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Veterinary Recruiting and Hiring in Today’s Challenging Market

 

The VET Recruiter® | Veterinary Recruiting Roundtable

 

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Stacy Pursell:

We are here talking about graduating from veterinary school and what it was like then versus now, and we have a panel of different generations. I’d like to start and have each person on the panel introduce themselves, say where you went to veterinary school and what year you graduated. Wendy?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Hi, I’m Dr. Wendy Hauser and I’m an Oklahoma State grad, and I graduated in 1988.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

My name is Scott Spaulding, and I’m a University of Wisconsin graduate from 1991.

Dr. William Hodges:

Dr. William Hodges, and I graduated from Texas A and M in 2014.

Emily Farmer:

Emily Farmer, I’m a current student at Kansas State and I will graduate in 2021.

Stacy Pursell:

Well, let’s talk about the job market. Wendy, when you graduated from veterinary school, what was the job market like? What were your goals when you graduated from veterinary school and tell me about your career path in a nutshell?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Well, I had actually had a fair amount of equine experience. I grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma with horses, so I thought I would be an equine and small animal practitioner, but as I started looking for jobs, it quickly morphed to all small animal. I looked on the East Coast because I have older sisters and my best friend were in the mid Atlantic area. I was looking for a practice that had great support. We didn’t call it mentorship then, but I want a great support and I wanted a larger practice that would be a great learning experience for me. I was pretty picky. I had a list of questions when I went in, and I kept really good notes after the interview.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I think I interviewed at four places and I had applied for an internship. I did get placed in a program, but it was with the early VCAs in Detroit and that was not where I’d hoped to go, so I ended up going to a practice in New Jersey.

Stacy Pursell:

What was the job market like when you graduated?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

It was not hard to get a job. I had offers from three of the four places that I interviewed, and then they just had to sit and wait until after the match. They were all willing to wait to find out if I was going to be on the market or not.

Stacy Pursell:

Scott, what was the job market like when you graduated and tell me about your career path?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

In 1991, I think there was a plethora of jobs available at that time, and I think I had numerous job offers probably six or seven job offers. I grew up as a Wisconsin farm kid and when I graduated from veterinary school, I think I could have done almost a small animal or equine. I ended up in a practice that is the practice that I’m still at today. That was my first job, so I’ve been there since 1991. The first year, I did mixed animal. I was in the small exam room doing small animal and then out to the farms. I found myself really being happy out on the farms rather than cooped up in a small exam room. I practice for 27 years as a large animal veterinarian doing primarily equine.

Stacy Pursell:

William, what was the job market like when you graduated from school?

Dr. William Hodges:

In 2014, we’re just really mostly recovering from 2008, 2010 and so it was healthy comparatively to where it was all through vet school because during vet school, everybody was talking about how rough it was out there. Then when we graduated, it started to recover. It wasn’t hard, but it was great jobs if you were willing to go to them, but if you were the ones that were really specific to an area, it was a little bit harder for you to find it. The other thing is I grew up on a farm as well with beef cattle and stuff like that in Texas, and so I like the idea of mixed animal a lot and that was also when mixed animals stopped really existing in a large scale way unless you went to where that was, which is usually smaller towns and stuff.

Dr. William Hodges:

That wasn’t as exciting for me, so I ended up in emergency because of I didn’t know what else to do kind of thing. I wouldn’t say it was bad, but it wasn’t the same as what it sounds like you guys are describing.

Stacy Pursell:

Emily, you are still in veterinary school. How would you describe your impression of the job market today?

Emily Farmer:

While at school, they talked to us a lot about it and they always use words strong and healthy, and they throw around statistics like there are six jobs for every veterinary student. They make it sound we really have our pick of what we want to do. They do say that there are certain need areas which are obviously harder to fill, but they really give us the impression that we really have the ability to pick whatever we would like to do for our first position.

Stacy Pursell:

Emily, as you look towards graduating from veterinary school, what are you looking for in an employer? What are the things that are most important to you as you evaluate different options and different employers?

Emily Farmer:

Sure. We always hear the buzzword mentorship and it’s always hard. No one really defines what they actually want in that, but I think it’s a lot like Wendy was saying, just support in a practice, support from my employer, feeling the ability to be able to come in and contribute to things like the culture because obviously when you add a new person to your practice or any business, the person is going to change how everything was already running. I really like someone who is open to that change and not resistant in allowing me to do what I would to do with still in reasonable bounds of what is already existing in the practice.

Emily Farmer:

I think we have a lot of issues facing our veterinary profession these days and finding someone that is willing to help address those issues and really contribute to what I feel passionate about is also important to me.

Stacy Pursell:

What are some of the issues that you are seeing that the industry is experiencing right now?

Emily Farmer:

Mental health is definitely the big one. Suicide rate increasing. There’s a lot of talk in school about it and a lot of schools have tried to find ways to address the mental health while in school, and then also out in practice with different communities, online communities that offer support for people experiencing difficulties in their mental health.

Dr. William Hodges:

Just out of curiosity, did you guys have any of that kind of concern when you were graduating?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

The emotional distress-

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

… or concern? Yeah, I don’t remember that as being an issue when we were…

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

It certainly wasn’t talked about. It certainly happened. I had a classmate who committed suicide in this first year out of school. I’ve had a few more sense. I had some in the classes below me, so suicide happened. It’s always happened. We just didn’t get the perception of it because there wasn’t social media. You heard about it through written articles or telephones. I think a lot of the emotions, I try not to say I remember how I feel when because I don’t know that how I felt is relevant to how you feel, but when I talked to a lot of students, because I love students, so I do talk to a lot of students.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

When I talk to them and I say, “I remember when I graduated from vet school, now we have a term for it, the imposter syndrome, right? I’m called a doctor. I have all the knowledge I need, and I bet this resonates with you, Scott, how do you apply it, right?”

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

At that point, you just got out and did it and you learned. It’s scary any which way you look at it because you have to transition into that leadership and ownership role of being a doctor. I don’t mean practice ownership. I mean owning your profession.

Stacy Pursell:

Let’s talk about mentorship. Scott, when you and I were first talking this morning, you said mentorship is different today than it was when you graduated. Tell me what you mean by that.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Well, I think to your point, I think mentorship is really one of those keywords that it’s out there all the time and people oftentimes say the word mentorship and without really defining exactly what that means. I think it means something different to almost everybody that talks about it. I think number one, to be a mentor, it’s easy to say I’m going to be a good mentor, but being a good mentor really takes a commitment and it’s something that as a mentor, you need to be there. I also think to be a mentee, I think again it’s easy to say I want to be mentored, but then when it truly comes to being mentored, there’s a commitment to that.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think today compared to when I was first in practice, I think today it’s more than just learning how to be a veterinarian. I think it’s not only learning to practice good medicine and good surgery. It’s stepping into that leadership role, it’s truly understanding what the culture is in these practices, and there are some practices out there that just have tremendous cultures and are very open and warm and welcoming and receiving. There’s other practices out there that are really challenging, and I think that makes a big difference is just the type of person as a new graduate that you are and what you want to accomplish, and then finding that right fit in that practice, but then I think it’s going on to developing that leadership skills.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I heard it here already this morning where recent graduates want to get into a practice where they can make a difference, where they can have an impact, but I think as a practice owner, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for people that can come into our practice and have a different perspective of the industry. I don’t talk about just the veterinary industry, the veterinary profession. I talk about the animal health industry, and we look for really good general practitioners that are just great communicators that have a vision for the future, that have the courage to try things, that when the phone rings and an animal owner calls with a problem, they find a way to say yes.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

That’s how it fits in the practice, but then I see even at the next level is just people that are in a position to open doors for people and actually opening the door rather than just encouraging people to open the door themselves. I think those are some of the things that have changed from my perspective over the years.

Stacy Pursell:

That’s good insight and William, how do you view mentorship and as you graduated a few years ago, what were you looking for in a mentor and how were you mentored?

Dr. William Hodges:

When I think back on it, I don’t remember specifically targeting and wanting mentorship because I felt a little lost when I graduated because I had initially thought that I was going to do something mixed animal, and then when that didn’t become available, I was in this weird position of not sure what I wanted to do. When I did find the opportunity that I did find it in an emergency practice, I was really just excited to learn if I could actually do what it was that I was supposed to be doing from vet school because I didn’t work in veterinary practices before vet school. I wasn’t really sure what any that was going to be like.

Dr. William Hodges:

When I think back on it like what did I really think of as mentorship, I would say that I probably thought of it simply as having somebody available for the situations that I didn’t know how to handle, and I was fortunate that I got into a position where the practice was really forced to mentor me for a 3-month period because I didn’t have a license, so they had to. I was fortunate in that and I’m not sure what it would have been like had I not had that availability to me, but I was comfortable. I was comfortable in those positions because I felt that. I felt that I wasn’t really alone even on the days that I was alone because they made it clear that they were available and they would.

