Podcast #36

old map and compass
In the veterinary world, so many younger graduates are more focussed on finding the ‘right’ job, instead of ‘a’ job. The attrition rate is HUGE, and many vets are leaving the profession because they can’t find a job that will allow them to practice in a way that is fulfilling, or supports them professionally, mentally, financially, or otherwise.

So, what do vets do? They head online to Kookaburra, Vetlink, Indeed, country or state specific sites, or one of the other million vet job websites that are popping up! In this recruitment crisis, there are more jobs posted, and more job websites, everyday!

This should be good, right??

The problem is, every single job ad is the same. “We have x machines, we have a ‘family’ feeling, we have cake, and we are looking for someone that is the right fit.” They all look the same! They all FEEL the same. And worst of all, they all PROMISE the same. But as we know, all too well, all clinics are NOT the same.

Also, so many clinics promise the world, and deliver little to nothing. Some clinics will say they have a scope, but it’s in the back of a cupboard and hasn’t been used in years because it is broken. Some clinics say they have an ultrasound, however it was the first one ever created and is un-useable, and when you ask to use it they can’t find the plug because once again- no one has used it in years. Or they say they have ETCO2, but when you go hook it up you get in trouble because “oh you can’t use that, that costs money to use.” (yes that happened to a colleague of mine)

For these reasons, KICK ASS VETS suggests a different approach. It’s more work, more time investment on your end, but the results are that you identify clinics that are really great!
Cold Call:
giant ice flow
Clinics that are great to work for don’t always (or often) have the need to post job ads. If you only open yourself to clinics that are advertising you will limit your work options. If you want to work for a clinic, CALL THEM. Go ask for the job you want!
Not all clinics that are looking for a vet, or are doing well and on the verge of possibly expanding, are advertising. Many of the best jobs are not advertised, and are filled by word-of-mouth or cold-calls, or previous applicants, before they even hit the job sites.

Remember, it costs money for a clinic to advertise a job. This can be as little as 25$/month, to as much as 15% of the salary of that position. (One job agency I spoke with a IVECCS in 2018 charged $18,000USD for a filled job position!!) So, if a clinic can avoid advertising, they will! Also, this means that if you can get the job NOT through an agency, you might be able to save the clinic thousands of dollars, which means that you have negotiating power in your pocket for a higher salary, CE funds, etc.

So, if you find a clinic that is your dream job then either call and get a meeting with their boss or manager, or send an email and cover letter with an interest in working for the clinic! Most great jobs won’t have a job ad posted, so don’t rely on them!
If you aren’t sure if a clinic is for you, and you are debating working there but don’t want to sign on right away, spend time at the clinic first! As a student this is usually unpaid, and we recommend doing this as a final year rotation. Two weeks is best, but one week is usually enough! By the third day you usually start to see true colours.

If you are a practicing vet, locuming is a great way to do this, if they have shifts they need to fill. Unfortunately if you just rely on locuming you are often just in the clinic sporadically, and can’t really appreciated what it would be like to be at that clinic full time, unless you fill a block of shifts. This is great because you can still get paid, and also be more ‘under the radar’ in terms of sussing out the clinic.

If you have time and don’t need to get a new job immediately, try contacting your potential clinic and saying that you would like to locum, and do they have a need in the future. They might have someone going on vacation, and you can take vacation from your full time position to work at the other clinic. Yes, it’s an investment of your time and uses up valuable vacation time, but if you are keen on finding the right clinic, it’s worth it!
Job Shadow:
herd of camels as seen from the top, and the shadows reveal they are camels when from the top they are just look like white lines.
From some angles, a shadow is more revealing than the actual object. So often job ads present one view, but only during a job shadow, working interview, locuming, or rotation can you get the time you need to really see a clinic.
If you know a clinic is amazing, and really want a job there but they aren’t hiring, or if you have heard that a job might be your dream job, try to job shadow to get your foot in the door!

“Hello Clinic Awesome. I have heard from my colleagues that your clinic performs great medicine and has a great work culture. I am very interested in learning and growing professionally, and was interested in seeing how a well-functioning clinic works. I am looking to change my employment in the near future and am trying to determine what I need out of a clinic. Would you mind if I came and shadowed at your clinic, to not only renew my faith in the profession but to see what attributes I should look for when looking for my next job.” You can always add on a “I would appreciate your discretion in this request” as well.

