How veterinary associates can manage work-life balance

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How veterinary associates can manage work-life balance

Keep the home fires burning and your ambitions alive in your new career
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Nov 01, 2010


Finding work-life balance is tough. Associates don't have the flexibility in their schedules that practice owners do. (JULIA CHRISTE /GETTY IMAGES)
Most veterinarians never get involved in industry groups such as AAHA, AVMA, AAEP and AAFP. Consequently, they never reap the many rewards such involvement can bring. Through these groups, you can find career and business mentorship, develop as a leader, make connections to people who share your interests and goals, and keep informed of career opportunities both in practice and in industry. Organized medicine can be your platform to call attention to a problem and your soapbox to elicit the changes you believe our profession needs. It can be your creative outlet, your source of energy and encouragement in pursuit of your passions, your leverage for creating better educational opportunities and your medium for improving the way we all practice.

However, it's also important to note that organized medicine can suck up a lot of your time, bog your ambitions down in bureaucracy, put you in an airport every weekend you have off, and generally make you wonder why you ever volunteered to pick up extra work for free. Managing your involvement and participating on your own terms is thus critical to leveraging organized medicine to advance your career and increase your happiness in our profession. I have seen great success stories among associates who took the initiative to seek organizations and positions that most inspired them while largely avoiding these common drawbacks. These veterinarians are currently improving their own careers, reaping the rewards of connecting and surrounding themselves with people who share their interests, enjoying life outside of practice, and actively making veterinary medicine a better place for us all. You can benefit from organized medicine, too, by following these simple guidelines:

Grab the reins yourself

Don't wait for a position that requires a veterinarian with your exact talents. It's not likely to fall into your lap. Instead, find a contact who shares your interests and let him or her know you'd like to get involved. Every month, DVM Newsmagazine and http://dvm360.com/ present dozens of articles on different initiatives that others in our industry. The people named in these articles are great points of contact. Just Google their names along with the associated organization, and you are well on your way to having their email addresses.

Alternatively, you can often contact an organization, search for specific people to contact or look for volunteer opportunities directly through the organization's webpage. You can also approach groups at conferences through their convention exhibit hall booths and ask them whom to contact. Finally, don't ever overlook your own network of friends and connections. If you know someone involved in the organization that interests you, contact that person and ask for direction. Even if your friend doesn't know the right person, he or she probably knows someone who does.

Get specific about how you can help

Once you have made contact with a person who is working in your area of interest, ask, "Is there a specific project that I can help you with?" This phrase is vital because the answer will provide you with a goal. It also will help prevent frustration on both sides by setting clear expectations about your level of involvement. Getting specific helps you set an end point so you can avoid entering into an endless commitment. That way, you can evaluate both the topic and the organization to see if you have found the right fit before entering into a long-term relationship.

Do not get frustrated if an organization is not currently working on one of your personal passions. Let your contact there know your interests in case the organization pursues them in the future. Additionally, ask if your contact knows of any other organizations that are working on your topic of interest. Then move on to a different group to pursue what most excites you.