Dr. William Hodges:

In the right circumstances, they would have come in or whatever, at least been available on the phone. I didn’t feel I was by myself and I guess that’s a little bit what it was. It was just like I’m okay going there, but I want to be able to hold your hand in case I need it and that to me is what it was, and I had that. Now when I’m talking to students and working with interns and things like that, it feels like I see both perspectives. I see students that really want to have that on anonymity and be allowed to explore a little bit, but as long as there’s somebody there.

Dr. William Hodges:

I work with an intern right now and she regularly wants to try things and just ask me, “But if you don’t mind, don’t go see a room for the next 20 minutes. Just do some paperwork so you’re in the office in case I need something.” Absolutely, and she rarely ever asked for it. She just wants to know that there is that option there in case she gets to a spot that she’s not comfortable. I see that and then at the other end of the spectrum, and I’m not sure why, I see other students where they are barely even willing to try things unless you’re right there standing next to them.

Dr. William Hodges:

It almost feels like they’ve been scared into a point where they think something is going to go wrong for sure and when it does go wrong, it’s going to be a bomb explodes. There’s not any time to recover and I’m not sure sure why that is.

Stacy Pursell:

When we were talking in Washington DC this summer, I made a comment to you. I said that I’ve interviewed a large number of students graduating from school and a newer grads, and one of the things that they talked to me about is they are reluctant to do surgery, for example, or dentals. You and I had an interesting conversation about that. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Do you have any concerns about coming out of school and doing surgery or dentals?

Emily Farmer:

No, I’m probably one of the few that’s actually very excited to try a lot of things. I’m probably fit more in the first example that William had, but I know a lot of my classmates are very particular about certain things that they absolutely do not want to do, and it’s very interesting to hear that perspective.

Stacy Pursell:

Why do you think that is? Why do you think that that is something that I hear often and then William might also like your viewpoint on that as well.

Emily Farmer:

Yeah. I think growing up, a lot of the younger generations are taught more and more to communicate feelings and be stronger in expressing disinterests. They are really trying to get the most out of what they want in a position, and then also goes to the status of the current job market as well. We’re also constantly told that we can basically pick what we want in a practice because there are so many open positions, so I think that contributes as well.

Stacy Pursell:

It’s good information. William?

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah, I think that what she just said helps me in answering that, is that the younger generations are really good at expressing disinterests, right? We’ve gotten a lot better at our comfort with saying no. I don’t know what you’d call it like disobedience, but it’s like they’re more comfortable standing up for what they don’t want to do. I think a lot of times, we hear that from the outside and we assume that that’s true. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not totally convinced that a lot of those individuals that say they will never do that really mean that they would never do that.

Dr. William Hodges:

It’s just that’s their gut response is that they don’t, but when they’re actually in the position and they get the opportunity to learn some of these things, some of them maybe might be a little bit more willing to try and engage with that stuff. Would you…

Emily Farmer:

Yeah, I would agree, especially if there is someone there that’s willing to step in if something goes awry.

Dr. William Hodges:

Right. If they say I’m not willing to do dentals, what I hear is I’m not willing to do dentals day one by myself, and I don’t think anybody wants them to do that for the most part and that seems to be the difference for me is that in when I’m talking with students in school and I’m hearing some of these perspectives and then I’m working with interns at some of the relief places that I go to, that it doesn’t ever seem to match up. The stuff you’re hearing in schools and that kind of stuff just doesn’t seem to be the same individuals that I’m working with out in the field, and maybe that’s because I’m tailoring myself by only working with interns that generally want to be more engaged and stuff like that. I suppose that’s possible.

Stacy Pursell:

I’m curious, Wendy, when you were coming out of school, did you feel that way? Did you jump right into surgery? How did you…

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I went to a 12-vet practice. We had very, very innovative hospital. They had the main hospital…

Dr. William Hodges:

In the ’80s, the 12-vet practice?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Yes.

Dr. William Hodges:

Wow.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Well, they had the main hospital, they had three satellites, and they added a fourth while I was there. Part of the reason I chose this hospital, you were scheduled for 60 to 80 hours a week, so I knew what I was getting into. I knew I was going to work hard. I knew I was going to see a huge caseload. We had rounds every day, one of the owners and then the senior associates and then they hire three associates a year. I started myself, a Michigan grad, and an Iowa state grad, and they preferred the central or upper Midwest graduates because I had received so much hands on training in school. They knew that we were a faster starter.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

When you were in surgery that first year, you had a half a day surgery a week and there was always a senior associate or an owner in with you. Most of the time, senior associates and I still stay in touch with my senior associate that I spent most time with. He just retired. I think that with 60 to 80 hours a week, there really wasn’t a break in period. These were cranking practices that you did not have anyone helping you in the exam room. You were doing everything in 10-minute appointments, very, very different. All the CE restraining the animal, having the owner restrain the animal, it was just a different time in medicine.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

We made it work and we kept good records, and it was a great learning experience. I owe a lot to that hospital because they did practice good medicine. I think that it’s not unusual to feel tentative when you go out there. It’s new and again you’ve got it all up here, but how do you get it to translate to here? That was what support looked like to me. I certainly have some strong feelings we can circle back around to what the relationship between mentors and mentees should look.

Stacy Pursell:

You mentioned you worked 62 to 80 hours a week.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Sixty.

Stacy Pursell:

Sixty.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Six, zero to eight zero.

Stacy Pursell:

Okay, and today one of the things that I hear often from employers is that they complain that they cannot find people to work 40 hours a week or more than 40 hours a week. I’m curious about that. You were working 60 to 80 hours a week. Today people aren’t interested in working more than 40 hours a week. William and Emily, I’m curious about your perspective on that.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah, I mean Emily will be the better candidate because that was not something that we talked like or was even considered really when I was graduating. It is fascinating that in what five, six years you’ve seen this drastic shift in that direction because I mean when I graduated, there were options of slower, smaller stuff. I’m pretty sure if you really wanted to, you could find a certain small animal practice that is around the country. You could probably get a job there for four days a week and stuff like that, especially in certain areas. If you’re willing to go there, you could’ve negotiated that but in general, you didn’t talk about that.

Dr. William Hodges:

You found a job and you went to work and yeah, you negotiated a little bit here and there, but how much time you actually worked in the schedule of the hospital, was that up for real negotiation? You were for the most part trying to fit that mold. It’s not something that we really had that opportunity. I get it. I mean again, I think she’ll be the better candidate to describe why that’s the trend and happening.

Emily Farmer:

Yeah. I think a lot of people are in search of better wellbeing and more willing to fight for that. I go back and forth in talking to other students and a lot of them are searching for either part time work or multiple part time jobs or just a 4-day work week and I think a lot of that points to the wellbeing and wanting a good work life balance.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Well, may I point out just because I worked it, I knew what I was getting into, but as an owner, I never asked my associates to keep that type of a schedule. My second job, I worked about 40 hours a week, and when I was an owner with the schedules, it was anywhere from 38 to 43 scheduled hours a week and with a 3-day weekend every other weekend.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah. I mean, that would be competitive I think in today’s market, right?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Just because I did it didn’t mean it was right, but I knew what I was getting myself in for and I chose that practice.

Dr. William Hodges:

I think a lot of the hard thing is when you’re talking with students these days, you’ll mention something like that and everybody just shuts off about how, wow, I would never, but there is a certain level of value that that brought you, does it not, right? That’s something that I talk to students a lot too, when I’m like, “Yeah, it’s super stressful. It’s super hard, but that’s why internships are valuable is because they do have those kinds of schedules that are just incredibly challenging.” The differences is you can get that schedule by just going out into the real market, but that’s a different conversation entirely.

Stacy Pursell:

Well, we talked about the current job market and the current job market does favor the job seeker, so our employer is having to compromise on what they want in an employee.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I don’t think we have to compromise. I think there’s a few things that have happened living through the great recession of 2008 to 2010. In our practice in Janesville, Wisconsin, we had a general motors plant that closed there, and it really significantly impacted our practice. Our practice contracted by 30% to 40% by 2011, but since that time to practice, the economy locally has rebounded and it’s unbelievable how busy we are right now. It’s been that way for the last few years and it seems like there’s almost an unprecedented demand for an increase in veterinary services. I would say on the equine side, the equine industry really took a hit in the great recession and really there’s a lot fewer horses out there today than there was in 2005, 2006, 2007.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think it’s bottomed out and it’s maybe starting to rebound a little bit. On the small animal side though, you look at the growth of the animal health industry over the last 10 years and it’s just phenomenal how much it’s growing. We have that, an unprecedented increase in the demand for veterinary services. We talked a lot about veterinarians that are leaving the profession, that are retiring or leaving the profession, and I think AVMA thinks that maybe around 3000 veterinarians retire a year, but I mean, I happen to think there’s a lot more that are leaving the profession doing other things. We have 4500 approximately new graduates that are coming in every year.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We have maybe 4000 to 5000 leaving the profession. We have 4500 coming in, and we have this huge increase in demand for veterinary services. I think the other thing is that this demand looks a little bit differently. I mean, our pet owners, they’re really busy people oftentimes and so many veterinary practices are still… they open at eight and they close at five. In our practices in Wisconsin a few years ago, we started having evening office hours and things like that. We’d been in this location for 25 years, but people were coming into our practice that were in the community and they go, “I didn’t know this is where your practice was?”

