Embarking on a business internship in corporate practice

Alex McGhee

Corporate practice internship

Most vets will have an impression about corporate practice. When I was presented with an internship opportunity at the Vets4Pets support office, it was curiosity more than anything else that attracted me to it.

Every new starter at the Swindon support office goes through an induction known as ‘WOW Week’, which stands for ‘welcome to our world’. I was no different. The first and last day are filled with the predictable inductions and explanations, but the core of the week sees new staff spend several days in a Vets4Pets practice.

Whether they’re a 20-year-old paralegal, the new CEO or the new head of IT, they all get sent off for work experience. The hope was, certainly for our group of new starters, to get an understanding of the realities of day-to-day practice.

Once I was well and truly inducted, I got cracking with the work that had been assigned to me, a big chunk of which was preparing for the company’s graduate induction days – the first meeting of the next cohort of vets embarking on the group’s graduate scheme.

It’s fair to say Vets4Pets saw the writing on the wall early with graduate schemes – its scheme has been running for approaching a decade. It’s had its teething problems, but retention and advocacy has consistently improved and grown since it started.

Graduate focused

Such schemes guarantee structured training for new graduates. More recently, a lot of work has been put into making sure that graduates are placed in the practice that suits them best.

Vets4Pets is part of the Pets at Home Vet Group, along with Companion Care Vets – the group’s first-opinion practices and specialist hospitals.

Given that each joint venture partner runs their own business, the practices are more individualistic than the branding might suggest. The downside of this is that the bad experience of an individual can smear the whole group.

Here's what Alex had to say about his internship experience

The first day the graduates got together felt like the start of university; lots of people of similar age starting out on a prolonged period together. Their task was to work in groups to produce a series of project presentations on the theme, ‘Vets2020’, and present their ideas to the executive board.

Essentially, it was a vet-style mini ‘hackathon’. Having dedicated a fair amount of time to compiling resources and printing them out, I was somewhat apprehensive as to how it would pan out.

I needn’t have worried. Not only did the graduates come up with genuinely valuable ideas, but the presentations were confident, witty and at times pretty hilarious. I couldn’t help but be proud of their efforts.

The internship was my first experience of working in an office. The Pets at Home Vet Group’s support office prides itself on being a good place to work. Fun wasn’t just encouraged, it was compulsory. This was infectious and by the end of my internship I was a full-on convert.

When I popped back to the office more recently, the entire company (well over 100 people) were doing yoga in the foyer, dressed in fluorescent clothing in support of Blooming Monday for Mental Health Research.

Getting to grips with generational theory

One of the tasks I was given was doing background research for people director Gordon Dunn (the head of human resources) for a lecture he was to give at a Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons event.

The title was ‘Mind the Generation Gap’, and I started by digging into academic papers on how generations think. I have to admit, as a ‘millennial’, I’ve often felt this was a stick to beat us with. ‘Baby boomer’ vets who could afford houses and partnerships in their twenties, complaining that young vets don’t want to work the same hours in practices that they sold to CVS.

As I got further into the research though, it did seem that we are a generation that wants to have our cake and eat it.

"What I found was a company genuinely striving to improve and grow and I can’t recommend the internship highly enough"

I ended up giving the lecture with Gordon. The message was simple, turn the perceived weaknesses of millennials into strengths – neediness is a willingness to learn, entitlement is ambition and a desire for work-life balance is a decreased risk of burnout. If you can understand millennial needs and motivators, you’ve got a workforce that wants to learn, progress and last.

As a self-avowed data nerd, I got a lot of satisfaction from sifting through various surveys and employment data, teasing out patterns and, ultimately, actionable findings.

This was an example of one of the strengths of the internship. While there was the obligatory intern work, such as document printing, there was also scope to expand and add value in areas that interested me.

There’s no doubt that the group has its challenges, but that’s what made the internship so interesting. If you have a good idea you can run with it.

What I found was a company genuinely striving to improve and grow and I can’t recommend the internship highly enough. I look forward to seeing how the group, and the individuals working for it, rise to meet the challenges.

Back to Categories