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Finding the right practice for you

Even for an experienced vet, looking for a new job can be daunting but as a new graduate it can be even more overwhelming. Grads to Vets founder, Lizzie Bewsey-Dyke shares her top job-hunting tips for new grads.

Picking the most suitable practice out of a long list of 5-line adverts in the back of a magazine can seem like a real gamble, so it is important to know what you want from the job to help you pick out what will work best for you. I’ve moved jobs a couple of times since graduation, and I have learnt a lot of lessons about the process that I wish I had known at the start!

What do you want?

The first and perhaps most crucial part of finding the right practice for you is to work out what you actually want from the job. I know this sounds obvious, but we often assume we know what sort of job we want without really taking some time to give it the thought it deserves. Think back to EMS. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you prefer being in a busy hospital environment or do quieter, smaller teams actually suit you better?
  • Do you want to be involved in an on-call rota?
  • Is location important to you?
  • What sort of job are you looking for? E.g. small, mixed, equine, farm, exotic
  • What sort of employer are you looking for? E.g. corporate, independent, charity.

Once you have given some thought to what sort of job and working environment you want to join then you’re ready to start looking for vacancies. You will have realised from asking yourself the questions above that it isn’t just as simple as there being “good jobs” and “bad jobs”. Whilst one new graduate might thrive in a busy small-animal hospital in central Manchester, another might find that they are most fulfilled working as a mixed vet in the Scottish Islands. Similarly, one new graduate might love the challenge of on-call, whilst another might find it too much to take on in their first year. So, rather than looking for a good job, it’s about looking for the job that will most suit you!

Getting to know the practice

The best way to get to know a practice is through EMS. Time spent on work experience gives you a fantastic opportunity to speak to all members of the practice team, get a feel for the culture of the practice and make some basic observations about quality of life: are the vets eating lunch? Do they usually leave work on time? If going on EMS isn’t an option, then I recommend seeing if anyone else in your year-group has been there on EMS and speaking to them about their experience.

Or if there is a BVA Young Vet Network group near a potential practice, then get in touch with the local Reps to see if they are able to provide any insight.

Of course, it is only possible to see a certain number of practices whilst on EMS, and there will be plenty of practices advertising that look promising but that you know little about. In these cases, it is worth having a good look at the practice website to get a feel for what they are offering, and if it seems positive sending them a copy of your CV – you have nothing to lose, after all!

Often first contact with practices speaks volumes – hopefully they will be friendly and keen to meet you. When going to an interview be open and honest about your expectations and ambitions and any worries that you have. Make sure that your aspirations line up well with what they are looking for in a new vet. Try to look around as much as possible and speak to other members of the team.

Often the best way to get a good idea of life in the practice is to speak to one of the junior vets one-on-one, away from the influence of the directors/partners. They should be able to tell you about the realities of working there and what them practice ethos is like – I would certainly be suspicious if I asked to do this and was not allowed to. If possible, try to spend an afternoon in the practice and see how things work and speak to as many people as possible.

If the practice feels like a good fit for you, and they make you a job-offer, make sure that you look carefully at the contract and the rota to ensure that you know what you are signing up for. Don’t be afraid to negotiate if there was something in the contract that you were not expecting! And if you’re a BVA member, the BVA legal helpline is available to answer any questions about your contract.

Finding a job

Assuming you haven’t been lucky enough to find a practice through EMS, there are lots of ways to find out about graduate vacancies. Attending your university careers fair is a good place to start as lots of employers will be there to speak about the types of jobs they offer. Veterinary publications have jobs listings online and in-print and there are also various websites and facebook groups which have job-listings, and traditionally this is how the majority of graduates found their first jobs.

In the recent years, more graduates are opting to apply for graduate schemes developed by major employers. In 2018, I launched Grad to Vets to help new graduates navigate an overwhelming job market and practices better support and retain their new graduates. All the graduate schemes offer a variation of different mentoring, support and CPD. So, it’s worth taking the time to do some research and decide which scheme is best for you.

The advantage of these schemes is that they guarantee that you will receive appropriate CPD and (hopefully) tailored support throughout your first year in practice, as well as demonstrating that the practices involved care about your ongoing professional development.

Finally, don’t feel pressured to accept the first job offer you get, if it doesn’t feel right. You are in the fortunate position that graduates are in demand currently and so you can afford to choose carefully.

More information

Grads to Vets is a year-long graduate programme open to all practices. The aim of the scheme is to support the graduate through their first year with mentoring, coaching and a specially designed CPD programme.

The scheme offers a clinical coach in the practice, a recent graduate mentor outside of the practice, a fully funded CPD programme for your first year providing 40 hours of CPD, and more. To join the job newsletter, email Lizzie. More information about the scheme can be found at Grads to Vets.


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