Episode #155 – The Job Market for Veterinarians: Preparing for a Recession

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #155 - The Job Market for Veterinarians: Preparing for a Recession
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Executive Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter, Stacy Pursell, CEO and founder 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 organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.  Stacy is a workplace and workforce expert in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Industry.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about the job market for veterinarians, and specifically, preparing for a recession as an Animal Health or Veterinary professional. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

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

Julea: Stacy, this seems like a peculiar choice for a topic. What was behind the choice of this topic? Isn’t the economy good at the moment, and aren’t we experiencing a candidate-driven market? And isn’t the job market for veterinarians good right now?

Stacy: First of all, you are correct. The economy is good right now, and we are experiencing a candidate-driven market. There is no doubt about both of these things.

In fact, earlier this year, the National Unemployment Rate in this country fell to 3.6%. The last time unemployment was that low was in 1969, when the rate dipped to 3.5%. At the end of October, the unemployment rate was even 3.6%. And yes, the job market for veterinarians is also very good, and I’d like to take a few moments to talk about that, as well.

Julea: Yes, please do Stacy.

Stacy: Earlier in 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its unemployment rates by occupation. 24/7 Wall Street, which is a financial news company, then ranked the occupations from best to worst in terms of job security.

Veterinarians were ranked #7 on the list, with an unemployment rate of 0.4%. Not only that, but Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were also on the list at #2 with an unemployment rate of 0.1%.

What this tells you is that almost everyone who is qualified to fill positions within the Veterinary profession already has a job. There is almost no one who is unemployed, at least statistically, within the profession.

Not only that, but I was also at a conference in Las Vegas, within the pasts year, where I attended an analytics session. During the session, we learned there is currently one veterinarian for every five job openings that are posted on the AVMA job board.

Julea: And Stacy, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the job market for veterinarians projected to be good in the future, too?

Stacy: Yes, and we’ve talked about this before. According to the BLS, certain occupations within the Veterinary profession are set to grow at a rate of 19% during the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. As a means of comparison, the average projected growth rate for all other occupations is only 7%.

The bottom line, at least according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that there will be over 50,000 new Veterinary jobs by 2026.

And there’s also something else to consider

Julea: What’s that Stacy?

Stacy: According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, an estimated 1,000 to 1,800 veterinarians retire every year and about 3,000 veterinary students graduate each year and enter the workforce.

Julea: So based on those numbers and the statistics from the BLS, there’s no way that supply can keep up with demand, is that right?

Stacy: Yes, based on those numbers and statistics, that’s correct, at least right now.

Julea: Okay, why did you say “right now”? Is it possible that these numbers could change?

Stacy: They could, and the reason they could is because they’re projections. The BLS is projecting what is going to happen based on current conditions. And I happen to agree with the BLS. If current conditions remain the same, then these projections and predictions are likely to become true.

Julea: IF current conditions remain the same Stacy?

Stacy: That’s right, IF they remain the same, and that’s the driving force behind today’s podcast episode. Because there’s a chance that they will not stay the same.

Julea: You’re talking about a recession, is that right?

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct. Recessions are an inevitable part of economic life, both in the United States and in countries throughout the world. That means we will once again experience a recession. No matter how much we’d like to convince ourselves that it’s not going to happen, it will at some point.

However, it’s important to note that the next recession may not be as bad as the Great Recession. In fact, there are economists who believe that it won’t be as bad. It could be just your “garden variety” recession. But even if that’s the case, it means marketplace conditions will be different than they are right now.

Julea: How’s that Stacy?

Stacy: People may have short memories, but the job market for veterinarians is not as good when there’s a recession. In fact, it’s not as good for professionals working in almost any industry or profession. That’s because candidates do not have the leverage when there’s a recession. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mild recession or not. There are fewer job opportunities in the marketplace, and that includes Animal Health jobs and Veterinary jobs. And if there are fewer jobs, it means employers are looking for fewer candidates to fill those jobs. So as you can see, there’s a domino effect involved.

Julea: It’s also true that people lose their jobs during a recession, too, is that right?

Stacy: Yes, it is. Some people do lose their jobs, and that will likely happen again during the next recession. Once again, there’s simply no way around it. That’s another reason I wanted to talk about this topic today. I want to help Animal Health and Veterinary professionals prepare for the conditions that will exist during the next recession.

Julea: Stacy, I have a question. With all of those numbers and statistics that you presented earlier, it seems as though there is a huge shortage of Veterinary candidates. Even if a recession happened, wouldn’t the job market for veterinarians still be better than the job market for other professionals in the marketplace?

Stacy: That’s a great question, and I understand why you would ask it. However, recessions are difficult things to predict. First, it’s difficult to predict when one will happen. Second, it’s difficult to predict how severe it will be. And third, it’s difficult to predict how long it will last.

