Dr. Maddie joined KICK ASS VETS to discuss looking for, and picking, a job as a new graduate. It is a very stressful time for new grads so it is great to hear from someone that has just gone through that experience.
Dr. Maddie’s Background:
Dr. Maddie completed an undergrad in science without a clear plan for the future, and in her final year she realized that “ya, vet is what I wanted to do.” At that point she realized that she needed to get her grades up first, so while she was working on her grades she also worked as nurse and went around to farms, trying to pad up her vet school application. Initially Dr. Maddie went into the vet world expecting to want to do wildlife medicine, and throughout school she realized that her true love was actually cows. Fast-forward to today, Dr. Maddie is practicing in rural Australia in a mixed animal practice, and loving it!
Being a ‘late bloomer’ on wanting to be vet, Dr. Maddie shares how she ended up as a veterinarian. “When I was a kid all I wanted to be was a vet, and I don’t know what happened and why that slipped away… but my parents always wanted me to be in something like medicine… I loved science and health science… but I was never really fully sold on the human medicine side of things….I even considered dentistry and did a placement with a dentist and thought ewwhewhee people’s mouths all day??”… “and then I was having a conversation with my aunt and she said she always thought I would be a vet because that was what I talked about all the time as a kid.” That conversation with her aunt re-sparked her interest in veterinary medicine and as Dr. Maddie thought about it she thought yes, yes this is what I want to do! Dr. Maddie is very happy that she came to that decision and is loving working as a clinical veterinarian!
The Rollercoaster of Finding a Job:
Dr. Maddie shares that even though she was told there were lots of jobs, her anxiety and insecurities made her “not believe it.” Graduating and getting a job is an emotional rollercoaster.
When I first met Dr. Maddie she was very worried about getting a job, and concerned about whether or not someone would take her. Dr. Maddie shares that despite being told by practicing vets that there are lots of jobs, and not to worry… “I don’t think you really believe it in your final year because you have all that anxiety.” Once she started looking however she realized that she was spoiled for choice, and could really direct her career to exactly what she wanted.
Dr. Maddie applied to many jobs, and made the effort to get out to every clinic that she went to, and was offered every job she applied to. She started looking early and had “heaps of choices,” and was able to compare the pros and cons of each job. “It was pretty amazingly good.”
What strategies did you use to find a job?:
Dr. Maddie’s best piece of advice is to look at the scheduler. She would look at 2 months worth of consults to see the case-load breakdown. She also wanted to see what types of surgeries were being done and what types of cases the clinic was managing. Since Dr. Maddie was keen to work in a more rural centre, farther away from the city where referral is more of an option, she wanted to know that she would be seeing those interesting cases, and therefore getting her desired experiences! Dr. Maddie shares that this was also a good way to see how busy a clinic was, and also a good tool to broach the conversation of “is there going to be a bit more time for me to work through cases?” If the schedule is packed with 10min appointments, you can use this as a tool to bring to your possible boss and ask how you would fit into the schedule, would your schedule look like this or would you have time built into your day to work up cases and learn. “Definitely ask to see the scheduler.”
What were your job priorities?:
Madde shared that salary and schedule were less of a priority, and her main objectives were:
1. CASE LOAD: Getting a bit of all species but ensuring a good amount of cattle, along with seeing interesting and varied case-loads, was most important.
2. TEAM/WORK ENVIRONMENT: “Working in an environment where everyone gets along and everyone is friends will make or break your day.” Dr. Maddie knew because she was moving to a rural area, and wouldn’t have friends or family close by, that she needed to have a work culture that felt like a family so she wouldn’t feel lonely.
KICK ASS VETS shares that it is important to know yourself, and know what you are looking for. Some people would want a very strong level of community with their staff and others would not want to feel ‘obligated’ to spend time with work colleagues outside of work. It is a personal decision with no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer.
What were your Interviews like?:
Interviews can be daunting, and can feel like you are trying to make yourself stand out in a crowd of rock-stars. Fortunately veterinary interviews tend to be a bit more informal, especially for mixed and large animal clinics. Remember, dress for the part you want!
Dr. Maddie shares that her interviews were all fairly informal… they would sit down and have a cup of tea and chat, asking questions back and forth. During most of her interviews she was offered to go on a ride-along to see how she got along with the vets, and for the vets to assess her skills.
Unfortunately due to the locations of Dr. Maddie’s desired clinics, along with her schedule, she wasn’t able to spend a week or two with clinics. However she made the effort to get out to every clinic, even just for the weekend, and meet as many people as she could. Even in one day she felt that she could get a good feel of the clinic’s dynamic. “I interviewed at one particular clinic that was [on paper] amazing, gold standard, heaps of work I’d be really interested in, but as soon as you walked in you got that air of … ahh, there’s a bit of tension in here… I don’t know if people are enjoying their day here.” Dr. Maddie shares how she went around and talked to the nurses/reception/vets and asked a few members on how they run as a team, and the answers “were even more telling.” “When people are forthright with ‘yah there are a couple problems’, then that’s a hard ‘steer-clear’ kinda thing.”
Something else Dr. Maddie always asked was if the staff spent time together outside of work. She shared that a lot of the clinics said “yes…from time to time” but she was looking for something more. The job that Maddie picked has a true ‘work family.’ The staff hangs out all the time out of work, and celebrate all life events together. This was just what Dr. Maddie ordered.
