‘Networking’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot, particularly in the business world.
If you’ve just graduated from vet school, or are a new veterinarian, networking might not seem like much of a priority right now.
You might be thinking; ‘shouldn’t I be focussing on my clinical skills rather than trying to network as a new vet?’, or ‘how can I possibly network during a global pandemic?!’
First off: yes. You should be focussing on your technical skills and becoming the best veterinarian you can.
But what happens when you encounter a hiccup? Which, inevitably, you will.
Networking is not an ego-driven exercise to make yourself well known, but a way of generating support and new career opportunities.
Secondly, you’re right to be concerned about the pandemic. However, the veterinary profession is adapting to current circumstances, not only in terms of clinical practice but also when it comes to networking.
Conferences have become fully digital, mentors are keeping in touch with mentees online, and here at VetX International, we have witnessed our own online network flourish.
Networking is not a term to be shuddered at, but one to be embraced.
Read on to find out the three key ways you can network as a new vet.
Find a Mentor
Finding the right mentor is important for any new veterinarian. So important that we’ve actually already written about it here.
Most new vets feel that they need support in the first few months of their job.
Without it, you can feel alone, and possibly end up quitting altogether. After working hard for many years to earn your degree, this is a crying shame for you and the veterinary profession.
Therefore, make it your priority to seek out a mentor. It is likely that they have experienced all the things you are going through right now: the incorrect diagnosis, not being able to insert a catheter, feeling overwhelmed. Whatever it may be, a mentor can give you support and advice.
They may even have contacts that can help you further. This is where the networking comes in.
However, it does come with a disclaimer: be specific. When you are asking your mentor for advice, explain your specific situation and exactly what you need help with. This way, they can provide you with relevant advice.
Another tip is to not limit yourself to a single mentor.
Ever heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well in this case the village is the veterinary community, and you’re the kid.
It is likely that you have far too rigid a view of who or what a mentor is, but in reality, the phrase covers everyone from the person assigned to give you structured coaching, to the old vet you visited as a kid.
Mentors come in many diverse shapes, sizes, ages, genders and colours- so don’t forget it!
Want to learn how you can use your connections to build resilience? Listen here!
Show Genuine Interest in Everyone
Whether you are at a conference, a social event or on social media, show a genuine interest in everyone you encounter, regardless of the area of veterinary medicine they work in.
By widening your circle and interacting with a range of different people, you will open up many possibilities in the future. For example, a connection may inspire you to consider working in another sector, such as the government or the military.
There are so many options out there for qualified veterinarians, but if we don’t interact with one another we simply don’t know about them.
Showing a genuine interest not only applies to professional connections, but to your clients. By showing a genuine interest in the lives of your clients and their pets, you will gradually get to know them.
You might even develop friendships with your clients, which in turn could open up new possibilities, such as community initiatives.
Don’t be Afraid!
Finally, don’t be afraid to network as a new vet!
Without generalising too much, many veterinarians are introverts; you are highly focussed but often get ‘in your head’.
When it comes to interacting with others, especially experienced veterinarians, please don’t be afraid. If it helps, ‘fake it till you make it!’: wear a smile, be enthusiastic and confident.
Remember, vets tend to be quite generous and they will often be more than happy to give you advice, share their experiences and ideas.
Also, people love talking about themselves. Ask your connections for their story: ‘how did you end up where you are today?’. Hearing peoples’ stories, especially of those more experienced than you, will be incredibly insightful. And, you will end up building some great connections! This is exactly what Dr Dave Nicol does on his hit vet podcast Blunt Dissection.
If you are shuddering at the thought of networking, a good place to start is in the Veterinary Career Success community. This group is supportive, positive and full of engaging content and features vets from many areas of practice!
So what are you waiting for? Get networking!
In summary, there are several ways you can network as a new vet.
Too many vets encounter difficulties and don’t know where to turn to for support or advice, and end up dropping out of the profession altogether. It’s therefore important to reach out to others- and start building those connections!
Seek out those mentors and show a genuine interest in their work. The veterinary community is very generous and supportive – but you must make the effort to be part of it!
If you found this article useful, you should check out the VetX webinar: 4 Steps to a Happy and Successful Career as a Veterinarian. It’s completely free, and was created especially for new veterinarians; revealing three mistakes to avoid and how you can build a framework for success.