Category: Careers

Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify LIVE Virtual Dreamcatcher

So if you were lucky enough to attend VSGD LIVE and have been inspired, the important thing is to take your dream and now catch it.

Download your virtual dreamcatcher below, type in your dream, then save it as your phone wallpaper, print it out and stick it to your bathroom mirror, or have it made into a fridge magnet.  Reminders area powerful!

Dream Catcher Yellow

Dream Catcher Pink

Dream Catcher Blue

Remember, the end goal can seem difficult, even impossible.  But start with step one, then step two… and so on until you get there.  Yes, there will be challenges, but they won’t be daunting if you keep them bitesize.

And ensure you have support.  In this age of networking you have unparalleled access to resources.  Make use of these, and connect with people who can help you.

If you’re not a member, join the VSGD community for ideas and support.

How do I write a good CV?

Dr. Dave Nichols, team leader, practice owner and recruitment specialist, posted the following as a blog and it reproduced here with his kind permission.

“Here’s the fundamental problem with recruitment. Advertisers are not being accurate with the picture they paint of the job, practice or culture… what does a word like “progressive mean anyway?” And job seekers are not being entirely accurate in their description skills and values.

Then at an interview, everyone is on their best behaviour. But since none of this is representative of reality the wheels fall off quite quickly when reality bites. For both parties.

Having worked as a team leader, practice owner and recruitment specialist for a few years here is my advice on CV writing.

1. I disagree with the more than two pages rule – I want my vets to be detail oriented and if that’s you, then writing a 2 page CV is hard if not impossible. There’s just so much to get it right?! I actively look for longer CVs. If as an employer you are throwing away the longer CVs then you are introducing a bias towards big picture thinkers. Which is great if you want a senior leaders. But not so good if you want a detail person. (I do wish people would stop telling people to write short CVs…. this is only of use to the employer when you have to review hundreds of CVs for a role. Which was never in clinical roles. And certainly not a problem at present. This employer at least will be looking for the longer CV.

2. Show me your personality. Rule one of marketing is to STAND OUT. You are different to everyone else, so show that to me. Your cover letter and your personal statement are great places to do this. If you write what everyone else writes then I find it hard to tell you apart. What are your unique talents, capabilities and most importantly…. what are your values?

3. About those values…. so this is the most important point not just about CVs…. but about our working relationships generally. If an employer values hard work and humility and you value self and family time then guess what…. you are going to have a tough working relationship, regardless of how well your CV was written. So please signal in your CV what these values are. Aligned values and purpose get you through the tough moments. A good start would be to sit down and work out your values first. Most people have not got a clue, until they find themselves in conflict. once you know, weave them into your CV.

4. Your attitude counts so much more than your skills… if you have an attitude that you are prepared to do the hard work to learn your craft… There is no shortcut to awesome, it requires work, some sacrifice, discomfort, stress and resilience. If you are prepared for this and are determined to learn and grow then as an employer, I can work with that (in fact I’m very excited to work with that). This BTW does not mean “flog you until you break”. But it does mean you are willing and able to take responsibility for your learning and wellbeing, I’m there to support both, but drive neither.

5. I agree with both Colin and Adrian on the competency thing… though you are unlikely to have many ready to rock-solid vet competencies, show your employer things that demonstrate success in similar roles. So, sales jobs where you dealt with the public, teamwork or leadership roles. Also, roles were you demonstrated that you can work within a structure or to someone else’s rules. I love when I see grads who have worked on reception at a vet, or worked in mcdonalds, or been a nurse before going to Uni. Seriously, vets who started out as nurses are the best! Such good empathy for the rest of the team…

6. No one size fits all as this thread ably demonstrates. So research your practice and adjust your CV for the employer. The CV’s job is to get you to the next stage of the interview.

Your challenge as a vet is not going to be getting an interview right now. And honestly, I seriously doubt anyone is throwing away 4 page CVs…. it’s likely to be the only one many will get! And this employer at least will be lapping that up.

OK, I hope that’s somewhat helpful as insight. Dr D.

For any employers looking to sharpen their recruitment tool kit I have a free webinar on the top 5 mistakes vets make when hiring team members here.”

