Podcast #40

A KICK ASS Interview with Dr. Luke
Dr. Luke’s Background:
Dr. Luke decided to go to vet school because growing up he was interested in reptiles, and always wanted to be an exotics vet. He worked at an emergency clinic for 6 years through university, and he felt that it was very helpful because in school “they teach you the medicine and science behind it but you don’t really learn the social aspect of how a clinic runs otherwise, and I think that’s probably the most important thing I learned there.” He started as a kennel assistant and moved up to working as a nurse over the 6 years. He then graduated from the University of Melbourne and moved across the country to Perth to pursue an exotics job.
Dr. Luke’s work experience while in school:
Dr. Luke was very proactive as a teenager, and knew what he wanted from a young age. For this reason he knew he wanted to gain experience early, and while in high-school he just started emailing clinics for a job until one clinic said YES! He started as a “glorified cleaner,” but as he showed interest he got to do more and more.

He worked about 6-8 hours during school weeks, and about 30 hours during the summers. Dr. Luke recommends 1 day/week during school, and admits that sometimes he did work way too much, sometimes heading to university on no sleep. However, he shares that the knowledge he gained was invaluable, and sometimes better than school. He feels that 1 day a week was enough to get the experience however, and you don’t need to push yourself like he did to get the same benefits. Dr. Luke describes that initially he was shy and didn’t feel confident to get too involved, but as he learned more in university he had the confidence to get involved more and more. Dr. Luke states that if you engage with people in the clinic you will be rewarded.
Getting a Job- How was it?:
So many new graduates leave school terrified, feeling Imposter Syndrome, not feeling confident, and feeling like they are jumping into the abyss now being the ‘doctor’ in the room. Dr. Luke didn’t! He felt excited, and “I was really looking forward to it by the end of vet school.” He was ready to stop shadowing other vets, and ready to transition to a full fledged veterinarian. Dr. Luke attributes a large part of that confidence and those feelings due to his experience working during university. He was used to clients’ emotions and the nature of working in a clinic, and it really set him apart from his classmates.

Dr. Luke also feels that his experience made the ‘getting a job’ process “much much easier.” He would bring up his work experience in interviews as much as possible to display his confidence and experience, and this really helped him excel! Dr Luke admits that he had to learn a ton about exotics of course as it isn’t a huge focus in vet school, but the other aspects that most new graduates have to face like talking to clients, talking about money, dealing with a busy and stressful work environment, were old hat to him.
Moving States for a Job:
Moving cities, states, or even countries to get the job you are happy in is sometimes worth it, and for Dr. Luke it is a no-brainer. He would simply rather move to a job he liked, than work in a job he didn’t!
Dr. Luke moved across the country to get the job he wanted. This can be a big, scary, daunting prospect for many, especially those that are less independent or more concerned about keeping very close ties with family/friends. For Dr. Luke the decision was simple. He simply felt he would rather move and work in a job that he liked instead of staying in a place and working a job he didn’t like. Dr. Luke had less options due to his desire to be in a high-quality, exotics only clinic… but in knowing exactly what he wanted he knew what he had to do- and he went out there and just took it! He shares that the first few months were a bit different but he hasn’t felt too homesick and is happy that he made the move.
Are you happy in your job?:
Dr. Luke and I previously discussed that one of the reasons he picked the job was that there was good staff retention. This is a huge ‘green flag’ for a clinic, meaning that the staff at the clinic like it enough to stay long term. He also shares that “I put a lot of effort in as well, worked a lot of shifts, covered a lot of shifts, tried to be an as important asset as possible and I think that’s made a big difference as well.” Making yourself important in the clinic instead of stepping back and just being the new grad that needs a ton of support- has made him a better vet, and he has more responsibility which he wanted. Dr. Luke understood the simple concept that if you make yourself valuable, you will be valued, and it has paid off for him in spades!
Do you have any comments on salary?:
Due to Dr. Luke picking a job that was high demand and limited options, as there are only a few exotic only vet clinics, he didn’t have as much negotiation power as a new graduate. However, since starting in his job “[Salary] has been a regular discussion and I am happy with my salary.” When questioned about who initiates these regular discussions on salary, Dr. Luke shares “they have set performance reviews… [which are] pretty constructive and laid-back.” By not having to stress about being valued appropriately, and with having set reviews every few months to discuss not only professional growth, but salary (in which Dr. Luke has been compensated to what he is worth!) Dr. Luke finds his clinic very progressive and supportive. He shares that “it would be much more awkward to have to ask for them every few months.”
Dr. Luke’s Advice:
1. During your final year, if you have a particular interest, try to do as many rotations as possible in that interest. Make contacts and get experience.
2. Work about 6-8hrs/week in a clinic during school.
3. If you want to do exotics but not full time, just position yourself as the ‘exotics vet’ in your clinic. Volunteer to see the cases, and do self-directed learning.
4. Good textbooks that are easy to reference for quick guides:
Avian Medicine and Surgery In Practice
Reptile Medicine and Surgery in Clinical Practice
Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery
5. Make yourself valuable in your clinic, try to become an “important asset” to your team.

 Thank you Dr. Luke for sharing your experience and advice with us! It is once again so great to hear about a new graduate vet that is working for a supportive clinic that is ensuring they are rewarding and compensating their staff appropriately, and that there are great clinics out there!
If you have a story, or an experience you would like to share, whether you LOVE your job, or if you HATE your job, or if you have pursued a different career path such as specializing, industry, government, technology, etc. please Contact Us to arrange an interview! The more we share our experiences good and bad, the more we can help each-other that are going through the same experiences and feelings!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published August 9th, 2020

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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