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

That’s because when they were driving by, we were closed up. The lights were off, the doors were closed. Right now, most of our new customers are coming from non-traditional office hours, so that whole demand piece looks much different. I think back to when I first started, I think I was very similar to what Wendy said, and I essentially worked on my own from day one. I never really had anybody. I very distinctly remember my first day in practice, and I was out in the truck and I was out doing farm calls, and nobody showed me where the vaccine was or anything. I thought, okay, so I just rolled up my sleeves and did. I think one big difference is I remember then we were all independent.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We virtually did everything ourselves, and I think at that point in time as a large animal practitioner, I staked out my turf and I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect that turf. I didn’t want anybody else coming on my farm seeing my horses or anything like else that and today, I see it’s much more collaborative. I think that word came up and so for me, it was important that I was the one that was seeing those patients, but today I think what’s most important for most young graduates is that there’s really a successful outcome for the patient and a successful outcome for the animal owner.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I don’t think that this is that important to them, whether it’s they’re in charge of that or it’s another doctor in the practice or a practice down the road or a referral. I think for them, outcome is really important.

Dr. William Hodges:

I think but…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I’m not sure exactly why that is, but that’s something that I just see. I think this attitude of collaboration, I think it’s really good and I think it’s really healthy because it’s become much more complicated to provide veterinary services today. I would say I was probably in practice six or eight years before I had a technician that was riding in the truck with me and in my area, I was one of the first large animal doctors that had a technician with me. It really changed the way I as a doctor interacted with the client and interacted with the patient. I would be able to get out of the truck and I would just be able to talk to the horse owner, and really develop a really close relationship with them and find out really what their concerns were.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Animal owners, horse owners, really value that, really value your time and the ability to talk about everything that’s going on with their horse. I think one thing that’s changed in our practice over the years, we talk about this a lot, is that we’re more than veterinarians. Our staff is more than veterinarians, we’re truly animal experts. I think that that is something, as we get more and more people around us and supporting our doctors and providing services, we need to look at those people all being animal experts and playing an important role in the healthcare process for those animals. I think that’s where there’s a really big opportunity and if we as a profession don’t own that, there’s a lot of other people right now willing to step into that and take that over.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

The example that I cite very often was equine dentistry and when I graduated, I had very little training in dentistry. We knew teeth were important for horses, but veterinarian’s as a general rule back in the ’90s, they didn’t really do much you equine dentistry. We had a lot of lay dentists that were stepping into that role and we’re generating a lot of revenue, and not necessarily doing what was in the best interest of the patient, but veterinarians abdicated that and that was an area for us to bring back into the practice and became a big, big part of our practice.

Stacy Pursell:

Scott, you just talked about the supply and demand, and what pressures is the current job market putting on employers when looking for a new associate?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Right now, I have three practices in Wisconsin. We could easily employ three more small animal doctors that we just haven’t been able to fill those positions. If I look across MAVANA or your practice, we have 35 practices across the country. There’s probably 40 to 50 doctors right now that we could use in our practices, and we just can’t find them. I think what we’re really looking at doing is looking at the whole healthcare team, trying to put a more intentional system and process around each one of our doctors so our doctors can see more patients and can be more productive.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Again, then that really rolls back to really focusing on the culture and the practice that everybody works together really well, that people enjoy coming to work, that we’re having fun because I just marvel at some of the busy days we have and how many patients actually go through some of our practices. It’s incredible, it’s incredible.

Stacy Pursell:

You talked about the pet owner, they don’t just come between the hours of eight and five Monday through Friday. You mentioned how they want to come in the evenings or on the weekends. One of the things that I have been hearing frequently from doctors is that they don’t want to work on weekends. Have you experienced?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

No, we’ve not experienced that, but we have let our young doctors make what they want it to be, and we actually have some doctors that enjoy providing evening office hours because they can maybe come into work at noon or 2:00 in the afternoon. They can have their morning off and work those non-traditional, and they can be really busy. They can generate a lot of revenue, they can make a little bit of extra money, and it seems like they enjoy doing that. I don’t think the practice can dictate that. I think that you have to work together to figure out what that looks like, and we’ve even done some of that on the equine side where in our really busy times of the year, equine doctors often work well into the evening.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Our equine group a couple of years ago said, “Well, we’re just going to start scheduling regular office hours in the evening a couple of nights a week, but on those days, we’re going to be scheduling to work late, we’re going to start later in the day.” It was a really easy thing to do and it’s worked out really well. I think that’s what we look. I think we look for in our younger doctors are ideas to come in to help address some of the challenges that we have, and I think for us as practice owners realizing that we don’t have all the answers and we need to work together to figure out what this looks. There’s huge opportunities here if we could work together and figure it out.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I encourage our young doctors to really don’t… In the mentoring process oftentimes, they come and they ask me a lot of questions when we have our regular mentoring sessions, but very rarely do I give them the answers. It just becomes a discussion because I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years and I don’t necessarily have all the answers. It’s a different time today and we need different ideas, different perspectives.

Dr. William Hodges:

You said that you feel that the practice shouldn’t dictate some of the details of the position. How does that sound to you?

Emily Farmer:

Slightly terrified-

Dr. William Hodges:

Oh really? Okay.

Emily Farmer:

… but also interesting and exciting. I think depending on who you are. I think of either way, but to me, it sounds fun.

Dr. William Hodges:

Right. Really it sounds like what your idea is that you want to hire the person, you’re not trying to fill a position. You’re trying to hire the right person and then that person then adjusts and fits into your schedule as it makes sense, right? When you say that you’re talking to practices that are trying to hire people that may have to work a weekend, that’s one of the requirements, does it not sound possible that you just hire the right person and then your schedule adjusts? Whether that person doesn’t work weekends or not, the schedule adjusts.

Stacy Pursell:

Tailoring the job around the person and their wants and desires…

Dr. William Hodges:

Is that the core idea of modern job market is you’re trying to hire the right individual. I don’t know. That resonated with me a lot.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think as we’re saying that, I think one of them… and Margaret has actually very recently become just a really strong leader in our practice and Margaret graduated, it’ll be three years ago now. I met Margaret in a small Cambridge. They have coffee. She was a fourth year student and we were going to meet for half an hour and just get to know each other. Our meeting ended up being, I don’t know, what 2-hour meeting and I just thought I need to hire Margaret and we walked away from the table with Margaret having a job. We weren’t even looking to hire somebody, but it was the right person at the right time. It has been, I think probably one of the best or as, I don’t know we ever had a better hire in our practice than that.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

That’s one thing that she’s been able to come into the practice and she’s really enabled to define what that role looks like. This last year, our equine practice was up over 20% and I’m not in the practice anymore. I’ve got three younger associates that are doing it, and they’re not necessarily doing it the way I would’ve done it, but it’s not wrong. It’s just different. It’s just different, it works for them.

Stacy Pursell:

How have the working condition expectations of employed veterinarians changed over your time in the field?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Well, I think it depends on what area you’re looking at. Obviously, heard Scott and I say we had a plethora of jobs. Now I have chose to leave Oklahoma. Had I stayed in Oklahoma, it was a different story because the savings and loan crisis and agriculture crushed both at the same time in ’88 and people cannot afford to put food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet. They weren’t going to pay for vet care. I chose to go to a more affluent area, and so I had a different experience than my classmates might have in Oklahoma finding a job. My younger sister’s a veterinarian and she graduated four years after I did, and it was challenging for her to find a job because she wanted to stay in Oklahoma.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I think it depends in part when you graduate and what the market forces are. As far as other expectations, I believe that employers have to flex a little bit more, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that one of the things we do very poorly, and this has been highlighted in this morning’s conversation that we do very poorly in this profession, is we paint our people, all of our people, regardless of the position into boxes based on their job description. We don’t let their strengths shine. We don’t let them to choose within that job description, what motivates them and what do they want to own. I made this mistake as an owner.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I had an amazing technician that loved to create protocols and procedures and was great at it, but I needed her in the exam room but she was an equally strong communicator. We made a deal that a couple of hours a week that she could work on things along these lines, but then she wanted more and that’s where the conflict happened. I think having good honest conversations, finding good middle ground, having these conversations before the person is hired. Emily, for you, understanding the why of the practice, understanding their core values, knowing your why, knowing your core values, you can begin to have some defined criteria that let you know if you’re really going to match.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Spending time in the practice before you take the job, hugely important from both perspectives for the employer and the employee. When you ask in your interview process, what are you going to do for me, please know what you’re going to do for the practice and that sounds intuitive, but I don’t know about your experience. That’s not always what we get back. I did want to talk a little bit, you had said about the environment, the mentor-mentee relationship. It is a relationship. It is an equal responsibility contract between two people. The mentor is expected to support. As Scott pointed out, he doesn’t give answers. He asks the questions and helps you find the answers, but he wants them to come from you, but the mentee has an equal responsibility in that role.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

There should be a contract of expectations that is gone over so that you know we are going to meet weekly for the first two weeks. I am going to review all of your medical records for the first month. For the first two weeks, you start with me, you’re not going to see appointments. You’re going to watch me, you’re going to shadow. You’re going to get introduced to the clientele. When you start your surgeries, I am going to schedule you in my surgery schedule so that I am in my office working on other things and available. If you need to be in the room with you, I will be right there. Didn’t get a lot of dental training? Fine. I will invest in you right off the bat and I will send you to some excellent dental training we have on Colorado.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

These were all things I did, but you as new graduate and a younger graduate need to have the understanding that this is what this is going to look and how are you going to take these opportunities and translate them into growth for the practice.

