The five things you need to do to get an industry vet job

I was asked to do a live Q&A for a Facebook vet group called Vets: Stay, Go or Diversify this week on the subject of how to get a job in veterinary industry. The forum is a hotbed of discussions and this was a recurring question.

The forum is a closed group for vets only, established by Ebony Escalona, a vet from The Brook, a global equine charity. Ebony has done a fabulous job building a diverse group of over 1,600 vets and growing. The level of peer support is great and contributions come from experienced vets giving freely of time and expertise. If you’re a vet, check it out and join the conversation.

Why was I asked? Well, after fifteen years at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, I’ve been thoroughly trained in competency based interviewing and have interviewed hundreds of people for jobs in the business, whether vets or not. Here are my five top tips for getting a job in veterinary industry and I start with a bonus question that you must answer for yourself first.

Why do you want a job in industry?

Everyone knows that many vets reach a point in their veterinary careers where clinical work ceases to satisfy for one reason or another. Industry is an escape from practice, but that’s not the right reason to go for an industry job. Please reflect carefully on your reasons for wanting an industry role and make sure you want it for the right reasons, not just because it offers a route out of practice. Be honest with yourself or others will find you out and you’ll remain unfulfilled in your vet career.

Here goes:

  1. Do your company research and network with those reps in your clinic

2. Be on LinkedIn and have an All Star Profile

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3. Register with the recruiters that vet industry companies use

4. Have a differentiated CV and covering letter

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5. Do your interview prep properly; because it’s unlikely you’ve had this kind of   interview before.

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The recording will be live on the forum shortly and it’s loaded with more detail and a number of great questions from the audience on the night.

If you need help with your CV, preparing for an industry job or interview technique, then the VBC can help. Get in touch and we’ll help you maximize your chances of landing your job in industry.

What Vets can learn from Theresa May and the Mountain

First things first; this is NOT a political blog. I’m going to use Theresa May’s trip to Snowdonia, where she decided to call a snap general election, as an example of the relationship between nature, mindfulness and clear thinking. We could explore the Prime Minister’s decision in the context of a leader engaging with their team and seeking a mandate for action, but that’s a whole other blog and fraught with political innuendo, so I’m not going there!

On the 18th April Theresa May walked out of possibly the most famous front door in the world and stood at a lectern to announce a general election on the 8th of June. That was the story of the day and as usual the pundits and journalists went in to overdrive.

What surfaced later in the same day was a secondary story that the Prime Minister had decided upon the general election whilst on a walking trip in Snowdonia. Gore-Tex clad correspondents were dispatched to North Wales and conducted on the fly interviews with bemused walkers from the Miners Track, one of the established routes to climb a mountain that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember.

What I find incredulous is that the tone of the story in the mass media suggested she’d done something wrong by going to the mountains and that the general public wouldn’t understand why on earth she was “up a hill” whilst all the world went to rack and ruin around her.

I’ve always walked, cycled, camped and partaken of outdoor activities. It’s been part of our family DNA through the Scout movement and friends over the years. I’ve always valued the mindfulness of it, the exercise and the opportunity to disconnect from everyday life. I just enjoy it and always come home refreshed and calm whilst paradoxically being tired, sweaty and sore from the exertion. That’s the cleansing or cathartic part.

A simple Google search yields several articles from 10th April where Mr & Mrs May are pictured attending church in Dolgellau and quotes a Walesonline article where Mrs May says:

“Walking in Wales is an opportunity to get out and about and see scenery and clear your mind and your thinking. We stay in a hotel and try to walk every day. Walking is about relaxing, getting exercise and fresh air.”

It’s completely sensible to me that a major decision should be made after a reflective period and this could be up a mountain. It surprises me that others think not, so I did some digging. It turns out that there’s a lot of science behind the impact of nature on mindfulness, wellbeing and your psychology.

In his 2005 book, Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder, which encapsulates the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending progressively less and less time in nature and that is an underlying factor in a wide range of behavioral problems. The description of Nature Deficit Disorder has been criticized as a medical diagnosis, because it glosses over a myriad of underlying reasons for the decline of time spent in nature. However it serves well as a description of the alienation of humans from the natural world. The list of associated problems includes dissociation from nature with a lack of respect for the natural world, a lack of ecological or environmental awareness, depression, attention disorders, anxiety disorders, obesity, reduced creativity and even rickets from the lack of sunlight. We’re now beginning to understand the impact that a lack of nature might represent on our lives in a much deeper way.

So if a lack of nature can cause problems or even disease, is it possible that an experience in nature could be therapeutic? I’ve always thought so, but it turns out that there is lots of evidence for this too. I’m going to look at some specific examples, but there’s a really nice paper entitled “A Dose of Nature: Addressing chronic health conditions by using the environment” that summarises it well.

Green Prescriptions are becoming more widely established and the New Zealand Ministry of Health has been pioneering in this field. Adoption within the NHS has followed as the evidence based has expanded. Examples include:

  • Referrals to appropriate voluntary sector organisations have been shown to improve patient outcomes in managing psychosocial problems, compared to GP inputs alone.
  • Studies in the BMJ show that a Green Prescription improves physical activity and quality of life over 12 months without adverse side effects and with a 20-30% reduction in all cause mortality.
  • An Asian study in the Journal of cardiology has shown spending time in the forest has therapeutic effects on hypertension.

Ecopsychology studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world, using psychological and ecological principles. The emotional connection between a human, shaped by their normal social construct, and the “more-than-human” natural world is deeply innate, crafted by eons of evolution and it’s one that we’re inevitably adapted to. This relatively new science is seeking to explore how we can develop sustainable lifestyles and remedy the alienation from nature, for example:

  • Eco-therapy, a facilitated experience in nature, but with a safety net of more formal support.
  • Using nature to enable significant change, decision-making and personal development. There are many providers offering development programmes in this area.

Shinrin-yoko, or Japanese Tree Bathing was first spoken about in the 1980’s and has since developed a robust body of work. The idea is deceptively simple: if a person visits a natural area or forest and simply walks in a calm and relaxed way, calming, restorative and rejuvenating benefits can be gained. It seems intuitive, but the list of reported benefits includes:

  • Reduced stress, reduced blood pressure and boosted immune system
  • Improved mood, energy and sleep patterns
  • Improved, deeper intuition and creativity
  • Increased ability to focus, even in people with diagnosed ADHD.
  • Overall increased sense of happiness.

So, at the risk of making a political statement: Theresa May is right. There is copious evidence on the benefits of taking a break in nature. Not only should you walk in the fresh air, you should disconnect from your technology and allow yourself an immersive experience. I know a few people who work in this area and it’s possible to experience such powerful flow experiences as to be life changing.

The obvious call to action is to literally go for a walk. For vets as a profession, with our well documented mental health and wellbeing issues, the main issue becomes managing your time in a way that gives us the chance to go for that walk. The dog owners among us might get that regularly but personally, with a Border Terrier and Labrador both less than 3 years of age, I don’t find the dog walk a mindful experience. Try it solo and you might find a completely different perspective.

The VBC can help develop your practice nature strategy, whether it’s time management strategies, people management requirements or other business development activities to help you see the wood from the trees. Drop us a line and you can have a free, confidential preliminary chat.

How culture turns you into THE employer of choice

Recruiting for Culture: becoming the employer of choice is the second blog of two. Company Culture was the first blog, which is here if you haven’t read it.

The premise for this blog is a friend asking, “What do you do if you can’t recruit for culture and you’re desperate to fill a vacancy”?

I’m going to break this into two halves,

  1. Why you should never recruit when you’re desperate.
  2. Using culture to become an employer of choice.

Opportunity cost

That’s the answer to number 1. An opportunity cost when faced with two mutually exclusive decisions is defined as the value given up when making one decision instead of another. The cost of making a bad employment decision is traded off with the cost of having a vacancy.

I’m going to be honest, I’ve recruited when desperate and I’ve paid. I’m going to lay out the cost of my vacancy and the cost of the poor recruiting decision so you can understand how I paid.

Cost of vacancy

  • Sales revenue lost directly
  • Failing customer relationships
  • Personal impact of trying to manage my own job and do the “essential” bits of the vacant role too.
  • Impact on the performance of my own role and pressure from my manager.

Cost of poor employment decision

  • Revenue lost directly due to poor performance of the employee
  • Failing customer relationship, including the loss of credibility for putting this employee in front of them.
  • Cost, time, effort and stress of performance managing the employee
  • Cost of exit strategy for the employee

The two are almost the same on paper, but believe me; the personal cost of performance management in time, stress and wellbeing, far exceeds the cost of a vacancy.

So how do you get it right? How do you become the employer of choice? Well, that’s part 2.

Culture, culture and a rock solid, proven recruitment plan.

If you have a great company culture, your team, clients and friends will have been extolling its virtues already. It happens organically and word of mouth is still the most powerful business tool in the box. It’s just we do it digitally these days. Internal culture with your team is now exactly equal to external culture with your consumers, or at least it should be, because of the transparency and immediacy brought about by social media. Double that impact because we exist in a small profession where everyone knows everyone and you’re only 2 steps away from some who know how good or bad your business is.

Get your culture right and you won’t just have clients, you’ll have advocates. Get it wrong and everyone will know. So consider this:

  • What do your EMS students say about you? Well, back at vet school that could be at least 150 people who know you and you’ve never even met.
  • What do your trainee nurses says about you when they’re at college? Ok, there are another 50 people who know you.
  • What do your clients say about you and how you look after their pets or animals? That’s thousands of people!

You’re looking for Love at First Sight. You’re crafting Loyalty. That’s what your culture should do for you and that culture will travel further than you think. If you have a great culture, you become an employer of choice and people will know about it. The right people will want to be part of your culture and therefore your business.

So how does your culture help you become the employer of choice?

People with shared values gravitate towards you

Having a common platform of beliefs and values to work together with is rocket fuel for your business.

Your jobs become aspirational

People really want to work for or with your business! The news will travel fast and people will be looking for the opportunity to contact you. Many will spontaneously contact you in advance. Nurture these contacts; they will bear fruit in the future.

Your culture will spill out into everything you do

Culture and your mission become the flavours of your business, but you’ll have to work really hard to select for a good cultural fit. Passion and enthusiasm for your mission is a prerequisite for any prospective employee, but ensuring your next employee has the right cultural fit becomes just as important. Skills can be trained, but changing beliefs, attitudes and values is very difficult. That puts increased emphasis on a solid recruiting process.

Have a think about your business. Are you an employer of choice? Can you describe your culture and, if so, would your team agree with you? We can help you organize your thoughts and design a roadmap to cultural success, so drop us a line.

For another blog

Recruiting is a massive topic so we will revisit it in another blog. There are many steps to creating a solid, proven recruiting plan, but it essentially boils down to three elements

  1. Precisely plan your recruiting, from person specification and job description, right through to the end of your on-boarding process and probationary period.
  2. Have a multistage, objective interview process.
  3. Prepare and implement a stellar on-boarding process. Hiring only finishes when the new employee is at full performance.

The people you employ have to be as passionate about their mission as you are and they have to be the right cultural fit.