When you are at the clinic, you can shadow and not only truly see how that clinic functions, but if you are amazing for the week or two you are there the clinic might offer you a job. Maybe they have a maternity leave coming up, or maybe they were thinking of expanding and you are the perfect person to do that?? OR, they might have a friend that has a clinic that is just as good that is looking, and recommend you! You never know! Yes it’s a time commitment but you don’t know what doors will open for you.
But…Which Jobs Are Good???
The arguably biggest issue that vets have however, isn’t getting the good job, we are pretty good at getting jobs, but it is figuring out which jobs are good. There are a few ways to try to figure this out before you even get to the job shadow/rotation/locum stage:

Cat with wide open mouth
Humans are more likely to spread and discuss BAD opinions and views than GOOD ones. If you want to find good clinics, you have to ASK. Ask loud, ask far, and ask wide.
Word of mouth is a GREAT way to determine which clinics are good, and even better to determine which ones to avoid with a ten-foot pole! Put out feelers to your friends, local Facebook or social media groups that are specific to vets, or to your colleagues, and ask the question “Do you love your clinic?” So much of the unprompted information on the internet, and in discussions, is negative. That is human nature. Especially in the vet industry where so many people are jaded, it is rare to find someone stand up and say ‘my clinic is awesome!’ They do exist, I promise you, but you have to ask. So ask the question, and search out clinics that have great word of mouth.

man in suit pressing 1 star out of 5
Google reviews by clients, although usually completely inaccurate and useless, can be a wealth of information for potential employees if you read between the lines.
Social media and public perception of a clinic is going to be skewed, especially emergency centres where 2-stars is typically a great rating when looking at the public’s opinion, so you have to look at them critically. They do however contain good information. Read the comments, and ignore the ‘star rating.’

A 5-star clinic with reviews like “Dr. X is great, he always knows exactly what is wrong with my dog without doing any of the expensive diagnostics that other clinics try to sell” is a SKETCHY clinic!

A 3-star clinic with reviews like “Dr. X was really helpful and informative and eventually fixed my puppy, however it was a bit expensive and took some time” is a GREAT clinic that is properly working up cases and charging appropriately!

Reviews like “never called me back with results”, “the invoice was double what they told me it would be”, “waiting 2 hours for my scheduled appointment and the staff all seemed stressed”, can be signs of a disorganized clinic. Remember, very polarized reviews are often untrustworthy, look at the 2-4 star reviews and read between the lines!

Emergency Centres get cases from everyone in the area, and they see trends of which clinics perform good medicine and stay up to date, and which clinics throw steroids and antibiotics at everything. They also know which clinics call and get mad when you properly work up a case, and which clinics call and follow up their cases and ask about a new procedure! Having an inside scoop is helpful to get a more honest opinion, but if you call (make sure you call during a not busy time, and ASK if they have time to talk to you- no one wants to discuss this when they are slammed busy) and just say you are looking for a good clinic and are worried about going into a bad clinic, you might get someone that will politely and diplomatically give you information on clinics. You might hit a stone wall, but you might not, and it’s worth a shot. Better if you have a friend, or a friend of a friend, or if you already refer to that clinic and have a relationship with the vets there.

Opinions from previous staff are some of the best opinions you can get. You will get all the dirt, and get to know exactly what made the clinic good, or bad. Maybe they love the clinic but left because they moved state, or had a baby, or won the lottery. OR, maybe they left because it’s a complete night-mare. Looking, or contacting, previous staff is a great strategy. If you are seriously considering a clinic then ask the boss for references from previous staff. If the clinic is mad about this request and refuses to give you names… well, that’s a flag if I’ve ever seen one!

Remember, what a good clinic is for some, is a terrible clinic for another. Figuring out what you need, what’s important to you personally and professionally, and what exactly you need in a clinic is important. Only then can you truly evaluate the opinions, reviews and experiences you have when shadowing, to determine if a clinic is for you or not! Check out the blog “Before you Quit” for a list of questions to ask yourself. Also, check out the blog “Which Fish Are You?” as there may be aspects of your job that are dissatisfying that you didn’t even recognize.
two shovels in the sand
To find the right job, the job where you can be happy, by fulfilled, you need to work hard, you need to DIG, and FIND it!
Finding the right job is hard, it takes time and effort, and you have to put in the effort. However, having a job that you love, a manager/team that you love, and a work environment that is support and has patient care that you approve of, will change your life! It’s worth it! Value yourself enough to put in the effort to find the job that is right for you. Advocating for yourself applies internally as well as externally!

Need help trying to find your dream job? Check out our KICK ASS Consulting. We might be able to help you go through your options and help you determine what you need out of your next job. Sometimes self-reflection is hard, and getting an outside opinion works!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published May 15th, 2020

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

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