Emily Farmer:

Exactly. I think that’s where a lot of the disconnect is with younger students is that they don’t always fully understand that it is an equal relationship, and they expect the mentor to lead and just provide everything for them.

Dr. William Hodges:

Is that being provided in that school that kind of explanation of the mentor-mentee relationship?

Emily Farmer:

In some aspects. Not always. I think it goes back to again how we were raised in wanting to express disinterests and things. They want the mentor to lead and hold their hand and guide them through everything without the expectation that they also have to contribute and ask for certain things from the mentor.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

That’s the second time you’ve said that. I have a cusp millennial, gen Z and a gen Z, two children, and I will tell you that a lot of the behaviors that we see that may cause pain points for veterinary employers are things that we as parents have provided for our kids. You need extra resources. You need tutors. My daughter is in med school. She’s just talking about how expensive the tools to study for her step test are going to be, and my husband’s like, “Just get them. Set yourself up for success. Get that tool. We will provide those resources for you to help you have every advantage,” and we’re lucky because we’re in a financial situation that we can do that.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

My parents always talked to me like I was an adult. It was natural for me to talk to my children. The generation that you are is that’s actually become a normal part of parenting. We solicit your opinions. “What car should we buy? Hey, we’re going to go on vacation, where do you want to go?” We’ve always treated you with an elevated status in the family. Therefore, you’re very confident in your abilities to have a conversation with an adult when you were younger and as a peer, regardless of what role. Scott is a CEO in his group of practices, yet he’s utterly approachable to any of his employees, and I think that that’s how you would want it to be, right?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

In previous generations, that hierarchical balance would have been a little bit of a check. That gets back to how you were raised, but most of us, Stacy Pursell has children that are gen Zs and she probably identifies with how she raised her kids to solicit their input. It just builds a different esteem.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, I’ve got a couple of comments to go along with that, and I think oftentimes when I think about a mentoring relationship, I almost think of it rather than mentoring, I think it’s almost as parenting, and that’s where you went with that. I think for me, that’s a real natural way to do it. I also think that this mentoring relationship from my perspective is I truly believe that if we look around the room here, we have all the answers if we have the right discussion. Oftentimes I find myself as a mentor just helping connect the dots, and sometimes that’s just what people… They have the answers, they’re just not connecting the dots that I think oftentimes I think it’s more valuable as a mentee if you connect the dots yourself with a little bit of guidance.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think that’s a very valuable way to learn.

Stacy Pursell:

That segues into my next question. Let’s talk about generational differences and how we communicate and how does that affect the workplace with how the different generations communicate. William, I’d like for you to answer that question because you go into a lot of different practices, and you see how different people communicate from different generations.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah. Communications is really quite different between hospitals… I mean, it’s different between every aspect, right? It’s not just generations. It’s the differences between hospitals. It’s differences between locations of the country because I also travel to various parts of the country, and working in Massachusetts is a completely different communication style than in Pittsburgh and stuff like that. Specifically looking at the generations, I think that when I’m dealing with older colleagues, it’s a lot of times they like it to be more poignant. They want to know information.

Dr. William Hodges:

They don’t want to know the supportive information as much, and that sometimes it comes off to like I’ve seen it more from the outside as I watch interns interact or younger graduates interact with the older graduates and stuff. A great example now that I’m thinking about it is you have a really young early 20s technician that’s coming in and she is trying really hard to keep tabs on all that’s happening in the front, right? We’re talking an emergency practice, and so her job is triage and everything that comes into the door, she’s supposed to know what’s happening with it and so on and so forth. A lot of times, she’ll come back and she’ll tell us.

Dr. William Hodges:

She’ll just open up the doctor’s office and tell us this walked in the door. One of my older colleagues, she’ll close the door and then she’ll just start cursing and being like, “Gosh, what a useless person, like what?” Whereas I’m saying like, “Yeah, I agree. The information she provided us does not change anything. We are not going to do anything with that information, but it was important for her to feel she was making sure everybody knows. To her, it was really important to provide as much information as possible because that’s what we are, right?” We’re constantly on sources of information.

Dr. William Hodges:

We’re constantly receiving information and if we take a moment to stop, it feels weird and it’s almost uncomfortable and you almost feel like you’re missing something, right? Is that wrong-

Emily Farmer:

No, I…

Dr. William Hodges:

… for our younger generation, and so that’s how I see what she’s doing. She’s like Twitter, she’s being a constant source of information and my older colleague was like, “This is useless. I want none of this. You’re just making my life more complicated because now I’m thinking about the next thing that’s coming in the door.” I think that that to me highlights the biggest difference between the generations that I see is that we as the younger generations, we’re just used to… I’m not going to say that we’re used to the faster pace because we get uncomfortable when we’re dealing with 10-minute, 15-minute appointments, but at the same time… and that’s interesting that I’m thinking about it because at the same time we want constant updates and information.

Dr. William Hodges:

That’s what it feels from the perspective, but I don’t know why there is that difference now that I’m talking through it.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Not only are there generational differences and generational differences really depend on how you were raised and the forces-

Dr. William Hodges:

True. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

… that were in place in the world when you were growing up. There are some true generational differences, but if you were raised, and I talk about this when I present all the time, and I get some really great feedback. I had one young woman who said, “I am a baby boomer.” She’s in her 20s. She said, “I was raised by my grandparents who were immigrants and my values align with the baby boomer generation.” I think it goes a little further. I suspect what you’re hearing is a difference in communication styles. The older vet maybe an introvert. She’s probably getting stressed by knowing that there are all these cases that are out there waiting.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

She’s probably focusing on getting her work in front of her done, and so this is an interruption to her thought process. Maybe this younger technician is a little bit more affiliative or a little bit more of what I like to call a sunny personality that likes to talk and give a lot of explanation. I think that when we communicate with people, generational differences are huge. When someone gives advice of my generation, they expect their advice to be followed. When you give advice, you just want to be heard-

Dr. William Hodges:

Absolutely.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

… and so there are some generational differences depending how we grew up and those forces that shaped us, but I think a bigger issue here is our personality preferences and how like we to give and receive information.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I’m a little bit more like probably that older veterinarian just because I don’t need… If I ask you how your weekend was, I don’t need you to go on 20 minutes and tell me how your weekend was, and I’ve had team members that do that. You’re laughing.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

No, yeah, I just had one in. That’s exactly what I was thinking, but I think it’s not only true of younger veterans. I think it’s true of older veterinarians, and I think there are older veterinarians that are in our practices that are of a millennial mindset. I think it’s very true that there are younger doctors that are millennial mindset or somewhere in between, and I think I’ve learned that over the years, there’s a couple of our doctors in our practice that I do not ask that a lot of case because I’m going to be listening to them 20 minutes later. It’s like I don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore. It’s like I want the bullet points.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Land the plane.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, that’s all. That’s all I want, but I think that’s one thing that I’ve worked really hard on to just improve the way I’m able to communicate is to improve my listening skills and somebody might come to me with an issue and I might be in my office working on something, and I’ve learned to say that right now is not a good time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Can I come and find you later in the afternoon or can we talk about this tomorrow morning?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think some really little things that can really make a big difference to enhance communications, and the other thing I’ll say too people too is, “Okay, this is what I heard you say. Is that correct?” Or, “Wendy, I heard you say this,” because oftentimes people will talk and I don’t hear what they’re really saying and what they’re really meaning. I think there’s some of those tools that we can be very intentional and really getting much more engaged in that communication process.