How did you prepare for the interviews?:
Dr. Maddie admits that she is one of those people that “obsessively prepares for interviews,” however she felt that she really improved when she relaxed a bit. She recommends the following tips:
1. Take the evening prior to relax and write out the answers for questions you expect to get, such as “tell me about a time when you worked through an issue.”
2. Have a cup of coffee, or water, in front of you to have something to do with your hands.
3. A firm hand-shake is a huge plus! (Poor Maddie… with COVID she won’t be able to show off those skills for a while.)
4. Dress appropriately for the type of practice you are applying for. Business casual and ready to get your hands dirty is important!
5. Come in with a couple questions of your own. This shows you are keen on the job and shows you are looking for something specific where you want to settle.
6. Be prepared for practical and skill based questions such as ‘which rotations did you do in your last year?’, ‘which did you like?’, ‘which didn’t you like?’ And ‘do you have experience with X&Y?’.
7. On farm calls, or even in clinics- be prepared to have a few skill based tasks. Maddie shared that she had to put in an IV catheter in one of her interviews, along with taking blood from cows, pregnancy checks, etc. Even if you don’t succeed in these tasks, showing that you are willing to jump in and try, and if you do ‘fail’ (miss the IV catheter or blood sampling) you are willing to keep trying and learning and going, shows a very good attitude that bosses want to see!
When you are going into an interview have prepared answers for the more standard and involved questions. It can be very difficult to come up with these scenarios on the spot, and also to then describe them in a way that casts you in a great light. Try to have answers ready for:
“Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with a colleague and how you fixed it.”
“Tell us about a case where you feel it didn’t go well and how you would manage it in the future.”
“Tell us about a time when you had a difficult client, and how you managed that.”
“What are your professional goals over the next 5 years?”
“Why did you leave your last job and what are you looking for that is different?”
Did you discuss or negotiate your salary at all?
“I probably didn’t think about that side very much. I had a range in my head of what new grads normally make, and I thought 'I don’t want to make that lower end, and if it’s anywhere between middle and upper that’s great.'” Dr. Maddie was offered that ‘middle-upper’ range that she heard was expected for new grads, and since salary wasn’t her priority she happily took what was offered. Since work-life was more important, and since she was overwhelmed and she desperately wanted the job, the salary was just not important.
Salary is important, however a good job is more important. A good clinic where you can grow into the vet you want to be, especially for new graduates, is a priority. Salary, although a black and white topic on paper and obviously a huge part of KICK ASS VETS’ platform, in reality has a huge emotional component. If you are happy with your salary, great!
You moved far away from home. Do you have thoughts on this?:
“I think that was probably the one thing I didn’t take into account when I was job searching. I was on this one track path… [get the] perfect first job. Where you will learn all the stuff and be supported by all your staff members… and I didn’t take into account the distance thing as much as I should.” Dr. Maddie shares that even as a very independent person, and one that frequently would go off for a month on rotations with no issues, she has found it much more difficult than she expected. She shares that once you are further than 4-6 hours of travel away from family/friends it is very difficult, and you get lonely.
Dr. Maddie feels that if she could have changed one thing when looking for a first job “I would have taken the distance into account a fair bit more.”
Does your clinic support progressive medicine?:
Dr. Maddie loves that in her clinic there is a split in the vets. Half are a bit older with more experience and the other half are younger and are looking more to new medicine/research. They all work collectively and collaboratively together and the result is great quality medicine. Dr. Maddie loves that “the clinic is very open to investing in anything you think could better the standards we are performing.”
In the veterinary world, there are so many horror stories that it can feel that there is no hope. However, just like clients that will share with 9 people if they have a bad experience and 1 person if they have a good experience, vets that are happy in their jobs don’t go around and brag about how amazing their jobs are! The reality is though, there are LOTS of great clinics, they are out there. We need to share our positive stories (see Facebook Group Vet Positivity) to give each other hope, and more importantly to ensure that those in bad clinics don’t feel that their only options are a bad clinic or leaving the profession.
Dr. Maddie’s story shows that there are great clinics, and if you are a new graduate that isn’t feeling supported or happy in your career, FIND A NEW CLINIC! Great clinics do exist!
Dr. Maddie’s Advice for New Grads:
1. Don’t just choose rotations because the clinic is close or convenient. Choose clinics in your rotations where you might, in the future, consider working. Don’t worry about travel, you’re only there for a month.
2. For any prospective job, go out and make the effort to meet as many people on the team as you can. Longer is better, but even a weekend is good!
3. Look through the scheduler! Sometimes you’ll see an ad saying 50/50 large/small and on the scheduler you see 1 horse a week and that’s it. So suss it out!
4. Don’t lose track of your personal life outside of work, because even if you love your job, if you are far away it can be difficult. You may end up feeling isolated and separated from partners/families, etc. Assess your position and where you’d like to be.
Thank you so much Dr. Maddie for chatting with us about your experiences. We are so happy you have found a great clinic! New graduates, take a lesson from Dr. Maddie and be particular about what you want. If you are in a job and you feel there is something your clinic is lacking or you desire, just ask! Your boss might say yes.
Remember… there are great clinics out there, and sharing these stories of great jobs is just as important as sharing negative experiences we can learn from. So Thank you so much Dr. Maddie and we wish you all the best in your future veterinary career!!
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!