Mentoring and Leadership

One aim of the Vet Futures initiative (pg38) is to create an intra-professional mentoring scheme.  A few schemes already exist, but provision is still lacking for the majority.  Several individuals and companies have taken up the mantle and are now providing expert, robust mentoring schemes.  These are largely aimed at new graduates.  However, there is an increasing need for mentoring of those progressing higher up the chain to provide effective, dynamic leadership.

Mentoring cannot be undertaken half-heartedly if it is to be truly effective.  As a starting point, take a look at this presentation written by coaching and business development experts, People and Performance, and the subsequent advice blogs for mentors and mentees.  If this is to be undertaken in house by practices, there needs to be a commitment and contracted agreement what to expect during the process.  Done properly, it will be time costly, and it may prove more effective and less costly overall to out-source to external expert providers – see below for details.

Mentoring presentation

Thinking about Mentoring

Skills of mentoring

How to be a great mentee

Vetpol also have some great blogs on mentoring, a webinar and links to external resources.

Mentoring/Leadership schemes:

Graduate mentoring

BSAVA are launching a pilot Mentoring Scheme Spring 2018, but HURRY you need to apply soon!

Dr. Dave Nichols, vet and veterinary business consultant has set up VetX; short for vet graduate accelerator programme designed specifically to help develop new graduates in their first year.

University College Dublin, have trialled a pilot scheme click here for info.

Leadership training

  • The RCVS is launching a pilot leadership initiative in Spring 2018.  It promises to be a fantastic resource for vets across the profession in a variety of roles to develop leaders of the present and future.  You have nothing to loose and everything to gain by learning how to bring out the best in yourself and your team. Read more here
  • Adrian Nelson-Pratt of Veterinary Business Consultancy has just launched Emerge which is dedicated to providing effective new ways to deal with the daily challenges faced by veterinary professionals.  He says:  “We exist to make a positive impact on the mental health, wellbeing and personal development of the veterinary community.  Using proven coaching techniques and by building veterinary networks and a wider community, EMERGE unleashes new growth and introduces balance in the lives and careers of its participants. Whether it’s a career change, or helping you to develop yourself, we will help you fulfill your potential.”
  • The Veterinary Defence Society have developed training, coaching and mentoring programmes working with a great team of people including Carolyne Crowe, Penny Barker, Catherine Oxtoby and Ebony Escalona.  They have also just launched The Veterinary Leadership Programme in response to the VetFutures need to drive positive culture and create the leaders of tomorrow.  It’s a fully immersive, comprehensive and supportive multi-modal programme over 5 months using evidence based tools and strategies that will make the difference to those working through the programme.

General mentoring

The Vets Christian Fellowship offer an informal mentoring scheme to provide support to members.

Informal mentoring is better than nothing! If you have connected well with a vet during EMS,  or a fellow student a year or two ahead of you, you could request they provide you with peer support when you graduate.

New Graduate Schemes:

  • Dr. Dave Nichols, vet and veterinary business consultant has set up VetX; vet graduate accelerator programme, online paid for course designed specifically to help develop new graduates in their first year.
  • Grads to Vets is a brand new graduate scheme due to launch August 2018 for new graduates going into small animal and mixed independent practices offering a mix of online and attendance CPD and support.
  • Several corporates run graduate schemes.  Some of these are relatively new, so it’s worth asking if you can speak in confidence with people who have experienced the scheme in practice.  Corporates with schemes at time of writing include CVS, IVC, MedivetPets at Home (includes Vets4Pets/Companion Care), Vet Partners, XL Vets

My skill set

I’m not a people-person, so I work in shelter medicine and ECC because there are fewer clients.  I am, however, a good communicator so I like the freedom both of these settings give me to discuss cases fully and thoroughly with staff and owners.  I am pragmatic and good under pressure at multi-tasking and prioritising, hence ECC.  I do not have a plant-brain (more addled mummy-brain) so the 10 minute consult where you have to access minute detail in the pigeon holes of your mind don’t work well for me any more.  I am quite a visual person and have good 3D memory, so I’m good at imaging – I can usually work out what I’m looking at intuitively.  I can also differentiate the pink/purple blobs under the microscope quite effectively, so my current job description is:

Imaging and cytology working for an animal shelter and a local first opinion veterinary hospital out of hours clinic.  I LOVE my job, but that’s because I discovered my strengths early on, developed them and now use them for the majority of my work.  Having a practice that supports and recognises individual skill and talent works well for both parties.  I still do all the other GP vet stuff, but the balance is firmly in favour of what I’m good at!