Stacy Pursell:

I think Twitter has done that to us because we’re so used to hearing in those sound bites that one line. We don’t want to hear a 20-minute story. How do our values and desires change during different life stages? For example, younger employees may want to prove themselves more, but an older employee may want to feel that their work is valued and not every person reaches the same life stage at the same age.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Again, that’s where you are in life and what you want out of life or what you think you want out of life. I had one young associate. I love hiring new grads. I think they are the absolute best. They’re diamonds in the rough and I get to help them to figure out how to shine. I had one that said, “I’m never going to have kids,” and I just smiled inside to myself and thought, “Oh you probably will.” Two children later. “I’m never going to be a practice owner” Hmm, practice owner, successful sale and now is working in leadership for corporate entity. I think that things change as you mature. You guys have big financial pressures.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I mean we had financial pressures, but not to the magnitude. I think I had 10,000 in student loans when I graduated. My starting salary was 28,000. My rep was…

Dr. William Hodges:

Just out of curiosity, did 10,000 feel like a lot to you?

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

Well, I was making 28,000 a year gross. My apartment was $575 a month. I had a car payment of 200 a month, and I had a student loan of two 1910 a month. When you think of 28,000, there wasn’t much left to live on at the end, but I do think and you’re seeing it in the mark wellbeing study are mid career, those 30-year-old vets are feeling the stress. It’s hard. We could get into a whole conversation which is off topic about gender and the conflicting feelings you have as a woman and as a mom and for me as a practice owner. I do think that it depends where you are in your life, and I also do believe that you’re going to have different pressures because of financial pressures.

Dr. Wendy Hauser:

I would hazard to say Scott and I are pretty happy right now with where we are in life. We’re doing things because we can to make choices and we can follow the passions that we have. I think practice ownership is absolutely the key to that. It gives you the flexibility and honestly with student loan debts of 165,000 to 400,000 plus, I don’t say how you’re going to get out of debt if you don’t own a practice. I also think it’s the best thing you can do to grow yourself, but not everyone is meant to be a practice owner.

Stacy Pursell:

How should employers respond to the life challenges that are facing today’s veterinary graduates?

Dr. William Hodges:

Actually, before you respond, I want to see what the current graduate thinks of that. How do you think hospitals should respond to the stressors that you guys are having?

Emily Farmer:

Well, I think we’ve already touched on it a little bit. Being open to allowing us to come in and put our mark on the practice, put our mark on the position, and really viewing us as the individual, and not forcing someone to fit a certain job description.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, and I think I would echo that. I think I see a lot of practices around the country as I’m sure you do, and it always strikes me how many practices are out there that their business model has not changed all that much from the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s-

Stacy Pursell:

They don’t want to change.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

… and they don’t want to change, but if you look at our animal owners, the consumers of our professional services, the way their buying habits have changed, the way they interact with businesses they purchase services from, it’s changed dramatically and I think that is just such a huge opportunity for practices and for new veterinarians to come in and look at what is the business model look. I worry that if the profession doesn’t change, more and more practices are going to become irrelevant. You look at some of the really interesting business models out there and lap of love and what Danny’s done with her business, I mean 20 years ago, whoever thought that there would be a practice as dedicated to end of life and hospice services?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think that’s just absolutely remarkable and Danny had that vision, she also had the courage to pursue that, and that’s really what I encourage younger doctors to do is develop that vision. Don’t necessarily look at me and say that’s the way I have to do things. It’s a different time and we need to work together on that. I really enjoy empowering people and just getting out of their way and supporting them and encouraging them and help them. I think oftentimes, there’s people that have visions out there, they don’t recognize the opportunity associated with a vision.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think that’s why oftentimes in my mentoring relationships, it’s about me asking the questions just to get people thinking about what’s possible, and the same old way doing things. It’s not necessarily the right way.

Stacy Pursell:

One of the things that I hear frequently is a time off. People want more time off and some companies are offering unlimited time off. Not necessarily in the veterinary profession, but there is a ask for more time off. How does that impact the business to have, for example, open-ended or unlimited time off? How does that impact the practice and other doctors in the practice?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, and that’s really challenging because so many practices have this set business model, and they have a set number of hours that we need to have doctors working in our exam rooms. As I go back to talking about this unprecedented increase in demand for veterinary services and we’ve got a fair number of doctors that are leaving the profession, and we’ve got younger doctors that are coming in, there’s a disconnect there. As far as how we resolve that, I think that’s where we need to look at it in a lot of nontraditional things and how do we leverage technology in our practices to make everybody more efficient, how do we leverage our support staff, our technicians?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Our technicians are just so valuable in our practices today and how do we leverage our technicians to technician only appointment type things, what can they do so we can get our doctors doing what only doctors can do, and that’s doing surgery. It’s making a diagnosis and it’s prescribing medications, and how do we run our businesses so that we can pay our technicians more money just like we have to pay our veterinarians more money, so our seasoned technician who’s been in our practice for 15 or 20 years doesn’t feel forced to leave to go find another job doing something else, and that technician leaves the profession? Thinking about productive roles for them that they can add to our revenue streams and our practices. We have more money available to pay them.

Dr. William Hodges:

The profession is losing a lot of talent.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We’re losing a tremendous amount of talent. Yeah.

Stacy Pursell:

Emily, as you look forward to graduating from veterinary school, how much time off do you want? What are you hearing from your colleagues in school and should that be unpaid or paid time off?

Emily Farmer:

Yeah, so I think I hear two different things. Some people I talk to want to work the regular five, six day week and then are asking for three to four weeks off. Usually from what I’ve heard is half paid, half unpaid. Other students I’ve talked to are less interested in weeks off if they are able to get a 4-day work week, and they feel like that the 3-day weekend is sufficient in helping with vacation time. I personally would be interested in two weeks paid, two weeks unpaid time off and not being consecutive time off using the weeks consecutively.

Stacy Pursell:

How is technology changing and how is that impacting the profession?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think that’s really a challenge for a lot of these small independently owned veterinary practices to keep up with technology, and so many of the practices I look at that I work in, they can’t keep up with technology, let alone keeping up with just replacing the number of computers they have in their practices. I think there’s so many great technological solutions that are out there. How do we do remote examinations? When I talked to veterinary students, somebody you know will probably be doing surgery remotely. What does that look? I don’t know that anybody knows exactly what that looks, but that will probably happen, and I think that veterinary practices, veterinarians, we need to just open our eyes and look at what’s possible as far as applying technology.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

That’s our world today. That’s our the world we live in.

Stacy Pursell:

How does the industry deal with the mental stress and compassion fatigue issues?

Dr. William Hodges:

I don’t deal with it a lot unfortunately. When I go to schools and talk or when I go to conferences and engage and stuff like that, it’s talked about there, but I really don’t see it getting talked about a lot in practices. Now there is something that I have seen is I’ve seen some of your larger hospitals, there’s an individual in the facility that their true job is maintaining the health of the employees of the facility. They often will also be available to clients that need to reach out for emotional help or something that if they’re going rough euthanasia and stuff like.

Dr. William Hodges:

In the specific example I’m thinking of on most days in this individual works, literally part of her job is to walk through each office to this hospital has internal medicines in this office, in this office, so and so forth. She goes into each office and she just says, “Hey, how’s everybody doing,” and most of the time everybody’s pretty dismissive and just doesn’t, “Oh, we’re fine. Thanks.” Then she goes on her way, but it’s the fact that her face is there and people know that she’s there. I think that’s the biggest sign that I’ve seen that there are some places that are really trying to take it a little bit more seriously. I don’t think you’re going to see really obvious tangible change.

Dr. William Hodges:

It’s just not a situation where you’re going to see an obvious oh look at the impact this is having, but the option of having that there I think is… because sometimes that’s all you really need is you just need to know…

Emily Farmer:

Right, to know it’s an option.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah, and I think you would probably be better at commenting if that is all that’s needed because you work with the students that are having more of these issues. Is that true?

Emily Farmer:

Yeah, I think that would help a lot. I think that would be a big step in the right direction. I know certain schools are doing a lot to change how they address it with students. I think as we graduate more and more students, we might see a bigger change with that because I know at least among the populations of students that I speak with, a lot are very, very passionate about making that change. As we get more of these graduates into our profession, maybe that change will come and we’d be able to see a market change.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah.

Stacy Pursell:

Emily and William, how long do you expect to stay in clinical practice and do you have any interest in practice ownership?

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah. When I was originally in vet school, ownership seemed obvious. I was really involved with the VBMA and working with different doctors around and stuff, and practice ownership really seemed the obvious direction and then the corporates happened. I was in the timeframe when that really started to take off and it’s really taken a huge that that significant value or market value, and now there is plenty of opportunity for ownership. It’s just it’s not the easy pickings. You got to work to either find a place that needs work and fix it up and stuff like that. It’s just the housing market and real estate and stuff like that. It has become less appealing to me as I’ve been out.

