What should you look for in your first practice role?
I graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London and I chose to go straight into small animal practice. I was quite indecisive in my final two years of vet school and went full circle from farm to equine but eventually settle on small animal practice. I wanted the chance to develop more specialist skills and the need to live in a more urban place was the final push for me.
When I was looking for my first practice role, I was looking for a goldilocks mix of autonomy and support and the first few job offers were too far off the mark. I was looking for a team that seemed to enjoy the work, a good rapport with the nurses and a senior vet that seemed committed to caring for their new graduates. I wanted a practice that offered extra services.
Finding the first role
For my first role, I applied through the standard Vet Record and Vet Times adverts. I would be quite selective and screen them via their website, location and services offered. Most of applications went to jobs ‘suitable for new graduates’ but even when they said a ‘1-2 years qualified’ it was still worth applying. I think the direct application might be a better way to join a team as a new graduate rather than through a recruitment agency.
To prepare for an interview, I would always view the website and look for any unique aspects of the team. They will always ask you if you have any questions and I would come prepared with a few. You can ask about support, rota, out-of-hours and the level of CPD encouragement. Always try to ask if any of the vets have special interests if you can learn from them. It’s important not to forget discussing your own interests and if you can pursue them at this role, if they an added benefit to your skill set then you are more than just someone to fill a rota.
The challenges of job hunting
The travel and time involved to attend interviews and the first few rejections made it tough. You start feeling more desperate about jobs and drop your standards. The right job does come around and it’s better to stay at your first place for at least a year or two to get those early skills to scratch; patience was needed.
I found it difficult understanding how the practice seemed in a brief interview, so I would always seek out the younger vets and find out from them how it really worked. If I didn’t get a chance to chat with them on the day then you can always use messaging via LinkedIn or Facebook, I did that on one occasion and it helped.
Words of advice for your first practice role
Look for a place where you can see yourself working for a year or more, at least. You will benefit from that time to learn from your seniors, find your own style and make your first mistakes. New graduates benefit from committed support and you need to show that you will be worth the investment. Try not be shy to talk about salary and other benefits, at least to get your RCVS membership and fees covered.
- Join the Young Vet Network to receive support from your peers as you step into practice.
- Read Robin Hargreaves blog: Supporting recent graduates through the early years of veterinary practice
- See the BVA's guide: Professional Development Phase for new graduates