The Good, the Bad and Ugly

Different career experiences, written by vets who have learnt along the way.  This page is a work in progress – email us with your story if you think it may be of help to colleagues.  Alternatively, the Veterinary: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook community has career profiles and comments from vets in diverse roles.

Working for a feed company

Mixed Practice


Working for a feed company; pros and cons

The following blog was originally posted on the Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook page and has been reproduced here with kind permission of the author.  It provides an insightful look at the pros and cons of work outside practice within a large company.

“Having been in my current role as Vet and Equine Nutritionist at a feed company for just coming up to a year I thought some feedback for others considering such a career move from practice or elsewhere might be useful.

For: Working for a big(ish) company has its advantages – training in everything from sales and negotiation to presenting and excel to vet and nutrition CPD. Plus any memberships, registrations, subscriptions or anything else I need are paid for without quibble. Reasonable pay (circa 40-45k) plus benefits and car. Good support, regular appraisals and an emphasis on development.

And the role itself: massively varied with control of your own diary- mix of yard meetings, office meetings, business-to-business collabs, research and advising, teaching, lecturing and organising internal and external CPD. You need to have a commercial interest because any role in the commercial sector has that focus, obviously, but this is a great opportunity to develop your skill set and enough practice to gain some confidence – in proposals, pitches, negotiating, managing and setting budgets and targets, working fast and efficiently (doesn’t come naturally to me!), customer interaction and support, and even marketing, promotion and PR; what works and what doesn’t. There’s a lot do! And pretty much, if you have an idea or interest that you can pitch successfully internally (logistics, investment and returns etc) you have the opportunity to run with it and make it fly which is pretty cool (worry about pressure of making the predicted returns on it later…!). The prospect of working internationally – I currently advise where required from the UK because we have staff elsewhere but there’s definitely the option for more travel in this type of role.

Against: the hours (45+pw plus driving time, usually averages out at a 12 hour work day), driving (500-1000 pw though would depend on where you live and specific role of course), staying away (1-4 nights a week, every week, averages at about 2 pw, with the odd weekend night unavoidable). Sales chat! Quite a time waster. Some internal meetings inevitably end up with a lot of it however. The inefficiency of endless internal admin and reports which divert from doing the actual job – quite similar in other companies and similar roles probably but I have little to compare with in the commercial sector. It is certainly much more than in practice. The inefficiency of a larger company – gaining approval for plans or investments from multiple departments can take a very long time and if you don’t shout loud enough can miss the boat on whatever opportunity you were working on as a result which is frustrating. This is a very competitive sector, which is good sometimes and bad at others! Makes for quite a pressured work environment. There’s positives and negatives to working with big yards – they can be variable to work with, some great and others less so (as vets in practice will know about as well of course).

Overall, this is a great role to broaden and develop your skill set which is increasingly important in the inevitable changes in work force requirements in the future. Whether this role will even be relevant?! But it has been a step in the right direction to develop further after leaving practice. I was certainly not expecting to use my clinical knowledge and skills to the extent I have and having left practice rather demoralised it has reminded me why I wanted to be a vet in the first place, which is quite a relief! I won’t be staying in this role for much longer for the reasons stated above (the driving mostly) but it has provided a good focus for what to do next and, importantly, some great opportunities and contacts for future roles.”



If you can’t find what you’re looking for check out our FAQs and forums, or contact us with a query and we’ll do our best to answer.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – read our blogs on different job experiences.

EMS – use this time to try different types and structure of practice – rural mixed vs. large inner city hospital; private vs. corporate; zoo vs. OV work

Know yourself – the best way to find the perfect job for you is to take time writing down your skill set and passions (click here for a guide).  If you can find a job that plays to your strengths and allows you to follow your passion then you’re well on the way to enjoying your work.  Base your career path and tailor your CV around your skill set, and match it to jobs available.  If you have no luck, send your CV to practices you like the look of; you never know they may have a job coming up they haven’t got around to advertising.  Phone practices and have a chat about their ethos before applying.  At interview, find out if the job they are offering matches your skill set.  If not, you may find it hard to fit in and enjoy work.  Click here for my example.

CV writing – Dave Nichol’s, team leader, practice owner and recruitment specialist, has written an excellent blog – click here.