Dr. William Hodges:

How long will I stay in clinical practice? Really depends on the opportunities that present themselves to me. I am not bound to clinical practice, nor do I see actual practicing as the only way that I’m going to be happy. If certain companies came to me tomorrow and offered me a position that sounded great, I would finish out the contracts that I have right now and I would go straight out of clinical practice. Yeah, but I also know very well how easy it is to do things relief. I mean the whole business model. I don’t think just even if I went and worked full time in industry of various sizes, I wouldn’t really be leaving clinical practice because I always have the option to do relief if I’m getting antsy one day and you can just…

Dr. William Hodges:

I know how easy it is to do stuff like that, so yeah.

Stacy Pursell:

What are you hearing from your colleagues and what are they saying about practice ownership?

Emily Farmer:

I think it’s becoming less and less of an interest in students. I’m a little biased being in a business organization that a lot of people want to own practices, but when I go back to my classmates, that’s less and less of a desire of theirs to become the business owner.

Dr. William Hodges:

What about you?

Emily Farmer:

I have an interest in it. I’m more interested in the business ownership aspect than I am in practicing actually. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stacy Pursell:

What are your thoughts on the affordability of vet care and the student debt issue?

Dr. William Hodges:

Oh, I think that the student debt issue is a well talked about issue. I would be curious to see what your perspective on it having dealt with a lot of students and stuff and also having seen that change over the years, I would be really curious to hear that. I’ve talked with Emily and a lot of the other students about their debt issues and the stress that it is, and the reality is that it is a reality and that there’s not anything that the current students are really going to be able to do about it.

Dr. William Hodges:

It’s an inevitability that they’re going to be graduating with and that’s unfortunate, but it’s also something I think like a lot of times we’re talking about, well how do we address this and stop it from getting worse, and it feels there’s this 10-year generation of individuals that are just getting forgotten about almost. Y’all are just going to have to deal with it. We’re trying to fix it for future generations, but the current one… yeah, the debt issue is it’s a tough one. It’s a really tough one, but I’d be curious to hear both of y’alls comments on that.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Yeah, I think the student debt issue is some of that I really been really engaged in for quite awhile, and I think it’s something that has really developed over maybe the last 20 years. I think if you look at just as what has happened and it’s not only the veterinary profession. I mean-

Dr. William Hodges:

No.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

… it affects every everybody and if you look 20 years ago as a society in the United States, we just chose not to fund colleges the way they used to be funded. I think in 2000, I think the University of Wisconsin got about 45% to 55% of its budget from the State of Wisconsin. Today, it’s about 15% of the budget comes from. We’ve taken that off taxpayers and put it on the backs of students. It didn’t happen over night, but it happened quickly. It happened quickly and somebody’s got to pay for that, and so now we look as owners of veterinary practices, we try to come up with strategies as how can we have new graduates come into our practices and start producing more revenue earlier their career, so they can receive a greater salary.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

You look at the lifetime earnings of anybody. The greatest factor that determines the lifetime earnings is what you make in your first year of full time employment, and that doesn’t make any difference if you’re paid as an intern or if you’re paid as a regular practicing veterinarian because one year of that… and that has a huge impact. You talk about the influx of private equity money and corporate veterinary medicine. There’s an unprecedented flow of capital that’s coming into our profession, an unprecedented low capital. I think as a two edged sword, I think it’s good and I think it’s bad.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

What strategies can we as a profession, can we as practice owners use to preserve that capital in the profession to the benefit of our practices and the benefit of our veterinarians, and the benefit of our staff. I think that’s a challenge, but I don’t necessarily think that corporatization is necessarily a bad thing just because of the capital that’s coming into the profession.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah. I mean we would not…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We need it to serve to solve some of the problems.

Dr. William Hodges:

Absolutely. If it were not for the original conglomerate Banfield coming into this profession, we would still be talking about salaries in 50,000 for new grads. The reason that we’re talking about this is because of all of that capital is flooded inside. I really don’t like when people bash on corporates because we are the profession we are today, and we have the potential we have today because of a lot of that stuff, but anyways, your comments on the debt stuff.

Emily Farmer:

I think better education is needed with the actual students before they graduate how to manage your debt, learning that you don’t necessarily need to borrow all that is offered to you, and a lot of students don’t understand the repayment options either. I think education just needs to be stronger.

Stacy Pursell:

Core education on the financial planning side.

Dr. William Hodges:

I wonder when graduates are going to practices, are the practices themselves, the hiring practices, talking to the students about their own financial issues? There’s always the talk of salary, but is that something that you guys in the hiring process or do you engage with the students at all?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We are becoming more and more proactive in that area and actually in our practices in Wisconsin right now, we’re working on putting together a formal financial planning for not only our recent graduates, but for all of our employees because that’s been identified as something that everybody sees as high value. I think going back to the student debt issue, I think there’s a lot of things at the grassroots level that can be done. For example, at the university of Wisconsin, it comes to this how much student loan they might going to take out. At Madison, they used to award scholarships in the spring after people already had to take their student loans out for the next fall.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

One simple thing they did in Wisconsin is they awarded scholarships for the next year in the fall semester. Somebody knows that, okay, I’ve got a $5000 scholarship in my pocket, I can take out less student loan, and those little things like that can have a huge impact to trying to pay back this debt over 25 or 30 years looking at the interest rates on some of these loans. I mean it just amazes me that there are people out there that are paying 7%, 10%, 12% on student loan debt. It just amazes me. We have to come up with a way to bring that interest rate down. We need to find ways where practices can help pay down that student loan, and I think there needs to be some legislative change in some of these areas.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Student loan debt, the interest paid out at it, why isn’t a tax deductible? Why can’t you deduct that off your taxes? Again, it would help a little bit.

Dr. William Hodges:

Right.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think there’s a lot of…

Dr. William Hodges:

You’re not getting to politics though.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

No, but I think there’s a lot of little grassroots things out there-

Dr. William Hodges:

Absolutely.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

… that people can get involved and you can help your little part of the world. Maybe me as a practice are, maybe I can help out a recent graduate get a lower interest loan. I can maybe figure out a way where the practice can help pay some of that student loan debt. All those things I think can add up and make a difference and make that debt more palatable.

Dr. William Hodges:

In the hiring agencies, in the practices that you’re talking with, is that something that has been a part of the conversation with the hiring practices?

Stacy Pursell:

Not so much. Some more companies that we work with are starting to try to figure out how they can develop programs to help the students pay off their debt, but I would say the discussion on the financials is more about the salary and the compensation and the benefits. Some of the employers I’ve seen have said don’t want to talk about that issue with the students, or they don’t have a solution for it.

Dr. William Hodges:

Do you guys think that it would be of value?

Emily Farmer:

I think so.

Dr. William Hodges:

Say you as speaking for the entire student body of the United States, yeah.

Emily Farmer:

Oh, yes. I think so, especially as we’re bridging the gap in trying to get schools to take on that role. I don’t think it necessarily will continue to need or should continue to be with the employer, but maybe that would be beneficial as we’ve reached a gap in getting schools to take on that.

Dr. William Hodges:

The other part of that question that you have said to me…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think 10 years ago, that whole discussion was off limits is the way I felt. Finances are very, very private. We don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about debt. That’s changed in the last 10 years and people want to talk about debt. As part of the hiring process, frequently that’s what I asked, how much student loan debt do you have. Some people want to share that. Some people don’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the question, doesn’t hurt to have the discussion.

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah. The other part that you had mentioned in that previous topic was affordability of vet care, and I would love to know these guys’ perspectives on that. From a current coming out student, do have any concept of the cost of vet care these days?

Emily Farmer:

Outside of a specialty hospital, no.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay.

Emily Farmer:

It’s not talked about much.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay, and in a specialty hospital, what do you think?

Emily Farmer:

At a school hospital?

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah.

Emily Farmer:

A referral hospital, the opinion is that it’s elevated and expensive for people to pay, but people are always there and always come, and pets are your family and so owners are more and more willing to pay large sums of money to take care of their animals. I think there’s a couple of different factors to it.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay, okay. Do you think it’s good, bad, it is what it is?

Emily Farmer:

I think it is what it is. I don’t have a positive or negative opinion of it.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think it’s a great question and I think-

Dr. William Hodges:

I’m just very curious…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

… the cost for veterinary care is high. I think is very high and I think it’s moving higher and higher all the time. If I look back at my career, most practice management consultants, they would come in and the solution to everything was to raise your fees. They would come back the next year and they would say raise your fees, and raise your fees again, and raise your fees again. If you look at what the cost of veterinary care has done in relation to just regular inflation, I mean it’s bad, it’s bad how it’s growing the cost for healthcare. I think in most of our practices, we are providing services to the high end of that demographic, and I think there’s a tremendous number of animals out there that are in need of healthcare.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think that’s one of the big opportunities for the profession is to figure out how to come up with business models that make our services more affordable. Not necessarily cheaper, but more affordable and oftentimes, it’s just about offering solutions and it might not referring to that high end specialty hospital for a lot of people might not be the affordable solution that they need.

