Podcast #4

One person helping another climb a mountain
New grads are told over and over how important their first job is, and that finding a clinic with great MENTORSHIP is imperative. This is great in concept, however when it comes down to determining what exactly this means in practice, it gets a bit messy and unclear. Also, mentorship isn’t just for new grads!

This blog will focus on mentorship, including different types of mentorship and how to ensure you will get the mentorship you want and need.

You will want to make sure you have a few different types of mentors in your life. Some mentors may fill multiple of the following roles, however ensure you have one for each:
Hedgehog being held with two hands.
Hands On Mentors are there to hold you and support you, day-in and day-out. This is your boss or Senior Vet in your practice.
This type of mentor is going to be present and with you day-to-day. They are going to be there scrubbed into your first surgeries with you, talking through individual cases, teaching you new procedures and ‘checking your work’. These are often your bosses or senior vets in your clinic, and this ‘mentorship’ is also part of your ‘new employee training’.

New grads often need a hands-on mentor for the first few months, and after this the intensity of this part of the mentorship can slow down. Ensuring that your new boss, or a senior vet in the clinic, has the time, energy and interest to give you this ‘hands-on’ approach is important.

Also, ensuring that this is the type of person you can learn and grow from will be important. Some people’s learning/teaching styles clash. Doing a working interview where you ‘test out’ these relationships to see if they are a good ‘fit’ is important.

Having a specific, detailed, and realistic ‘Mentorship Contract’ with your employer can be helpful so that there are no unspoken expectations. Some of you will desire a more ‘free-flow’ type of mentorship relationship, and some of you will desire a more ‘structured’ mentorship relationship. No matter your desire, having a contract to outline and keep your progress on track is important. While sitting down and making this contract, you will discuss details on HOW these will be accomplished (ex. Mentor will be scrubbed in for all surgeries for the first week). Add these notes to your contract.
FREE FLOW Mentorship Contract- Template
STRUCTURED Mentorship Contract - Template

You will want to ensure that your contract outlines specific points related to your career, and timelines in which they should be accomplished. See the Mentorship Contract for greater detail, however these contracts should include details on:
1. Meetings
2. Consults
3. Surgeries
4. Procedures
5. Client Communication
6. Medical Proficiency
7. Billing/Charging
8. Mental Health
9. Professional Development
Details such as HOW a mentor speaks with you (very slow, patient, caring vs. rough, quick and no-nonsense), how much they micro-manage your cases vs. letting you figure it out on your own, how strict to a particular medical style, and how emotionally and physically available a mentor is, cannot be determined without experiencing it. Also, your REACTION to their style cannot be determined without experiencing it.

Having a working interview where you experience the interaction, see how it feels, see how it fits, is IMPERATIVE!

You want someone that will be patient, cares to teach, has the time and energy to teach, and is open and adaptable to your new knowledge.
ladder leaning up against an apple tree.
Professional Development Mentors will not only help you climb the ladder to success, but will help you navigate your career when you get into sticky situations.
This type of mentor is an experienced member of your field. They have gone through what you are experiencing, and they are ‘in your corner’, supporting you. This mentor is there for you, wanting to help you develop into the veterinarian you want to be! They are there to give advice, share experiences, listen, and help guide you through your first year (or 10) of your professional life. They are also there to give you hard truths. Mentors are not brainless cheerleaders!

These mentors can be within your clinic, however often it is best to have a professional mentor that is outside of your work setting, especially due to the nature of veterinary medicine. You might need to vent/discuss your current work setting with someone outside of the picture! These can be through organized mentor/mentee programs (Ex: Australia: AVA Mentorship Program , in Canada: CVMA Mentoring Program ), or can be more natural/organic from personal connections.

These mentors can also possibly connect you with others in the field.

If you are looking for some specific guidance you can check out our KICK ASS Consulting . If you are interested in professional mentoring you can Contact Us to let us know your desires and we can see what can be arranged.
Two people jumping on a beach in the sunset
Personal Life Mentors help you will help you balance life and work, and ensure you are HAPPY and ENJOYING LIFE! They are your ROCK and your support network!
This is a mentor that is supportive of you as a whole person. They are an advocate for your personal life, and your professional life AS IT FITS into your personal life.

This usually is not a member of the veterinary field. It can be a friend, spouse, parent, family member, or another person in your life. They need to be a person that will listen, give you good solid advice, will be supportive, but will tell you hard truths as needed. They are there to help you weather the storms of the hard times, that exist in any profession, and are there to help you find the light. They are also there to help you find a balance between work and life.

Personal life mentors are usually un-structured mentors, but it is important for them to be available and trusted.
Two Prarie Dogs huddled as if telling secrets.
This is your friend, your confidant, your trusted companion that will always help you, even if it means telling you hard truths.
It is important, helpful, and needed to have a friend or colleague that is going through the same experiences as you, at the same time. Try to maintain contact/friendship with some classmates, and commit to a bi-weekly (or weekly/monthly, you pick) coffee date where you meet up and discuss how it’s going.

Hind-sight is 20/20, and as helpful as it is to have a professional mentor with experience, it is also helpful to have a mentor/friend that is at your same stage. They can better empathize with your feelings. Also, you can have more ‘real’ or candid discussions with this person as they are often a close friend, and you can help keep each other on track with your mental, physical and professional health.

It is important to not allow these conversations to fall into a ‘stitch n’ bitch’ session. Have a bit of a structure to these sessions to keep it constructive, while also giving you the freedom to vent! The following discussions are recommended:
1. Start by asking 'Are you OK?'
2. List 3 cases/procedures/surgeries that have gone well, or brought you joy or happiness.
3. List 1 case where you have learned a great deal, and as a result became a better vet.
4. Discuss any challenges you are having
5. Finish with 'Are you OK?'
Make sure you pick the right person for this type of mentorship. You want this to be a friend that is close, trusted, supportive and strong enough to withstand hard conversations. You want someone that will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it, and won’t be judgemental! You want to commit to meeting, in person or over the internet, every 2-4weeks for a catch up.

You can use this ‘Will you Be Mine- Partner in Crime’ Mentor card to ask that special someone to be in your life. OR Share your cutest ‘Will you Be My Mentor?’ asking story either on our Facebook Page or on Instagram with #kickassvets.
By setting yourself up for success, you have a much better chance at, well, succeeding. This means a better chance at being in the right clinic, pursuing the professional development that will satisfy your professional desires, learning and growing as you desire and overall being HAPPY in your professional life!

If you have any questions, comments or stories to share please feel free to Contact Us at any time! Also, if you are not sure about which clinics to choose, or feel you need a little extra help, feel free to check out our KICK ASS Consulting to see if it would help your life!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published November 11th, 2019

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

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