BVA member services – Download the full BVA Guide to job hunting.  They also run a careers service (accessible for a fee).  The BVA’s Young Vets Network exists to provide support for recent graduates.

SPVS member services – Final year congress in Lancaster with careers advice.  They also provide support and guidance on employment contracts and professional matters or just to give support at difficult times. Contact SPVS office on 01926 410454 or email They also operate a CV Reading Service – email your CV to for advice and amendments.

Future Developments – One of the goals of Vet futures Action Plan 2016-2020 is to create an online veterinary careers hub, to include careers advice for school students and veterinary undergraduates, extramural studies (EMS) opportunities, and career development guidance for vets at all stages in their careers (see pg 22 of the report)

“The development of an online hub, as a portal for gathering together or signposting to this information, should help better measure expectations of those entering the profession, improve awareness of the greater range of veterinary roles available and encourage diversi cation, provide clear career paths and stimulate EMS and continuing professional development (CPD) providers to develop relevant learning opportunities.

In addition, careers materials should be reviewed and developed with an eye to ensuring that potential students, their parents and careers advisors will have a clear picture of the realities of life at vet school and the career paths that may follow. This ought to reduce some of the dissonance between expectation and reality that can cause stress in later life.

Public promotion of the hub will also help us to meet the objective of raising public awareness of the wider roles that veterinary surgeons play in society. Promotion of the hub will be accompanied by activities such the recruitment of careers ambassadors, talks at events such as the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) Final-year Seminar, and the social media communication of some of the hub’s resources (such as case studies).”

Fancy something different…

Training as a vet gives you a whole set of transferrable skills which make you eminently employable in many sectors.  Many of us use our degree in the first few years, then look for new challenges.  Sadly this if often as our enthusiasm wanes or stress increases.  Try to make the change a proactive, positive move TOWARDS something you are passionate about, rather than just moving away from a job you’re not happy with.   Options include:

Locum work – allows for greater flexibility, and trying out different practice set ups.  It’s not for everyone and it’s important to be informed to make sure you’re suited to locum work – this guide from Simply Locums is a good place to start.  It can be a great stop-gap while you’re exploring other career paths too.

Practice ownership  – Jumping in with both feet – setting up a practice or becoming a partner or director of an existing practice.  There are some new, exciting models being trialled by entrepreneurial vets – practices set up to improve working standards.  If you don’t like your practice model then how about developing a better one?  The VIN Foundation in the USA have a StartUp club for those looking to start practices.  Contact them for support and advice.

Specialisation – internship, residency, specialisation… this often enables us to follow the diagnostic and treatment trail further, allowing us to do what we trained for more often than we experience in first opinion practice.  These positions are fiercely contested and require dedicated time and effort.  Only start on this route if you’re 100% sure it’s what you want to do.  It should NOT be the default path for those disillusioned with general practice.

Education – with new veterinary schools popping up, there are more opportunities to get involved with education.  Teaching starts in practice, with vet students and vet nursing students.  If you enjoy being an educator, then knock on the doors of local animal welfare colleges, veterinary nursing institutions etc. and see if they have any positions or opportunities.

Research – PhD, research, academia… With the development of the One Health initiative there is more collaboration across the medical/veterinary professions than ever before, to make a difference to health and welfare for people and animals across the globe.

Industry – be it pharmaceutical/ food/ suppliers, there are a huge range of opportunities for vets to transfer across.  If you fancy a job which often involves travelling and development of new skill sets this is worth looking into.

Public health – both within the private and public sectors.  This isn’t just meat inspection, but everything from advising petting zoos to disaster planning in the event of a natural disaster.

Charity work – from local shelter medicine, to veterinary advisors within global welfare charities, charity work can give a genuine sense of wellbeing and progress animal health and welfare across a much broader scale.  If no charity job offers are advertised, contact a charity you’re passionate about and ask if they need or want advice or practical help.  You’ll meet inspiring people and gain a real sense of fulfilment.

Other options:

Something completely different… ever fancied yourself as an entrepreneur?  Read Lawrence Brown’s blog

The Facebook community ‘Veterinary: stay, go, diversify‘ showcases career profiles, interviews and posts from vets pursuing different career paths.  Or checkout the website from the recent live event.

Here’s a great blog on 10 ways to use your degree