Contributed by: Carol Hurst, LVT, CVPM, CVJ
Let me paint a picture for you: You’ve been in your current position for six to nine years. It may be your second professional position. It may be your first. You wouldn’t describe yourself as happy, merely content.
You’ve settled into this position like a well-worn glove. Any lofty goals you had for yourself when you started on this journey were buried in reality, compassion fatigue, and the truth of what the day-to-day routine ended up looking like.
Don’t let complacency or fatigue get in the way of your aspirations. In many instances, making a plan for a future that you will be excited about can help pull you out of that fatigue.
Identify Where You Are
Before you can map out where you’re going, you need to evaluate where you are. After you’ve been in the field for five or more years, you should know what makes you happy about being in the profession.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Do you love seeing your favorite clients? What about performing surgeries? Maybe you enjoy marketing your clinic through social media. Pick a couple of areas that make you excited about your job.
When you take the time to think about what actually drives you, it might surprise you. If you’ve been working at a high-end clinic that is on the driving edge of medicine but your best days center around the small rescue community you are involved in, that may be a clear indicator of what direction you should be looking in.
Identify Where You Want to Be
Your goals may have changed drastically since you entered the profession. Maybe you started out thinking you were going to build up your skills and transition over to emergency medicine.
If you discovered that you can’t stay up past nine pm without falling asleep – that goal might not be realistic anymore. This is okay. Don’t remain fixated on a goal that is no longer feasible. What we want for ourselves in our professional careers can change with time. This isn’t failure.
Your professional goals should center around those things you’ve identified that you love. We spend way too much of our lives at work to not do something that makes us happy. There are many opportunities in the veterinary profession for a wide range of careers. Here are some suggestions:
For veterinary technicians:
- If you aren’t registered/licensed as a technician in your state, doing so will open many more doors for you.
- Once you are registered and have identified what you love – run with it! There are many technician specialties that will provide a challenge and continued personal growth for just about any area that gets you going in the morning.
- There are other areas that can utilize skilled technicians that aren’t a general practice. You can work in a laboratory for animals, you can work for a drug company as a representative, you can even work at a school teaching other technicians.
For practice managers:
- If you aren’t a CVPM, getting certified gives you that foundation of knowledge that is immediately recognizable to any in our field. It can also open doors if you are on a continued path of growth in other directions.
- If you are a CVPM, you can move to a bigger practice to increase your responsibilities and challenges, you can go into consulting, you can start writing articles or making videos to educate others about any variety of topics and you can establish a manager group in your area to help others.
- Board certification is a challenging and rewarding way to expand your skills. You can work at a specialty hospital if you have a central area of interest in medicine. You can buy into your current or another practice, or you can start your own practice.
Identify How to Get There
The old saying, “How do you eat an elephant…one bite at a time,” is applicable here. So many people think that their goals are unattainable just because they don’t know where to start.
To get out of this trap, start small. Making any steps in the direction you want to go, even if they aren’t successful steps, is better than doing nothing.
- Who do you need to talk to? Maybe you don’t know enough about what goes on where you want to be. Look up someone in that profession and reach out to pick their brain. LinkedIn is your best friend.
- What resources do you need? Maybe to start school you need the transcript from your previous university or institution. What about knowledge? Books are cheap and come in every subject. If you want to learn about SEO but know nothing about it, go educate yourself!
- What does your timeline look like? I’ve found that creating a long, involved timeline in the beginning can be overwhelming. Instead, map out the next month.Many people find checklists to be motivational. Forward momentum is most important. You can always figure out more long-term goals once you have your foundation established.
The take-away message is that being happy in your position and focusing on your professional growth starts with simple steps to begin the process.
The relentless pursuit of growth is what inspires Carol. She has been in the veterinary industry since 2005 when she graduated tech school and became a Licensed Veterinary Technician. A fascination with animal medicine was only the beginning. Even more than helping furred and feathered friends, she found that she enjoyed being able to affect the positive change within her clinic that having a leadership role afforded her. She’s been managing for nine years. An interest in using her skills to improve the veterinary industry has led her to volunteer her time. She currently writes articles to help educate bird owners through the National Association of Avian Veterinarians, she served as the Newsletter Editor for her state Veterinary Technician Association, she writes articles for her state’s veterinary association’s website dedicated to educating pet owners and she’s also written numerous management related articles. Through her quality education materials she gained the designation as a Certified Veterinary Journalist in December of 2016. After many years of study, she gained the designation as a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager in November of 2016. Her proudest accomplishment to date is the work that she’s performed for her local management group. She has been a member since 2010 and currently serves as the Vice-President, playing an integral part in forming the Board that has helped empower managers to reach their full potential. It was from the enrichment gained through helping other managers that ignited her own spark and started her own journey, as she partnered with Amy Kelley, CVPM, to form Blue Flame Veterinary Consulting in December of 2016.