Episode #117 – Steps for Building a Great Animal Health or Veterinary 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 companies hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about steps for building a great Animal Health or Veterinary career. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

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

Samantha: Stacy, we’ve discussed ways that an animal health or veterinary professional can grow their career before. What’s different about today’s podcast episode?

Stacy: In previous episodes, we’ve discussed things such as being open to opportunity, not allowing fear to rule your decisions, and not clinging to the comfort zone or status quo. These are very important in terms of building a great career. In fact, it’s difficult to build a great career if you don’t do those things. Today, though, we’re going to discuss additional things that professionals can do.

Samantha: So basically, being open to opportunity, not allowing fear to rule your decisions, and not clinging to the status quo is the starting point?

Stacy: Yes, you could say that. Those things alone will not catapult your career, but they’re extremely important.

Samantha: What else is important?

Stacy: Knowledge is important. That’s because knowledge equals value, and as we’ve discussed on other occasions, it all boils down to value in the employment marketplace, including in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. Employers want to hire candidates who possess value, and acquiring knowledge is one way to become more valuable as a professional. However, it does not stop there.

Samantha: I’m sure it doesn’t. What other tips do you have Stacy?

Stacy: Acquiring knowledge is not enough. You also have to apply the knowledge or use the knowledge. That’s where the value comes from, for both the professional and also the employer: the application of knowledge.

Samantha: What kind of knowledge are we talking about?

Stacy: Well, knowledge pertaining to the Animal Health industry or Veterinary profession, for certain. This includes technical or hard skills involving equipment, methods, procedures, and of course, animals and pets. Then there are the soft skills, which we’ve also talked about before. These are the “people skills” that are so important in the employment marketplace and the workplace. All of these things constitute knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are to your current and future employers.

And with that in mind, I’d like to talk for a moment about specialization.

Samantha: How’s that? Is specialization another factor that contributes to building a great career?

Stacy: It certainly is. When you specialize in a certain area, you increase the chances you’ll become an expert in that area. People who are experts in certain areas provide more value, both to their current employer and also to a potential future employer.

Samantha: Stacy, does specialization pertain to hard skills or soft skills?

Stacy: That’s a great question. The answer is both, but allow me to explain.

Specializing in technical or hard skills is a little easier than specializing in soft skills. One reason is because there are so many opportunities to do so within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. As I mentioned earlier in this episode, technical skills encompass a lot of things, including equipment, methods, procedures, and animals. There are many opportunities to specialize in hard skills, and professionals can earn certifications in certain areas to prove their specialization.

There aren’t quite as many opportunities as far as soft skills are concerned, and there are maybe even fewer opportunities to earn certifications when it comes to these skills. However, it is still possible to specialize in soft skills. In addition, soft skills are incredibly valuable to employers. It would be a mistake to ignore the need for acquiring them, and it definitely helps your career if you decide to specialize in one or even more than one of them. While it’s true that it might be more difficult to prove your soft skill specialization on a resume, your acquisition of these skills can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Samantha: I’ve heard that if you read for one hour per day about something in your chosen field, you’ll become an expert in that something after a year’s time. Is that true?

Stacy: I don’t know for sure if that’s true, namely because it depends upon your chosen field and what that something is. But that is definitely a good start and a great suggestion!

Samantha: So knowledge and specialization definitely play important roles. What’s next?

Stacy: Networking is next. And when I say networking, I mean face-to-face networking in addition to social networking. I want to start with social networking first, though, and I primarily mean LinkedIn.

I’ve encountered quite a few Animal Health and Veterinary professionals over the years who have not had a LinkedIn profile. This is a big mistake. You can’t be found on LinkedIn—by an Animal Health recruiter, a Veterinary recruiter, or an employer—unless you’re actually on LinkedIn. And some of these professionals have been in the employment marketplace for years, even decades.

Samantha: And they still didn’t have a LinkedIn profile?

Stacy: They did not. I can’t emphasize enough that you must have a LinkedIn profile today. Not only that, but you should also use your LinkedIn profile. You just can’t set it up and then forget about it. That’s almost as bad as not having one at all. Remember, when a hiring manager receives the resume of a potential candidate and they’re interested in that candidate, they will check out the candidate’s profile on LinkedIn. Those two things go hand-in-hand. That’s something else we’ve discussed on this podcast, and it’s very important.

But LinkedIn is valuable beyond just being there for when a hiring manager wants to check out your profile. It also offers opportunities to connect with other professionals within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. This includes thought leaders and other prominent people within your chosen field.

The same is true of attending conferences and tradeshows. I attend multiple events every year, and I can attest to the value that they offer. I believe these networking opportunities are even better than what social media can offer because they’re on a face-to-face basis. That makes them more personal and more effective.

Samantha: How is that, Stacy?

Stacy: If you want to pursue excellence and have a great career, then you must be around other people who also want to do that. If you’re attending a conference or trade show, you’re probably doing so because you want to grow your career. You want to reach your true professional potential. Most everyone else at the tradeshow probably has the same goal in mind, which is exactly what you want. You want to talk and network with other people who are pursuing the same things. Doing so will help to elevate your way of thinking. You’ll find out what other people are doing and discover better ways to do things.

Samantha: That’s called “iron sharpening iron,” isn’t?

Stacy: Yes, that’s one phrase that’s used to describe it. No matter how good a person is at what they do, they don’t know everything. That’s why networking is so important and why surrounding yourself with the right people is also important. And face-to-face networking at a conference or tradeshow is the perfect solution.

Samantha: Stacy, are their other steps on our list?

Stacy: Yes, there are, and some of our listeners might not like our next one.

Samantha: Why is that?

Stacy: Because it’s writing. Not everyone likes to write, and let’s face it, not everyone is good at writing. But you should not let that stop you! Remember, to this point, we’ve discussed acquiring knowledge and becoming an expert. Once you’ve done both of those things, it’s important to show the world how knowledgeable you are.

Samantha: Where would a person do that? With a blog?

Stacy: Yes, a blog might be a good place to start. You could start your own blog or maybe your employer has one. In addition, LinkedIn has a blogging platform called LinkedIn Pulse. You could use theirs, as well. In fact, I would recommend writing for LinkedIn Pulse, even if you write for another blog, too. You can also write for other publications or trade journals. There are a lot of places online where you can submit information to illustrate your expertise. Ideally, you should explore them all and use the ones that make the most sense for you and the ones that are the most effective.

Samantha: Stacy, we’re almost out of time. Do you have one more career tip that you’d like to share with us?

Stacy: I do! That step is continuous education. And when I say that, I mean a number of things. I mean reading books. Remember when you mentioned earlier about reading about something in your chosen field for one hour a day to become an expert? That’s exactly what I’m talking about. But I’m also talking about listening to podcasts like this one, attending online webinars, watching training videos, and even listening to instructional CDs. You should strive to improve yourself in any way that you can. If you don’t continually improve yourself, then you won’t be standing still; you’ll actually be falling behind. That’s because the employment marketplace, your chosen field, and all of the people within both are all moving forward. And if they’re moving forward and you’re standing still, then you’re actually falling behind.

Samantha: That is a great point, Stacy! Thank you so much for being here today and for providing all of this information for our listeners about building a great Animal Health or veterinary career.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Samantha, and thank you. As always, it has been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next podcast episode of the Animal Health Employment Insider!