Level Up Your Veterinary Nurse and Veterinary Technician Career
9 simple tips you can apply today to step up your job prospects as a Veterinary Technician or Nurse…
As the world starts taking puppy and kitten and duckling steps back toward some semblance of normalcy in varying degrees around the world, for many the challenges have been a wake-up call. Veterinary nursing is a calling and the passion and care that our Veterinary Technicians and Nurses display, often the front line of veterinary care, is to be admired. No practice can exist without your compassion, commitment and knowledge.
The personal rewards are to be cherished, but the reality is that we all have to live in an ever-expensive world. It’s not until you step up a few rungs that your income starts to meet your lifestyle and gives you that little bit more to build a buffer for the unexpected be it car repairs, family support or yes, a pandemic.
Entry and early year salaries levels are going to remain for the foreseeable future. There will be a gradual acceleration but this will be over an extended time, so to get ahead with your personal situation and finances, you are going to have to level up…literally and work your way rapidly up through the ranks. Let your experience, expertise and ability “self-negotiate” career advancement and salary increases that will enable you experience the reality and comfort of financial stability in balance with the remarkably satisfying work that you do.
So to help you make that next step or three, we asked some of the leading Vet Nurses and Technicians around the world who have achieved personal, professional and financial success, to share their advice on accelerating your career.
On your marks
It may sound obvious but, having a sound education in Veterinary Nursing knowledge and skills is an essential foundation for you to excel in your Vet Nurse or Veterinary Technician career and to secure a pathway to the most rewarding and fulfilling Vet Nurse and Veterinary Technician jobs.
If you are just starting your studies, a pass in each subject is just not enough, you must strive for credits and distinctions – not just from a potential career path perspective. You need to commit to helping animals recover or plan for their longevity and you need to be able to do that from a position of confidence and strength based on your studies as well as knowing how to hold a tabby cat crossed with a puma.
Nothing says, “You HAVE to employ ME!” better than good grades in your exams and sound practical skills.
Don’t get comfy
OK, so you have secured a good job, the people are friendly, the clients are nice, you are getting by on the money, and the working environment is, well, “fine” and you slip into snooze mode. Well, wake up and smell the acetylcholine, because if you get too comfy then the prospect of career advancement and becoming the best in your field, and the rewards that go with that will quickly start to fade.
You are going to have to move on.
Most Vet Hospitals and Clinics are small to medium businesses and internal opportunities to advance are rare, especially when the most senior Nurse or Technician is married to the practice owner. Even with the bigger Vet Groups or larger hospitals, advancement usually means moving, across town or across country – get used to the idea; maybe do a little Locum or Relief work to help you feel more comfortable with change (plus it actually looks good on a resume).
Yes, you thought that you had seen your last anatomy textbook and yawned through your last lecture. But if you want to excel, they were just the start – they don’t call it Continuing Education for nothing.
You need to be learning at every step. On a day to day basis take the time to learn about every part of running a busy Vet practice. Just because you are a Vet Nurse or Veterinary Technician doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the ins and out of the Practice Management System or how the supplier bills get paid – ask to be shown and be persistent.
On a more formal basis, you need a rolling two-year plan to upskill. Your career pathway may have multiple journeys, through puppy schools and behaviour training, dentistry right through to complex surgical skills. And it won’t be nicely linear, it will have to do with timing but if you have focus and a plan, you will continue to build your knowledge and ability that will be noticed, recognised and rewarded.
Not at the local rescue group, although that too is a great thing for your career. Volunteer to sit in on a complex procedure on your day off. Be prepared to offer to start early or finish late.
Build a reputation as the reliable, go-to person when the s**t hits the fan; because that reputation will start to precede you.
You want to be the person that your peers on Facebook mention when they say, “Great place to work, and Fiona/Fred is just the best!” – and that’s you.
Ask for more responsibility
This is a bit like volunteering, but this is more about building up your management and leadership abilities. To reach the highest echelons of Veterinary Nursing means that yes, you will be highly skilled, but your greatest value to that Vet Hospital, Emergency Centre or Oncology Specialty Clinic will mostly be about your ability to lead, and to get the best out of your peers or team.
And learning how to manage systems, people, and how to lead is another whole article – suffice to say that it starts with small steps and practical experience, as well as formal courses (yes, more study) and training.
In recent times, mentorship from fellow industry professionals, not necessarily from within your current work environment, has helped many to gain further traction in their careers. Just remember that, when you “make it”, pay it forward, and be prepared to act as a mentor to someone following your journey.
Grow your network
The very best career opportunities tend to come about through serendipitous coincidences, and mostly from mentions of whispers of conversations that turn into great opportunities. But if you aren’t in the loop, you won’t hear the mentions. The obvious online networks of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are a good place to start. LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is fast becoming the go-to place for making work connections, and in the Veterinary space, there are a few good Facebook & LinkedIn Groups that are well worth joining, that will keep you in the loop.
In the bricks and mortar world, there are plenty of industry events to attend. You should go to at least one major conference a year (it’s tax deductible and many practices will fully or partially fund these). You should sign up to the event lists of the major pet food, pharmaceutical and equipment distributors and plan to attend one event every half year, and make sure you mingle. Have some personal cards made up with your name, contact details and an aspirational quote so that people will remember you after an event.
Learn public speaking
A tough one. Standing up in front of an audience and espousing on the virtues of modern feline dentistry will make most Vet Nurses and Veterinary Technicians go weak at the knees. But you are not a “most”, you want to succeed and be in the top 10.0% of your profession, technically and financially. And public speaking goes with that territory. Find a local Rotary or Community group and take the plunge to learn about how to engage with an audience.
You will be surprised how valuable public speaking is, not just for the direct skill, but also in terms of your overall self-confidence.
We mean it. There are too many instances of people who do advance to the top of their field, but at the cost of losing touch with the initial appeal of the Veterinary profession. Vet Nurses and Veterinary Technicians are pretty nice people and you should remind yourself frequently that your journey to the top of your profession must not be at the expense of your own self-worth nor that of others.
Be kind, be understanding, yes be determined, be focused, but always be nice.
When one of those rarefied, life changing, premium senior Vet Nurse Jobs actually does turn up on your radar, go for it. Don’t vacillate, don’t ponder – decide that you want it, and then go get it. Do you research, stalk the decision makers online (not in their backyard) to learn more, understand the competition and develop a strategy and a plan to own that job. And then go out and get it.
There is a way to boost your financial rewards in balance with your professional satisfaction being a Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Nurse through taking a more assertive approach to career advancement. The steps above are based on feedback from Vet Nurses and Vet Technicians who have indeed “been there, done that” and have secured their future financially, but perhaps more importantly, they have achieved the highest level of professionalism, and have done so with grace, kindness and humility.
It’s now time to take those first few steps on this next phase of your journey towards professional excellence and financial stability.
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