9 ways to take your Vet Nurse or Vet Tech career to the Next Level
9 simple tips you can apply today to accelerate your job prospects as a Vet Nurse and Vet Tech…
Veterinary nursing is indeed a calling, and the passion and care that you, as a Veterinary Technician or Nurse, display, always on the front line of veterinary care, is admired by us all. No practice can deliver gold-standard veterinary care without your compassion, commitment, experience, expertise, and knowledge.
While the personal rewards are to be cherished, the reality is that we all have to live in an ever-expensive world. But once you step up a few rungs, your income will start to meet your lifestyle expectations. Although trends are changing, entry and early-year salary levels will remain modest for the foreseeable future. So to get ahead with your situation and finances, you need to level up…literally. It’s time to work your way rapidly up through the ranks. Let your experience, expertise, and ability “self-negotiate” career advancement. The accompanying salary increases will enable you to experience the reality and comfort of financial stability in balance with your remarkably satisfying work.
So to help you take that next step up or three, we asked leading Vet Nurses and Technicians worldwide who have achieved personal, professional, and financial success to share their advice on accelerating your career. And here it is…
On your marks
Having a sound education in Veterinary Nursing knowledge and skills is an essential foundation to excel in your Vet Nurse or Veterinary Technician career. This is key to securing a pathway to the most rewarding and fulfilling Vet Nurse and Veterinary Technician jobs.
If you are starting your studies, a pass in each subject is just not enough; you must strive for credits and distinctions – not just from a potential career path perspective. You need to commit to helping animals recover or plan for their longevity and be able to do that from a position of confidence and strength based on your studies, as well as knowing how to hold a tabby cat crossed with a puma.
Nothing says, “You HAVE to employ ME!” better than good grades in your exams and sound practical skills.
Don’t get comfy
OK, so you have secured an excellent job, the people are friendly, the clients are lovely, you are getting by on the money, and the working environment is “fine,” and you slip into snooze mode. Well, wake up and smell the acetylcholine because if you get too comfy, then the prospect of career advancement and becoming the best in your field and the rewards that go with that will quickly start to fade.
You are going to have to move on.
Most Vet Hospitals and Clinics are small to medium businesses, and internal opportunities to advance are rare, especially when the most senior Nurse or Technician is married to the practice owner. Even with the bigger Vet Groups or larger hospitals, advancement usually means moving across town or across the country – get used to the idea; maybe do a little Locum or Relief work to help you feel more comfortable with change (plus, it actually looks good on a resume).
Yes, you thought you had seen your last anatomy textbook and yawned through your last lecture. But if you want to excel, they were just the start – they don’t call it Continuing Education for nothing.
You need to be learning at every step. On a daily basis, take the time to learn about every part of running a busy Vet practice. Just because you are a Vet Nurse or Veterinary Technician doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the ins and out of the Practice Management System or how the supplier bills get paid – ask to be shown and be persistent.
On a more formal basis, you need a rolling two-year plan to upskill. Your career pathway may have multiple journeys, through puppy schools and behavior training, dentistry right through to complex surgical skills. And it won’t be nicely linear, it will have to do with timing, but if you have focus and a plan, you will continue to build your knowledge and ability that will be noticed, recognized, and rewarded.
Not at the local rescue group, although that, too, is an excellent thing for your career. Volunteer to sit in on a complex procedure on your day off. Be prepared to offer to start early or finish late.
Build a reputation as the reliable, go-to person when the s**t hits the fan; because that reputation will start to precede you.
You want to be the person your peers on Facebook mention when they say, “Great place to work, and Fiona/Fred is just the best!” – and that’s you.
Ask for more responsibility
This is a bit like volunteering, but this is more about building up your management and leadership abilities. To reach the highest echelons of Veterinary Nursing means that, yes, you will be highly skilled. Still, your most significant value to that Vet Hospital, Emergency Centre, or Oncology Specialty Clinic will mostly be about your ability to lead and to get the best out of your peers or team.
And learning how to manage systems, people, and how to lead is another whole article – suffice to say that it starts with small steps and practical experience, as well as formal courses (yes, more study) and training.
In recent times, mentorship from fellow industry professionals, not necessarily from within your current work environment, has helped many to gain further traction in their careers. Just remember that when you “make it”, pay it forward, and be prepared to act as a mentor to someone following your journey.
Grow your network
The very best career opportunities tend to come about through fortunate coincidences, mostly from mentions of whispers of conversations that turn into great opportunities. But you will only hear the mentions if you are in the loop. The major online networks of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are a good place to start. LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is fast becoming the go-to place for making work connections, and in the Veterinary space, there are a few good Facebook & LinkedIn Groups that are well worth joining that will keep you in the loop.
In the brick-and-mortar world, there are plenty of industry events to attend. You should attend at least one major conference a year (it’s tax-deductible, and many practices will fully or partially fund these). You should sign up for the event lists of the primary pet food, pharmaceutical, and equipment distributors and plan to attend one event every half year, and make sure you mingle. Have some personal cards made up with your name, contact details, and an aspirational quote so that people will remember you after an event.
Learn public speaking
A tough one. Standing up in front of an audience and espousing the virtues of modern feline dentistry will make most Vet Nurses and Veterinary Technicians go weak at the knees. But you are not a “most”, you want to succeed and be in the top 10.0% of your profession, technically and financially. And public speaking goes with that territory. Find a local Rotary or Community group and take the plunge to learn how to engage with an audience.
You will be surprised how valuable public speaking is, not just for the direct skill but also for your overall self-confidence.
We mean it. There are too many instances of people who advance to the top of their field but at the cost of losing touch with the initial appeal of the Veterinary profession. Vet Nurses and Veterinary Technicians are nice people, and you should remind yourself frequently that your journey to the top of your profession must not be at the expense of your self-worth or that of others.
Be kind, be understanding, yes, be determined, be focused, but always be nice.
When one of those lofty, life-changing, premium senior Vet Nurse Jobs actually does turn up on your radar, go for it. Don’t hesitate, don’t ponder – decide that you want it, and then go get it. Do your research, stalk the decision-makers online (not in their backyard) to learn more, understand the competition and develop a strategy and a plan to own that job. And then go out and get it.
There is a way to boost your financial rewards in balance with your professional satisfaction being a Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Nurse by taking a more assertive approach to career advancement. The steps above are based on feedback from Vet Nurses and Technicians who have indeed “been there, done that” and have secured their future financially. Still, perhaps, more importantly, they have achieved the highest level of professionalism and have done so with grace, kindness, and humility.
It’s time to take those first few steps on this next phase of your journey toward professional excellence and financial stability.
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