Episode #108 – How to be Professionally Proactive and Seize Control of Your Career

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive recruiter Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that improve their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about how to be proactive and seize control of your career. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, you’ve done quite a few podcast episodes during the last couple of years, and I know for a fact that you’ve discussed being proactive before. Would I be correct to say that you are heavily in favor of being proactive as a professional in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession?

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. I’m a big proponent of being proactive. The alternative, of course, is to be reactive. There really is no “in between,” where you can be just the right amount of proactive and reactive. The rule is pretty simple: if you’re not being proactive, then you’re being reactive.

Samantha: Is being proactive the same as being aggressive?

Stacy: Not exactly. There’s often a negative connotation associated with being aggressive. It’s fine to be aggressive on the football field, but less so in the employment marketplace. No, you can take action and be proactive without being aggressive. That being said, there is a balance you can strike. You can be selectively aggressive if you know how to do so, but you have to be careful. You don’t want to come across as a threat to anyone. Organizations are not in the habit of hiring people that they perceive as threats.

Samantha: Now Stacy, isn’t it also true that when a person is proactive and takes action that they’re more likely to make mistakes?

Stacy: That IS true. Sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes unfortunate things happen. But in many cases, being professionally proactive about your career makes things happen, and by and large, it makes good things happen as opposed to bad things.

Samantha: What about the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”

Stacy: Well, it is true that there’s a time and a place to practice patience, but when it comes to a person’s career, that is not the time. After all, I would counter that saying with another saying.

Samantha: Which one is that?

Stacy: “The early bird catches the worm.”

Samantha: You’re right! I suppose it depends on how you look at it.

Stacy: How you should look at it is that since it’s your career, you’re the one who is responsible for it. That means you should be doing what is necessary to seize control of it.

Samantha: What is necessary to seize control of your career?

Stacy: There are four things that we’re going to discuss today. The first thing is to make the first move.

Samantha: What does that mean?

Stacy: It means to not wait for opportunity to “knock on the door,” but to actively pursue opportunity. When you pursue opportunity, you put yourself in a better position to be able to take advantage of it.

Samantha: What are some things you can do to actively pursue opportunity?

Stacy: Well, there are many things, but a few of them include:

  • Attending an industry event to build your network and your brand.
  • Approaching someone in your network about a job opening.
  • Even reaching out to an experienced Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter that has a track record of success.

Samantha: What stops people from actively pursuing opportunity?

Stacy: In a word, fear is the biggest factor. As a general rule, people are afraid of rejection and they’re afraid of failure. Those are base human emotions, but you have to push past them to do what needs to be done. This is also something that we’ve discussed before on the podcast.

Samantha: What’s the second item on our list?

Stacy: The second item on our list involves what happens after a professional has entered the job interview and hiring process of an employer. That item is to promote your candidacy and state your case.

Samantha: Now what does that one mean?

Stacy: I’d like to set the background first. That background involves the fact employers rarely hire what’s considered “the perfect candidate.” When I say that, I mean if an employer has 10 main requirements for a position, they rarely hire someone who has all 10. They sometimes hire a candidate who has between seven and nine of the requirements.

Samantha: So you’re saying there are other skills candidates can possess that can make up for the two or three main skills they may be lacking?

Stacy: That’s right, depending on the skills they’re lacking. Keep in mind that employers are looking for someone who can “hit the ground running” or grow into the position quickly. They’re also looking for soft skills that supplement their technical skill set. These soft skills include active listening, collaboration, and leadership capabilities, to name just a few.

If you’re a candidate competing for a position, but you don’t have all of the skills required, don’t count yourself out. If you truly believe that you can do the job, then you should emphasize the value you can bring to the organization. In other words, you should promote your candidacy and state your case.

Samantha: Stacy, what’s next on our list?

Stacy: The third item on our list is to follow up without fail. This is also something that should be done during the interview and hiring process. Not only should you be proactive, but you should also be persistent. And when I say follow up, I mean after correspondence or after a phone screen or a face-to-face interview. This helps to show the hiring authority your level of interest in the position and it also helps to prevent miscommunication.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but people are ultra-busy these days. Just because you haven’t heard anything from the hiring authority or the employer does not mean that your candidacy has been dismissed.

Samantha: Is it possible to follow up too much?

Stacy: It is. The last thing you want to do as a candidate is to be overbearing. Once again, you have to strike a balance. You should keep personal branding in mind the entire time. That’s why it’s important to provide a great experience every time you interact with a person when you’re following up. It’s difficult to provide a great experience if you’re being overbearing and contacting them too much.

Samantha: That certainly makes sense. What’s the next item on our list?

Stacy: The fourth and final item on our list is to learn and practice the art of negotiation.

Samantha: Are you talking about negotiation with a new employer?

Stacy: Actually, I’m talking about negotiation with both a current employer and also with a potential future employer. When it’s with a current employer, it’s mainly negotiation regarding a raise and/or promotion. With a potential new employer, it’s negotiation regarding an offer of new employment.

And it might not surprise you and anyone in our listening audience, but being proactive is once again the key to effective negotiation. And you should be proactive in carrying out two steps in regards to negotiation.

Samantha: What steps are those?

Stacy: First, you have to believe that you’re good enough or that you provide a certain level of value. Second, you must be able to prove that you’re good enough or that you provide a certain level of value.

Samantha: So you must have confidence, as well?

Stacy: Oh, yes, absolutely. If you want to be an effective negotiator, then you must have confidence in yourself. And in terms of your career, if you don’t know how to negotiate effectively, then you’re not going to reach your full potential.

Samantha: So Stacy, what would you say is the bottom line with all of this?

Stacy: The bottom line is that fear, as I mentioned earlier in the episode, is the enemy. When you’re afraid, you don’t act proactively. You act reactively. And I have a simple way to illustrate that. The best time to look for a great new employment opportunity is when you already have a good Animal Health job or Veterinary job. That’s because you’re moving from a position of strength as opposed to a position of weakness.

Samantha: But most people don’t do that, do they?

Stacy: No, they do not. They wait until they find themselves without a job or they find out they will soon be without one. That is not a good time to decide to be proactive.

This is an instance where an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter can help. Aligning yourself with such a recruiter is one way to be proactive. The recruiter can let you know when a job crosses their desk that you would be interested in. Then you’ll be in a much better position to know what opportunities are available in the marketplace and also to take advantage of those opportunities.

Samantha: Once again, Stacy, that makes a lot of sense. I want to thank you for all of this great information today. And thank you for joining us!

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Samantha, and thank you. It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode!