for a job. Please post them here or on our Facebook Page.