vet school

Things I Wish Someone Told Me: Tips for New Veterinarians

~3 min read
FYI: This article is part of the veterinary culture manifesto — a set of guiding principles to create better culture in vet med.
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It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty-two years since I crossed that stage in Jesse Hall to receive my diploma. Suddenly I was Laura Pletz, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and I couldn’t wait to get off that stage and get down to business. I was full of knowledge and thought I had it all figured out. I would find the perfect practice, buy that practice, maybe a second, and practice veterinary medicine until I retire.

Guess what? I knew nothing.

That’s not actually true, I was right about some parts of the story.

I did find a great practice, and I did buy the practice, but I sold it within 5 years and stopped practicing. Looking back on this, I realize I had no idea what was in store for me and I wish someone had told me that I didn’t need to have it all figured out the minute that diploma hit my hand.

I wonder if a different mindset would have caused me to consider other options before busing the practice?

Would it have taken me 5 years of ownership to consider other options?

I still don’t have all the answers, but I have learned a few things along the way.

It’s about understanding yourself and your values. It’s more about having the right mindset to navigate the twists and turns, rather than having a particular destination in mind. If you have a dream job in mind, that’s amazing! There is nothing wrong with a plan, but don’t be so focused on it that you miss other opportunities that present themselves along the way.

We have so many different career paths represented on our Board of Directors and they have some great advice for you as well!

What I Wish I Knew When I Graduated Veterinary School

Dr. Tangela Williams-Hill:

I wish I had some guidance on student debt and saving money for retirement earlier. I wish I better understood how to manage my student loans, take advantage of 401(k) plans or profit-sharing, how to use health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts to your advantage. All of these financial points would have been nice to know earlier in my career.

Dr. Tannetje Crocker:

Your first job should be somewhere that you can be empowered to try new things, inspired to do your best, feel valued as a team member, and where you can grow every day.

Dr. Kimberly Therrien:

Mistakes will happen, and that is ok. What is important is that you do not allow those mistakes to define you. Take chances, make mistakes. That is how you grow!

Dr. Eva Evans:

I wish I knew that not all practices have a good culture. If you’re working in a toxic environment in your first job, it can be hard to know if this is normal or not because you have nothing to compare it to. If you’re unhappy, move to new practice!

Create a free profile on scout, and let employers come to you! Join for free here.

Dr. Danielle Alleman:

I wish I knew that it’s OK to not take the first job offer that comes your way!

It can be tempting to accept a position just because you are so excited to be offered a job, but it is a worthwhile endeavor to be patient and find something you think will really align with your goals and values.

Dr. Annie Wayne:

There is no good time for puppies or kids so just take the leap when it’s right for your personal life.

This is a forever humbling profession. Those cases that keep you up in the middle of the night wondering if you got it right get fewer and farther between, but no amount of time or letters after your name makes it go away. No one is perfect and nothing is 100% in medicine.

Dr. Gary Marshall:

I wish I knew that clinics that I interviewed with were super excited to bring an associate on board and they saw a new associate as incredibly valuable.

I thought I was initially a liability instead of an asset. You are valuable! You will contribute from day one. Embracing that reality will serve you well as you navigate the job market.

5 Things No One Told Us:

  • There are resources available today that can help you navigate student debt, 401k plans, and other financial points!
  • When starting your first job, it is tough to know if you’re working in a toxic environment. It is okay to not take the first offer and take your time finding a workplace that aligns with your goals and values.
  • There is no “good time” for puppies or kids. Take the leap when it’s right for your personal life!
  • Mistakes are going to happen, but mistakes don’t have to define you. No one is perfect and nothing is 100% in medicine.
  • Know that you are incredibly valuable as an associate. Embracing this will serve you well as you navigate the job market.

Congratulations on the phenomenal accomplishment of becoming a veterinarian!! I hope these words of wisdom are helpful as you begin your career and I can’t wait to see the wonderful things you will do for our profession.

Best Wishes,

❤️ Laura Pletz, DVM

Have questions about veterinarian life? Join our AMA with these veterinarians on June 23rd to get them answered! Register here.