How Can I Find my Work Family?

Veterinary Work Family

4 Ways to Find a Job that’s Right for You

Although veterinarians receive very similar training at vet school, when it comes to job-hunting, no two veterinary jobs are the same. Each practice will have different values, different cultures, different equipment, different training practices, different mentorship styles; the list goes on. It is therefore incredibly important to find the right job for you – your perfect fit. This is especially true for new veterinarians, where a negative first job experience can lead to eventually bouncing out of the profession altogether.

As a veterinarian, you will have a passion for improving the lives of animals. A job should facilitate this passion, not dampen it. Bagging that perfect veterinarian job is thus so much more than a way to pay the bills, it is about finding a work family. Your job should give you the support you need to achieve your goals and the culture should align with your values. Does this sound good to you? Read on for the four steps you should take before and after completing that job application…

1) Plan

Call me a bore, but applying for a veterinary position is not a decision to be made spontaneously. It requires careful planning and introspection – trust me, taking an hour or so to plan now could change the course of your future for the better!

The key thing to reflect on is your why. We already established that your overarching sense of purpose could be to improve the lives of animals. That’s fantastic, but get more specific. What exactly are you looking to get out of this job role, and why? Are you looking to earn more money? Why is this? Perhaps you need to provide for your family. Would you like to specialise in dentistry? Why? Perhaps you have a passion for dentistry and feel you can make a tangible difference to up to 80% of dogs’ lives.

This will help you narrow down your pool of potential employers, because some will be better at facilitating your why than others. Writing these down will also help you to maintain the focus during your job search. With your why in mind, you will be less likely to apply to any old role that pops up, and more likely to notice those complementary to your purpose.

2) Set Objectives

Objectives are inherently linked to finding your why. Once you have discovered your purpose, you can drill down into the practical steps you must take to achieve it. These are your objectives.

Create a realistic inventory of your current skills, and the level you wish them to be at after a certain time period. For example, you may wish to complete a certification within 12 months, or be able to detect heart murmurs within the next six months. Study the job description and research the practice meticulously: will they be able to provide you with the facilities and support needed to achieve your objectives? In the latter case, the practice must have a Doppler ultrasound machine. 

Setting objectives makes you accountable for your own future. It’s no good accepting a role in a practice that doesn’t have a Doppler ultrasound machine, then feeling resentment towards the practice when you are unable to achieve your objective. This is your journey, so set off on the right foot and take responsibility for your success.

3) Assess the Practice Culture

Remember, securing the job is only half the story. The veterinary practice will also become your second home, your colleagues your work family. Many veterinarians do not even consider workplace culture before applying for a job, and as a result are left to suffer in a toxic and unsupportive environment. 

You will be able to gain some insight from the practice’s social media and website. Consider how each member of staff is valued, any team activities they complete, if they organise any volunteer projects, for example. 

You should be looking for a culture that is open, because this promotes honesty, accountability and psychological safety for all. A great way to assess whether a practice is open is by spending an hour or two in the practice after your interview. This is an invaluable experience because you will be able to see how colleagues communicate with one another and whether you can imagine yourself integrating into the team.

4) Ask Better Questions

The interview is a two-way conversation. This is not purely about the interviewer deciding whether you are the right person for the role, but about you deciding if the role is right for you. I dare you to ask some questions that make them sweat a little! But most importantly, the ones that will help you decide your future. A good starting point is finding out what the values of the practice are. These will be a great barometer of how you will fit in with the practice, whether they align with your values and if you are like minded.

Fluffy questions such as, ‘How much do you pay?’ or ‘How often will I work a weekend shift?’ do not really get to the heart of the matter. Relate the questions to your objectives. Not only will this show you to be driven, ambitious and detail-oriented, but will be far more informative for you. You’ve decided you would like to perfect the detection of heart murmurs. Therefore, ask the interviewer how they would be able to facilitate such an objective. Ask them if they have a Doppler ultrasound machine and if they can recall a previous example where a vet at their practice achieved a similar objective.

Situational questions produce insightful answers too. For instance, you might want to ask them about a time where they have encountered a problem. What happened? Was it ever resolved? If so, how? This will tell you a lot about the culture.

Finally, every new veterinarian should look into getting a mentor. Ask the interviewer a closed question such as, ‘Can I have a mentor?’ and it is all too easy for them to vaguely answer in the affirmative. My advice is to ask them an open question about mentorship, such as ‘How has mentorship demonstrated a tangible improvement in veterinarians’ performance at your practice?’, ‘How often do mentors communicate with new veterinarians at your practice?’.   


We hope you have found this advice helpful, whether you are looking for your first job as a veterinarian or are thinking of moving on to something new. You may also be interested in the VetX Career Roadmap, a completely free but essential resource for any veterinarian wishing to plan a successful and happy career. 

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