Take control of your veterinary career

Female vet on farm

Controlling your career: is that even possible? Career management: is that an oxymoron? What steps can you take to feel increasingly in the driving seat of your career? A key part of career management is understanding what your relationship is to the word ‘career’ itself, and we explored this in a recent webinar I held for members of the Young Vet Network (YVN).

Many of the BVA clients I work with for individual careers coaching have different perspectives on what a career actually means. To some ‘career’ implies an image of ‘ascending’ for others ‘securing’, whilst for others a more suitable metaphor for a career would be ‘changing’ or ‘exploring’. Why does this stuff matter? Well, it matters because it gives us an insight into what we believe we are trying to achieve with our professional development.

Understand what you want from your veterinary career

Managing your career successfully is also about having strong professional self-awareness. For example, how clear are you on what you most value in your work? Or what has surprised you the most about your work as a vet?

Having only vague notions of whether we are satisfied or dissatisfied with our work is not particularly helpful in terms of improving the situation. Instead, we need to set time aside to really reflect on what is or isn’t floating our boat when we are in our jobs.

But job satisfaction isn’t easy to fathom and we explored this together in the webinar I hosted for members of the Young Vet Network. What makes one person’s experience of veterinary practice fulfilling can be a real cause of stress for another vet.

Job satisfaction questions to ask yourself

Taking the time to really reflect on the following questions of job satisfaction can help us to start to reflect on any changes we need to make in our working life:

  • Why are you doing your job? Purpose, rewards, outcomes, satisfaction, meaning, worth, value
  • What are you doing in your job? Topics, activities, skills
  • How are you doing your job? Approach, personality, being yourself, congruence
  • Who are you doing your job with/for? Colleagues, clients, managers, background, intelligence, outlook, variety, frequency, intensity
  • Where are you doing your job? Working environment, geography, travel, relocation
  • When are you doing your job? Work life balance, career progression and development

These questions are also useful to help you start to identify your work related values, as in what really matters to you. It is often a disconnect, or dissonance between our work related values (be they ‘being an expert’, ‘helping people’, ‘decision making’ or ‘social status’ or many alternatives) and the reality of the job that can lead us to feel dissatisfied, disillusioned and even burnt out.

Are you considering making changes to your career?

If on reflection you do feel like you are experiencing this sense of mismatch it’s then time to reflect on whether any change is needed and if so when and how.

It’s always worth asking yourself:

  • How long you have wanted a change?
  • How big a change are you considering?
  • How important is veterinary clinical practice to you now?
  • Could you make your current role more flexible – reduced sessions, part time work or locuming?

Perhaps the most important question of all is: are you moving towards something or just away from something? And if so why?

Finally, the recent webinar addressed some common alternatives to veterinary clinical practice and to end we identified some strategies to expand your professional network and explore alternatives.

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