Because of this, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved with the circumstances surrounding a recession. So to some extent, it’s impossible to predict what will happen with any degree of certainty. It is true that there are a lot of Animal Health jobs and Veterinary jobs in the current market and a lack of qualified candidates. Believe me, no one knows that better than me! I’m in the trenches every day speaking with Animal Health employers and Veterinary employers.

However, if a recession happens during the next few years, it’s going to change the conditions that exist in the market and also the BLS projections. The only question is how much is it going to change them?

Julea: So what advice do you have for our listening audience?

Stacy: My first piece of advice is to be proactive, and if you’re listening to this podcast episode, then you’re already doing that. When you’re proactive, you’re able to create more options and choices for yourself. And when you have more options and choices, then you can make better decisions, which will help you both professionally and personally.

There’s a book that I’ve discussed previously about the benefits of being proactive, and I’d like to mention that book again.

Julea: Which book is that?

Stacy: That book is Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay. The book presents a simple analogy, one that is very applicable to this conversation.

When you’re thirsty, you need water now. You don’t want to wait. In fact, by most estimates, you can only live three days without water. So in a literal sense, you would have to dig your well before you were thirsty . . . or you would run the risk of death.

In the figurative sense, when you need a job, you want a job now. However, just like digging a well, it takes time to find a job. One isn’t going to fall into your lap just because a recession hits and you find yourself suddenly unemployed. And actually, one of the reasons to be proactive about this is because you should want to put yourself in a position where you won’t lose your job during the next recession, no matter how dire economic conditions might become.

Julea: How exactly can people be proactive about getting ready for the next recession?

Stacy: That’s a great question, and I have the answer. In fact, I have four steps for being proactive in preparing for the next recession.

The first step is to take stock of your value. As I’ve said before, everything in the employment marketplace comes down to value, and the value that you provide as a professional is the most important value in terms of preparing for a recession.

Think about it for a second. When a recession hits and employers are forced to cut back, where do they cut first in terms of personnel? They cut those employees deemed to be “non-essential.” That’s another way of saying those employees do not provide a lot of value.

So the first step is to take an objective look at the value that you provide to your current employer.

Julea: What’s the second step?

Stacy: The second step is to identify the options that are available to you. Remember, a person’s career growth depends upon the options and the opportunities that are available to them at any given time. This is why it’s important to know what those options are.

Julea: Stacy, are you talking about the options that are available to a professional at their current employer or the options that are available to them at other employers?

Stacy: Both, actually. Not only that, but an analysis of a person’s options should also include an analysis of the financial health of their current employer. How well could the organization weather a recession? Could it weather down times well, or would it be susceptible to the effects of a recession? These are important questions, because the answers could hold the key to what happens to a person during the next recession.

Julea: That makes sense. What’s the next step?

Stacy: The next step is one that I strongly advocate, and that step is increasing your networking efforts. And I say this because networking gets results!

Julea: Are you talking about networking through LinkedIn?

Stacy: That’s part of it, but I’m also talking about face-to-face networking. That’s just as valuable, and in many cases, it’s even more valuable.

There are numerous industry events in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession each year. There are the big ones like VMX, WVC and AVMA, but there are also regional and local ones, too. These events are prime opportunities for not only training and education, but also for networking. You never know what another person knows or who they know. I say that it’s not just what you know and it’s not just who you know, but it’s both what you know and who you know.

Julea: Stacy, we have one more step on our list. What might it be?

Stacy: Our fourth and final step is to invest in yourself with training and education. This is also something that I’m passionate about.

We’ve already established the fact that everything comes down to value—your value. So it makes sense that you would want to increase that value as much as possible, and a person’s value includes not only their level of experience, but also their skills.

Julea: There are two types of skills, isn’t that right? Hard skills and soft skills?

Stacy: That’s right! Hard skills are technical skills, and soft skills are people skills. Organizations want employees who offer value in both categories, which is why you should continually strive to invest in yourself in both of these categories. Remember: there is NO such thing as possessing or offering too much value.

Julea: Stacy, thank you for all of this great information. We’re just about out of time for today. Is there anything else that you’d like to add today about the job market for veterinarians and the possibility of a recession?

Stacy: Yes. I just want to add that I am, by nature, an optimistic person. I hope for the best. But if you want to build your career the right way, you can’t just hope for the best. You also have to prepare for the worst, and that includes preparing for a recession. I’m not saying to be afraid of a recession. I’m just saying to prepare for one.

Julea: Thank you once again, Stacy, and I invite our listeners to join us next time for the Animal Health Employment Insider when we address more hiring and employment issues in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. We hope that you’ll join us then! In the meantime be sure to check out the hot jobs on The VET Recruiter website at www.thevetrecruiter.com. If you are a hiring manager who needs to hire talent for your organization reach out to Stacy through the website again at www.thevetrecruiter.com