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Murphy's Law can apply when looking for a job

Some say that Murphy's Law was started by an Air Force captain when a series of problems kept appearing in a California Air Force base missile site.

Others say it was created to describe their life, or in some cases, their veterinary practice. If we look at the subsequent laws which have been developed from the original "Murphy's Law," then we can also see the alternatives available to a "relocating young veterinarian."

* "Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse."

This most often applies to the doctor who ignored the pending disaster signs, the employment contract was not renewed, and they find themselves with a plan to find a new job. They have inadequate training and are provided very little reinforcement when they go out to seek a new horizon. . . they really need to be geographically mobile and use a placement service to gain a quick re-employment.

* "Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first."

This frequently applies to those veterinarians who are reactionary rather than visionary, both as owners and as employed associates. Planning allows the proper thing to be done at the proper time by the proper person; knee-jerk reactions are minimized. Relocation planning allows the associate veterinarian to identify potential job opportunities that make the routine employment problems minimal; departure is helping the future needs of the practice.

* "Everything takes longer than it looks."

This situation arises when we haven't really assessed how long the activities of relocation will really require. If you have employed a veterinary-specific human resource brokering service (e.g., VPC Brokerage), they have the planning function as a support role for meeting your desires.

The actual move has many variables, and depends on your lifestyle, but where you are moving requires a transition plan of practice styles as well as lifestyles, so get a guide that you trust.

* "Every solution breeds new problems."

This is the nature of a changing environment and a veterinarian who responds to the client's demands; do not seek a lower level of performance when relocating, take the high ground and stretch. Solutions should only be stepping stones to a new and improved tomorrow. Continuous improvement is the expectation in your professional career. There is no such thing as a perfect "10," in people or practices, but you do not have to stay employed in a "bottom half" practice. Our profession has too much to offer to be measured by yesterday's yardstick of excellence; seek new horizons at each relocation.

* "Nature always sides with the hidden flaw."

Most practices encounter this when they have not told a new associate what "on call" really means, what productivity pay does in February, or what under-staffing does to the practice harmony. The employment misadventure is compounded when the expected benefit package was never contractual, or is based on liquidity only. If we don't want to be surprised by Mother Nature or Father Time, you cannot go into an agreement with "your eyes wide shut"; get a professional team of veterinary-specific advisors and listen well.

* "It always costs more than first estimated."

When a practice has only guessed at their estimate, or their fee schedule, or they always include "some things" for free (no charge), this situation arises. This is also the situation when addressing productivity pay, benefits, and staff support; get linked-agreements, not estimates. If they won't concur, don't play in that game. As a loyal associate, you should be ready to over-deliver for practice satisfaction, so productivity-based pay is often jointly rewarding, if the practice pace allows reasonable caseload division.

* "If you try to please everybody, somebody will be disappointed."

A veterinary practice attracts the staff and clients it deserves and the leadership has a set of core values which has attracted both. Know what you stand for in medicine, surgery and health care delivery; see if the new practice matches that set of healthcare standards. Do not compromise the things that make you proud of being a veterinarian; you can compromise on the other nice-to-have factors, and still smile in the mirror every morning.

* "If there is a 50 percent chance of success, that means there is a 75 percent chance of failure."

There is no sure thing in life and even the greatest opportunities may come before their time. Many practices want a guarantee of error-free performance and stagnate the staff while trying to get to perfect. Only about 20 percent of the facts ever really cause great changes on the outcome, so go for personal effectiveness factors and leave efficiency for the fine-tuning phase of the follow-up. But as you follow up and fine-tune, remember the next application of Murphy's Law:

* "If you tinker with anything long enough, it will break."

The benefit portion of the contract first comes to mind, with all those "I would like" desires; get a percentage of production dedicated to pre-tax benefits, then determine your spending desires later! People need the freedom to make changes within their own work areas, but must concurrently be accountable for the consequences . . . and mistakes do happen! This abundance of demands led to a reciprocal application of Murphy's Law:

* "By making things absolutely clear, people will become confused."

This also applies to contracts, especially when they break into "attorney talk." In some people's minds, absolutely clear means, "Is there a clause protecting me?" while in others it may mean, "Tell me more about the potential benefits." To ensure absolute clearness, feedback and listening are required. The good Lord gave you one mouth, two eyes and two ears. The ratio must have something to do with utilization rate.

Dr. Catanzaro can be reached at Veterinary Practice Consultants®, 1217 Washington Ave.; Golden, CO 80401; (303) 277-9800; FAX: (303) 277-9888, e-mail: Cat9800@aol.com; or visit the Web site at www.v-p-c.com.