Face off: Two generations reflect on their differences

Face off: Two generations reflect on their differences

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May 01, 2009

Editor's Note: DVM Newsmagazine's State of the Profession survey is conducted every three years to examine the trends shaping veterinary practice and education. Our coverage started in our March issue and concludes this month. Log on to http://dvm360.com/stateoftheprofession/ to view the full series, or click on the Community section of the News page to share your thoughts.


Generation X, 29 years old, associate veterinarian
COLCHESTER, CONN. — Dr. Jonathan Walker enjoys building computers in his spare time, but would never dream of communicating with clients via e-mail.

Sure, it's a clinic policy to follow up with phone calls only at the eight-doctor Colchester Veterinary Hospital, where Walker has worked since he earned his veterinary degree from Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. But even when he owns his own clinic someday, he will go for the personal touch, Walker says.

He embraces advances in technology for diagnosing and treating animals, more so than his older colleagues, and has no problem with logging onto the Internet to find answers to some of his questions. But his medical textbooks still provide the most dependable information.

Walker values the opinions of his colleagues, but it has less to do with their age and experience and more to do with how much he trusts their judgment.

Walker is like many of his generation in some ways, but very different in others.


Don't be a doormat: Being strict with younger generations is the best way to get them to work hard, says Walker.
Poor work ethic and loyalty are just two criticisms of the 29-year-old's generation. He says he doesn't fit the stereotypes, but believes there are valid reasons for the generalization.

In a recent generational survey conducted by DVM Newsmagazine, Walker's age category, the 29-to 44-year-old bracket, scored better on loyalty than the 28-and-younger crowd, with only 31.2 percent considering his generation to be not very loyal, compared with 63.7 percent who thought the under-28 crowd was not very loyal. Perceptions of loyalty increased with age among respondents.

And Walker agrees with his colleagues that younger generations don't often have as much loyalty to their employer, himself being an exception.

"Personally, I'm very loyal. It would take a lot for me to want to leave, more than someone offering me more money," he says. "But I would say it's probably a generational thing. Some of my classmates might not be as loyal."

Perhaps it's because practices are working harder to attract younger veterinarians than they did maybe 10 or 20 years ago, Walker suggests.

"It's just the way our society is changing. I think there's probably a lot more perks than 20 years ago, for sure. Health-care benefits are a lot more generous," he says, adding that he thinks the drive to offer more appealing hiring packages is the result of a combination of giving new graduates what they are asking for and what's come to be expected in private practices.

But owners can't give too much and expect the output of effort to be the same, Walker says of others in his age group.

"In talking to my classmates, I guess people aren't willing to work quite as hard. I guess because we're able to get away with it," he says.

Owners who are stricter with their associates and demand more from them will reap the benefits more than those who give too much, don't demand enough and then complain about a poor work ethic.

Walker's age group isn't thought of too poorly, with 43 percent of survey respondents believing that his generation could develop a stronger work ethic. But criticism of the under-28 group worsened, with nearly 75 percent believing that the group needs a stronger work ethic.

But there's a conundrum there, says Walker, considering the longstanding challenge veterinarians face in trying to achieve a better work/life balance.

In DVM Newsmagazine polls dating back several years, achieving work/life balance is the No. 2 goal of veterinarians across generations. Younger generations are doing what older generations have long tried to do and taking some flak for it, Walker says.

"They're shifting away from this mentality that you have to work 24 hours a day and burn out after 20 years," Walker says.

"It's not laziness, it's just wanting to have a home life, too. But I think it can be overdone if you're not careful."