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Great expectations
What employers seek from new graduates fresh on the job


What students want

Students closing in on their first jobs in practice have their own ideas on ways to become successful DVMs. Amy Graham, a fourth-year student at The Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, plans to spend as much time as possible at the hospital she is considering to ensure her first job is a good fit. She seeks a collaborative environment where practitioners work together, regardless of experience. "I want to tackle a full range of cases and surgeries, and I want to be able to ask questions and have support from more experienced doctors, if I need their help," she says. "I don't want it to be a short-term thing. I want that to be the culture of the practice."

Other things important to Graham include working with a staff that accepts new graduates and regular performance evaluations.

"I need to know what I'm doing well and what I need to work on," she says, adding that she has worked in the same veterinary hospital since high school. "It's a fantastic place, but I want to get out and see some other practices."

Marc Seitz, a third-year student at Mississippi State University's (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine, says prospective employers should equate new graduates to an Independent Retirement Account (IRA). Exploiting the potential return requires commitment to make contributions while the IRA is young. "New graduates are like that," he says. "They are a wealth of knowledge and potential but lack clinical wisdom and prowess." If veterinarians are willing to commit a little time, guidance and mentoring to a new hire, Seitz says it will allow new graduates to become more confident and productive veterinarians.

"I don't know what practice I will be joining yet, but I will be looking for a multi-doctor practice that is committed to high standards of care and continuing education," Seitz says. With close to $100,000 in educational loan debt, Seitz would like to start a family and save for retirement. It will be important that the practice he joins provides an opportunity for him to earn enough to achieve these goals and retire his student loans, he says.

Multiple externships are valuable because they expose students to different animal care approaches and aid in cementing first-job aspirations. As a MSU veterinary college senior, Seitz plans to spend at least 12 weeks on externships. He hopes one of the externship hospitals might provide employment following graduation. If invited to interview, Seitz says he'll seek advice from experts to tackle whether the practice fits well with his career and life plans

Pearls of wisdom

To ensure a good fit, Boss encourages graduates to ask for what they want. Yet when faced with an owner's unpopular decision, employees can react several ways, starting by enthusiastically backing it. They can also disagree but go along with the decision, silently disagree and ignore the issue or complain and gossip about it.

Professionalism is important, especially in challenging situations, Boss explains. "The right thing to do is to respectfully speak with the owner to resolve differences and never gossip with the staff," she says.

Nelson contends that a new doctor's competency grows faster than his or her confidence. He expects it takes almost three years for a recent graduates to feel confident in most practice scenarios.

Preparing to leave veterinary school's nest begins well before graduation, so start early. Explore different practice opportunities while in an educational setting and put part-time experiences to work to gain knowledge.

Ask faculty for help finding a practice with specific areas of interest or expertise. It's up to the student to ask for the job, or just a chance to volunteer. An early dip into practice life broadens a student's perspective and grants new graduates the tools to succeed as competent veterinarians.

Karyn Gavzer is an independent practice management consultant and a speaker and writer. She works with practices to help them go and grow through marketing, training and ideas.

Gavzer is an officer in the Association of Practice Management Consultants and Advisors (AVPMCA), a certified veterinary practice manager and an ad hoc faculty member with the American Animal Hospital Association.


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