Dr. William Hodges:

It’s a two edge sword, like you mentioned before about the affordability of care is skyrocketing and you have a lot of practices and newer graduates that are catering towards this referral model. They aren’t doing things, they’re just referring, and I see it very commonly where things come to me in a specialty or ER hospital, and they are there for not the right reasons. They are not there because they’re there to receive care.

Dr. William Hodges:

If you had had any conversation with this person prior to transferring to me, you would have realized that there is not a chance in heck that the exam fee that I’m charging them pretty much expends their budget and that is a huge disservice to the animal population and to those clients because there are a lot of times where there were options available to them prior to spending all of their money on my exam fee and stuff like that. I really worry about the affordability of vet care and I’m a little sad that that’s not something that gets talked about at all in vet schools.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Well, and I think as I stated before, what we’re looking for in our practices are really good general practitioners that are willing to say, yes, I can help you, I can help you.

Dr. William Hodges:

Right, and I remember when I was first coming out four or five years ago, it was an unfortunate reality, but if you had, for example, a part of what I would come in and the clients just really didn’t spend money and it was sick, euthanasia was an option. I have not euthanized a part of a puppy. I mean there are some that are super, super sick and like that’s appropriate, but if they’re not that sick, that’s not an option anymore because the hospitals that we are in, it’s generally accepted. There are some cases where it doesn’t matter if there are finances available or not. There’s some things… and so I have seen it balancing out a little bit in some directions, but it’s shocking to see the skyrocketing costs of certain vet care.

Dr. William Hodges:

You mentioned that it’s tailoring to this higher market and you’re absolutely right. It’s the higher level of the economy that we’re tailoring to, but according to many economics, that population of demographics is shrinking. As practices and veterinarians are coming out, our available pool of clientele is theoretically shrinking. Really you guys, we really need to be looking at the other markets.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

What are other business models?

Dr. William Hodges:

Yeah.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

What are other business models?

Dr. William Hodges:

Absolutely.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I know that you can put together a business model that will service people that don’t have, but you just need to look at what your costs are associated with those business models, and you can put together a very profitable, very successful business plan that caters to people that are not in this high demographic.

Stacy Pursell:

What are some of your predictions for how the veterinary profession is going to change over the next five to 10 years?

Dr. William Hodges:

Do you want to start with that, Emily?

Emily Farmer:

You go for it.

Dr. William Hodges:

I see a couple trends trend. The first of all is that we are going to continue seeing emergency and specialty hospitals becoming more relevant. I think that there already are in most areas of the country, but it’s usually denser population areas that that’s a thing. I think that we’re going to see more of that available, but also at the same time, I think you’re going to see a shrink in the actual size of facilities and the reason I say that, or maybe the frequency of the number of them is because just like access to veterinary care, hopefully it’s going to get better for those smaller populations. Access to higher level of care is also going to get better.

Dr. William Hodges:

Telemedicine has this amazing ability or tele-health I should say to provide access to stuff. You in Wisconsin, your hospital needs a neurologist, but it’s the dead of winter and I don’t know, how much is a lot of snow? A foot of snow? Is that a lot?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Sure.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay. There’s a lot of snow outside, you can’t get them to neurologist. Well fortunately, we live in a world… I’m from Texas for what it’s worth. I don’t know so…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

A foot of snow doesn’t slow us down.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay or whatever.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Maybe two feet of snow.

Dr. William Hodges:

Okay, but previously you didn’t really have it. You could call them on a phone, but now that’s not the case. You can literally tell a man. You can video conference with a neurologist and they will walk you through during a neuro exam and stuff like that. That is the level that we’re going to. In the next five years, I think that many hospitals are going to get more access to higher levels of care, and it’s not going to require you to actually send it necessarily to a hospital. There will always be specialty hospitals just there always have been, right? When you graduated back in the day, they existed, they just weren’t common like they are now. I think you’re going to see that.

Dr. William Hodges:

I also think that we’re going to see an increase in the value in the usage of technicians. I really think that that is where we have to go because it doesn’t look we’re adding veterinarians for the most part, right? You’re going to see a lot of vets leading as well as vets coming in, and so let me comment aside about how many vet schools are opening and stuff. I don’t think that we’re going to fix the shortage of veterinarians problem. We have to make the system more efficient and the way we do that is we leverage the resources that are not being leveraged right now, and that’s our technician. That’s the trend I see that’s going to happen.

Emily Farmer:

I definitely agree. I think we’re going to be forced to change in certain ways because of shortages, and we need to find ways to address the issues that are facing our profession today so that we can evolve. I think we’re going to have to move towards the things like William said, so that we can stay a fruitful profession.

Dr. William Hodges:

If you had to make a prediction though, what do you think those changes are going to be?

Emily Farmer:

I honestly believe that from all the conferences I go to, it’s obviously a very skewed population of veterinary students, but they are very interested in being the leaders in the profession. They want to enact change. They have large goals that they want to accomplish, and so I really believe that once in a couple of years, once say graduate more and more of the younger generations, that mental health will be addressed more. One thing that I’m a little concerned for is still the rural veterinarians, that’s still a shortage and I don’t see that getting fixed anytime soon.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I happen to think it’s a really exciting time for veterinary medicine.

Dr. William Hodges:

I agree. I couldn’t agree more with you.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think back, when we’re talking about Eleanor Green earlier and Eleanor is assumed to no longer be the Dean of Texas A and M, but she’s just as this great visionary and I remember having dinner with Eleanor a few years ago and we were talking I mean this discussion about change and what does the future look. We talked about going back a hundred years to our contemporary sitting around the table having dinner and at that point in time, 1910, 1915, 1920, up until that point in time, the only thing veterinarians did was take care of horses, and then it was the advent of the automobile. In a very short period of time, 90% of the horse population went away.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We think we have challenges today, but you think about our contemporary zen sitting around having this conversation, could they even imagine what the profession looks like today? Could they even imagine that most of our veterinarians are providing care to dogs and cats? Could they even imagine that dogs and cats are now not only living in our houses, but sleeping in our beds? You think about that change that occurred in this a hundred year period of time, I think it’s absolutely remarkable and the one thing that we do know is that the thing about change that it’s happening more rapidly. You started taking that hundred year change and shrinking that into maybe 20 years, it’s easy to say that these are challenges, but I just see them as opportunities.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

I think veterinarians, if we position ourselves as the leaders in animal health and remain really relevant in animal health, I think there’s going to be so many opportunities that are going to open up for veterinarians and for technicians. I think you if look at the role dogs and cats are playing in our society today and how many people have dogs and cats and how the population is increasing, to me it’s a really exciting time with all the technology that’s coming along. What do those practice models look? That’s why when people come to me and want to be mentored is like I want to be mentored by you guys because I want to hear your ideas on how we’re going to apply these things and how you’re going to be doing surgery remotely on this.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

You might be living in Chicago, Illinois and doing surgery on a dog in the middle of nowhere of Northern Wisconsin, and that’s how we solve that problem is using technology. I think you look at big data and the wearables for dogs and cats and horses out of those lines…

Dr. William Hodges:

Cows that are…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Cows for that matter.

Dr. William Hodges:

Wearables for cows and…

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

How you’re going to be able to predict based on behavior that yeah, three days from that dog need to be on antibiotics or whatever, and how is that going to change the way veterinarians interact with their patients. I think it’s a really exciting time.

Stacy Pursell:

As we wrap up, Scott, are there any pieces of advice that you would give to Emily as she finishes school and starts her journey in the veterinary profession?

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

Absolutely. My words of advice to you is exactly what I was just talking about, is really think big and develop that vision and sometimes these ideas we think, we keep them to ourselves and we think they’re crazy. There’s a validity in them, so follow that dream, follow that vision, have the courage to say yes and have the courage in yourself to really believe that you can do these things that you can make a difference because you can. The other thing I would say is to act with urgency because I think it’s remarkable that I graduated in 1991. I mean, it seems like just yesterday and here, it’s been almost 30 years since I graduated from veterinary school. Your vision, have the courage to say yes and do it with urgency.

Dr. William Hodges:

I would just echo that then I’m excited for this profession. There is change coming, but it can be a good change and I’m excited for that.

Emily Farmer:

I appreciate being able to sit here and hear different perspectives as still a student, so thank you.

Stacy Pursell:

Great discussion.

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

We’re very good.

Stacy Pursell:

Thank you so much everyone-

Dr. Scott Spaulding:

It’s all fun.

Stacy Pursell:

… for all of your participation. Was fun.

Kelly Speaks: Vet Recruiting, with Guest Speaker Stacy Pursell

 

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Veterinary Hiring and Employment in Today’s Marketplace

There are a couple of things I want to address first. One is the fact that on March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued something called the “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.” This document listed workers who are deemed essential to infrastructure, and I’m happy to say that Veterinary clinics and pet stories were included on the list.

