Dear College of Veterinary Medicine Graduating Class of 2017,
I am so proud of you! I keep seeing “passed my boards” statuses on social media, and I know a HUGE weight is off your shoulders. But just as you are still reeling in the high of passing the single hardest test of your life, something snatches you back to reality. Something scary and intimidating and nausea-inducing. Something that makes you feel inadequate and unprepared and like you have zero social skills. You know, job hunting.
I talked to one of you on the phone yesterday, and while it is fresh in my mind, thought I would share some wisdom with each of you as you venture forward. Some of you have never had a job before because you went from high school to undergrad to vet school with no breaks in between. Some of you have had part-time or menial jobs that you knew were just to pay bills or pay for study snacks, and nothing of consequence. A very few of you had real jobs and careers prior to
derailing your life and sacrificing your soul to vet school, and y’all will likely be fine, but read on anyway, in case there’s a gem you can glean from my ramblings.
- Don’t worry about not having a job by graduation. Less than half of my class had a job when we graduated, myself included. You can absolutely still come up with something that sounds really cool for them to read when you walk across the stage at graduation, a lá “Stevie plans to do small animal relief work locally and then go to Bolivia with Christian Veterinary Missions for veterinary mission work”. (I only went to Bolivia for 12 days, 4 of which were a vacation with Husbeast. But it sounded good!) Seriously, you can make not having a job sound good, and just know that almost everyone gets a job by 6 months post-graduation. Focus on your patients you have in the hospital right now, take a deep breath, and hit me up if you need help wording your post-graduation plans into something that sounds good.
- Along those same lines, don’t slack off in your patient care or responsibilities just because you passed boards! There is still much to learn in the last few months, so try to stay grounded and in the moment so you can finish strong and retain all of the experiences of these last few rotations!
- How do you go about looking for a job? Location matters. If you are married or otherwise tied down to a specific area, look up clinics in that area and do some research on the front end. Do you like their online presence? Does their clinic have a mission statement or patient care priority or other focus that resonates with you? That’s a great clinic to call and try to meet with an office manager or associate! If you like a clinic for whatever reason, try to set something up ahead of time so you have a scheduled amount of time with the owner, an associate, or the hospital manager. If you can’t make that happen, then drop-in visits with your resume and cover letter are fine, too, but you may not get face time with the person you need to see. If you are not tied down and can go where the wind blows, look on the AVMA job boards, Christian Veterinary Mission’s job board, or just look up clinics in towns that interest you! See what gets you excited and GO FOR IT! Even if your dream clinic says they aren’t hiring, always ask to give them your resume and cover letter anyway, in case something opens up in the future.
- Do NOT take a job just to take a job, if you can at all wait it out. I cannot stress this one enough. Just because a clinic offered you a job doesn’t mean it’s going to be a perfect fit. I almost took a job at a clinic because I was so desperate to not be unemployed that I thought any job was better than no job. Wrong. I was a terrible fit there. The owners and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on multiple things, from veterinary practices to pay to personal boundaries, and I would have been miserable. They weren’t bad doctors or bad people, but they were looking out for their best interests and it didn’t leave room for mine. The best advice I got when I was in your shoes was to accept a job offer with a 1-2 week trial period. Tell the person offering you the position: “I’m honored you think I’ll be a good fit for the clinic and the team! Why don’t we do a 1 week trial where we make sure it’s the best arrangement for both of us? We can meet at the end of the week and see if there’s anything either of us are concerned about before we move forward.” It’s a win-win. You get an out, they get an out, and everyone feels like it’s a positive and proactive step. If you know it’s your dream job, then ignore everything I just said in this point.
- Relief work is one of the best things you can do in your time between graduation and landing a job. Why? Because it exposes you to so many different types of practices, software systems, diagnostic furnishings/different brands of fancy diagnostic toys, and more. It also makes you really think and apply your knowledge, because sometimes you are doing relief work at a one-doctor practice, and you don’t have someone to turn to for advice. If that makes you nervous, please don’t be afraid to try it anyway! You can always ask the clinic to not schedule surgeries if that’s your weak spot or see if there’s another clinic near by you can refer complicated medicine cases to if that’s what you’re worried about, or something similar. Also, your alma mater most likely has a veterinary consultation service that you can get some help from on difficult cases.
- Ask. Ask for help with your resume and cover letter. Ask vet friends for contacts and introductions. Ask clinics to keep you in mind or let you know if they hear of anywhere else that is hiring nearby. Ask professors for any rumors they have heard. Ask.
- Be proud of your accomplishment and go forth with confidence. You made it! This is by far one of the hardest and most prestigious programs, and you have every right to be cuss proud of your self! Toot your horn, make that resume sing, and get the best cover letter you can create. You are a valuable and worthy asset to a team, and it’s out there waiting for you!
I cannot begin to explain how surreal it is for me to be the one giving advice, when it feels like I just graduated. I was literally mid-sentence with my friend and suddenly stopped and said “wait a minute, I’m the adult in this conversation!” She laughed, I did not, and it made me really self-conscious that I had to give some kick-cuss advice or else she would know I was just faking the whole adulting thing… So this list is a synopsis of what I told her, without the wedding planning bits because I doubt all of you are getting married right after graduation. I hope it helps. And if you want to ask me for help with some of those things, please do!
Turn your magic on, to me she’d say/ Everything you want’s a dream away/ Under this pressure under this weight/ We are diamonds taking shape. -Coldplay
Grace and Peace and Congrats,