Category: First Job Tips

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

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


First Job Tips

FIRST YEAR OUT – there’s no way around it; your most important lessons in practice will come through learning by mistakes… hopefully mostly other people’s (see the VDS newsletters for some classic examples), but inevitably largely through your own.  A large proportion of these will be in your first year.  You will need support to help you rationalise and learn from these mistakes, without beating yourself up (after all, we tend to be a demographic of ‘neurotic perfectionists’).  Support from within your practice, friends and family, local vets network, and social networks will all help you to maintain perspective and stay positive despite the inevitable ups and downs.  You can join local Young Vet Network groups run by the BVA.

THRIVE IN FIVE – the VIN Foundation has created a survival toolkit for your first 5 years in practice – everything from model contracts to how to survive a night shift.  This is a great free resource.


PDP QUERIES?  Download the BVA’s PDP guide.


Have a look at this great infographic from Grads to Vets with great advice on your first job hunt

Your first job is arguably the most important as it can shape your future career choices.  I recently heard an interesting description of vet job types:

Academic A-grade jobs – Academic / referral / research – even if your first job isn’t an internship in an academic or referral institute, if this is where you want to be headed look for jobs in places with links to referrals, involvement in research, certificate holders etc.

Common sense C-grade jobs –  General practice, especially rural practices / mixed.  These are the jobs where common sense, compassion and charisma will get you a lot further with clients than your knowledge of the latest lymphoma treatment options.

Note: a C-grade job is in no way inferior to an A-grade job.  We’re all academic as we’re all vets.  That’s the given.  How to get on with clients and use common sense above pure science in your approach is a skill that often can’t be taught, and can be hard to learn. But that’s what makes a good vet GREAT!  In many ways it’s harder to be a good GP vet than a good referral clinician; to do an optimal job for the patient and client, often with limited resources and finance, is a real skill.

Interview tips:

  • Interview your interviewer e.g. find out what plans they have for the practice, how robust their support systems are.
  • Speak to the head nurse, nursing team, receptionists… these are the people who will be your ‘team’.  How long have they been at the practice (a good work ethic means staff stay loyal)? What’s their ‘vibe’ about new graduates – make sure they seem supportive and enthusiastic at the prospect of having you join them.
  • Will you be working at the branch you’re interviewed at?  Or the crummy shack in the next village with the outdoor loo?!
  • Checkout – it’s a universal job site with a difference… employees can anonymously rate their boss and practice, and state if they’d recommend it to friends or not.  It’s not reached the veterinary world at the time of writing, but it would be worth a look just in case someone has some pertinent feedback.

INTERNSHIPS / NEW GRAD PROGRAMMES: These can be useful stepping stones, and increasing numbers of practices are setting up such schemes.  BUT BEWARE – there are no guidelines or regulations for the application of these terms, and practices are free interpret them as they wish.  You could find yourself doing a normal vets job for a lesser salary, with promised support never quite materialising, and exit-clauses in the fine print.  There’s a useful Vet Record blog on the subject by Adrian Pratt here

Tailor your CV/interview to the job you’re applying for:

A Grade jobs: emphasise your academic achievements, additional research, elective topic, and future goals and career ambitions.

C Grade jobs: your common sense, charisma, communication / practical skills are more important.  Working in a small team means your hobbies and interests are likely to affect your working relationships more than academic accolades.  You’ve qualified, so you have the knowledge.  Now sell all your personal skills.

PREPARE FOR LIFE IN PRACTICE – You’ve wanted to be a vet since you were a child.  The central focus of your education and life thus far has been qualifying as a vet.  Now you’re there with a whole degree of privilege at your disposal, and a lot of drugs and sharp instruments to wield.  And you’re going to get PAID for it!  But beware – the novelty can wear off as reality doesn’t meet with expectation.  We’re taught in a linear manner; get a clinical history, recognise signalment and clinical signs, perform the correct diagnostic tests and procedures, and institute the correct treatment and hey presto!  You’re a vet diagnosing and curing disease in bone fide patients.

NOT!  Practice life is 90% mundane with vaccines, skin disease, gastroenteritis… it won’t be long before you can do these consults in your sleep.  When it gets to the more stimulating cases it’s rarely black and white.  Owners who can’t agree on when the dog last ate (if indeed it ate at all); conflicting clinical signs leading you in 4 different directions; a broken blood machine or clogged endoscope scuppering your diagnostic tests; poor compliance with administration of your treatment…. and then a complaint from a client because of the costs and lack of resolution.  It gets grating when clients all assume we’re raking in the big bucks, and have no idea how hard we work and the stresses we’re under.  Privilege can all too soon turn into frustration and disillusionment.


Reset your expectations; you will make mistakes; owners will complain – often unfairly; you will be limited by time, staffing issues, equipment; interesting cases are the exception, not the rule (and you’re often limited in how far you can get with your workups).  Preparing yourself for this will help you take it in your stride.  Have an adaptable ‘growth’ mindset, rather than a stagnant fixed expectation of life in practice will help you reset your expectations – a recent study revealed this mentality improved wellbeing in vet students; click here for the article.

Make the mundane interesting – the 90% mundane CLINICAL cases can all become stimulating and interesting if you use these times to engage with the client.  Become a people person!  Not only will you build good relations with the client base, you’ll find your job more interesting and fulfilling.

Ask – if there are no colleagues available to ask for their opinion phone a friend, use online forums such as, Veterinary Information Network, Vettimes.  Be honest with owners and explain you’ll need to get back to them later in the day.

Book your first holiday – ask for a week off about 12 weeks in…. you’ll need it to draw breath, relax and recharge, catch up with friends and family.  By the time you figure that out, it’s too late to book the time off.  Book it when you start and you’ll be glad you did.

Don’t Ruminate on mistakes – You will make mistakes – ruminating on them may adversely affect you mentally and physically.  Read more HERE

All too much?  Pressure in practice is inevitable.  Unmanageable pressure becomes stress.  Stress affects mental and physical health.  You may benefit from mindfulness or resilience coaching to help manage pressure more effectively.


You’ve been in academia since you were 4.  Now you have to learn how to run a house, budget, deal with all the complexities and pressures of adult life, often for the first time… at the most intense time of your career.  Prepare in advance – budget plan, update your bank account, ensure you have all the necessary insurances etc. in place.  Be prepared – living is a lot more work than you thought it might be… and often you’re living on your own for the first time.  It’s a huge change in lifestyle, so be prepared and think what might help you deal with this.

Suggestions: Get a budget planner in place and USE it from the moment you graduate to get a handle on your finances (downloadable versions are available from the Money Advice Service or National Debtline – see our Financial Support page, which has some great links to sites which will save you time, money and stress).  Join local community FB pages and go along to local events – important for networking and e.g. finding out who a reliable local plumber is.  Local buy and sell pages will often have free/cheap second hand furniture and household wares on offer (moreso than Gumtree, eBay etc).

Loneliness can be a problem –  Social media is good, but face-to-face friendships are vital; make time and space for it and you won’t regret it.  Read more about loneliness HERE.  Plan your first job near good friends or family.  Join local sports or social groups – if you have on call work you’ll need to explain your attendance will be sporadic!  Join a local BVA Young Vet Network group.

Growing Up – ‘finding yourself’ was a bit of a buzz-phrase when I graduated.  I hate buzz-words, but I reluctantly have to admit there is mileage in figuring out what is going to make you happy and how to get there.  There’s a thoughtful blog on Psychology Today – Essential Skills to Being a Grown Up.  It’s worth  read and having at the back of your mind as you start your career and life outside University.