Second, during normal times, the United States Food & Drug Administration mandates that veterinarians must physically examine pets in person in order to diagnose them and then prescribe medicine. Now, according to the FDA, veterinarians can use a video examination to diagnose the pets and then prescribe the appropriate medicine. As you can see, even though we are in the midst of this pandemic, Veterinary hospitals and practices are still up and running and they’re still open for business.

I want to address both employers and professionals in the marketplace, but I’d like to start with employers. I understand that with current conditions the way they are, that some employers are “hunkering down,” especially when it comes to hiring. They might be putting a hold on interviewing candidates or they might be pausing their searches. That’s because they could be sensing danger in the economy and in the employment marketplace. As a result, they’re “sticking their head in the sand” like an ostrich would.

But in case you’re not aware, ostriches do not actually stick their head in the sand when they sense danger. According to the website of the San Diego Zoo, “when an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it. Because the head and neck are lightly colored, they blend in with the color of the soil.”

Instead of “sticking their head in the sand right now,” I believe that employers should be taking the advice of financial guru Warren Buffet, who said the following:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”

I think everybody would agree that Warren Buffett knows what he’s doing. After all, his network worth was $71.5 billion at the beginning of 2020. Before this pandemic began, the battle for top talent was fierce. Superstar candidates were in great demand. That talent still exists in the marketplace, and if some employers have decided they no longer want to pursue that talent, then this is a prime opportunity for your organization to do so.

This may come as a surprise to some people, but there are employers who have not put a stop to their Animal Health and Veterinary hiring efforts. We at The VET Recruiter have clients who are telling us this is a great time to interview, since some of their competitors are laying people off. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

The bottom line is if employers approach the current situation the right way, then they’ll see that there is plenty of opportunity for hiring. This is why Veterinary practice owners and practice managers should continue to interview and build their teams. These employers might be able to hire talented people away from their competition. As I mentioned, that’s the attitude that some of our clients have right now. If you’re a Veterinary practice or Veterinary employer and your competition is in “fear mode,” that means your competition is focusing more on the perceived levels of danger in the marketplace instead of focusing on the actual opportunities that exist. If that’s the case, then it’s time for you as an employer to scout the top talent of your competition and recruit those top performers for your organization.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet, if your competition is fearful of current conditions, then you should be greedy when it comes to acquiring top talent. And that’s why I’m advocating, for Veterinary practices and employers to be greedy when it comes to hiring and to be aggressive in their hiring efforts. There is a LOT of opportunity in the market at the moment, and employers should be trying to take advantage of that opportunity.

You might be asking yourself how exactly are employers hiring right now with many states in lockdown and with all the social distancing that is happening in society? Well, employers are getting creative. In fact, a candidate of The VET Recruiter recently completed a drive-through interview, and that’s exactly what it sounds like. The employer conducted an interview with a job candidate through what was basically a drive-through window. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as they say. And I applaud this type of approach and this mentality. You have to get creative in this type of environment, and that’s exactly what some organizations are doing right now.

Of course, not every Veterinary practice can use a drive-through window to conduct interviews, and that’s why they’re turning to video interviews. I was recently talking with one of our clients, and they decided to move a candidate from a face-to-face interview to a video interview. She was even going to get someone in their organization to record a video of the inside of the business to show our candidates where they will be working during the upcoming video interviews. I think this is an excellent strategy because the job candidate can still see the place where they will be working without having to travel there during this time of uncertainty. My client was hopeful that the video would create more interest in the opportunity.

Of course, video interviews are more challenging than face-to-face interviews or in-person interviews, so employers must make sure they take the necessary steps and proper precautions. I have five steps that employers should take when it comes to video interviewing:

#1—Choose a platform for conducting the interviews (and run tests).

Fortunately, there are many platforms from which to choose. There’s more good news, too. Due to the circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus, some of them are offering great deals. One of those is Microsoft, which is now offering a six-month trial of the premium version of Microsoft Teams. There are other options as well, such as Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, and Webex. More than likely, you already have an account with one or more of these platforms. My personal favorite is Zoom because it is easy to use. Many of our clients use this platform too and I would say it is the most popular among our clients.

It’s important to test your system and your process several times before conducting your first video interview. There are many things that can affect the quality of an interview, not the least of which is the strength of your wireless Internet signal. You must also check the quality of both the sound and the video picture. Top job candidates will not be impressed if you look blurry and if the sound is distorted during the interview, no matter how much you smile.

#2—Build a plan and share it with everybody involved in the process.

This advice goes for in-person interviews, as well, but it’s even more critical for video interviews. One reason is that the members of your hiring team may not be as accustomed to the process involved with such interviews. Another reason is that Covid-19 has already created plenty of confusion and uncertainty. You don’t want to add to it by sabotaging your video interviewing efforts before they’ve even begun.

This is important because you want job candidates to sense and to see that your organization “has its act together.” The last thing you want to do is brand yourself as disorganized. You want to show top candidates that you can adapt quickly to changing times and that you can create a professional video interview with excellence.

#3—Choose an appropriate space and setting for the interviews.

This is the same advice that I would give to job candidates participating in a video interview. Your setting is extremely important, since this is where candidates will see you and the members of your team and it will contribute to their opinion of you and your organization. The site you choose should be clean and uncluttered, well lit, and professional looking. There should be nothing nearby that might contribute noise or some other interruption to an interview.

#4—Reassure candidates by communicating and setting expectations.

Just like you must communicate well with the members of your hiring team, you must also communicate well with the candidates you’re interviewing. They need to know which platform you’ll be using (and which they’ll also be using), what is expected of them during the interview, what they can expect from you, a timeline for when things will happen, and a phone number to call in case things don’t go as smoothly as planned.

#5—Focus on engagement.

Engagement was a priority for employers looking to hire before Covid-19 hit. Now, it’s even more important during an Animal Health or Veterinary video interview. Remember that it’s still your job to “sell” at all levels. You have to “sell” the opportunity itself, as well as the organization, the company culture, and everything else that comes with the opportunity.

Not only that, but you also have to present yourself as warm and engaging, which may be more difficult to accomplish during a video interview than it is during an in-person interview. However, what’s the same about both types of interviews is that job candidates are evaluating your position and your organization just as much as you are evaluating them. This is not a one-way street, and you should not treat it as such, especially during a video interview.

When it comes to job candidates, much of the advice that applies to employers also applies to them. That advice includes knowing which interviewing platform the employer is using and running tests with that platform and choosing an appropriate space and setting for the interview. Have a professional backdrop for example. Candidates should also be aware they should dress professionally for the interview. A video interview is not an excuse to wear something inappropriate or to be too casual with your attire. As a candidate, you want to brand yourself in the right way and you want to give a positive impression of yourself to those who are conducting the interview. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person interview or a video interview?

Since this is a video interview, candidates must speak loudly enough and clearly enough. If you’re typically a soft talker, then you may have to make adjustments. But be careful, though. You don’t want it to appear as though you’re shouting at the people on the other end of the line. This is another reason why testing and practice is so important.

Speaking of which, job candidates should not only be testing the software they’ll be using for the interview, but they should also practice with a friend or colleague. Have the other person ask you questions. You can conduct a mock interview. And as you would with any interview, candidates must practice answering questions they might be asked and also come prepared with questions of their own. And also like an in person interview, they should turn their phone off or just put it in another room, if they have to. The last thing you want to happen is your phone going off because someone called or texted you at the wrong time.

And once the interview is over, candidates should send a thank-you email to the hiring manager 24 hours. Or you can send a handwritten thank you note. This is common etiquette, and you should do it regardless of whether it’s an in-person interview or a video interview.

And now I’d like to transition over to the professional’s side of this whole equation. I know that many people have already lost their job because of this pandemic. The good news is that once this situation is over and the lockdown and “shelter-in-place” orders are lifted, the economy and the marketplace will gear back up and hiring will increase once again. In the meantime, though, there is a lot that people can do to prepare, and that includes people who are unemployed and those who currently have a job. I have a few tips for Veterinary professionals during this time, and the first tip is . . .

#1—Manage your mindset correctly.

Try to stop focusing on the seemingly dire circumstances of current events and focus instead on the other side of the calamity, the side where the virus is under control and life will go back, more or less, to normal. When you focus on that, you’ll be better able to prepare and position yourself for success when it eventually happens. When you boil everything down, there’s a simple rule for managing your mindset correctly:

If you’re not focused on the market recovery right now, before it happens, then you won’t be properly prepared for it when it does happen.

There’s an analogy that I’d like to use to illustrate this, and that analogy is surfing. I’m not afraid to admit that I am NOT a surfer. But there is one thing that I know about surfing. You can’t decide that you’re going to ride a wave as soon as the wave reaches you. It doesn’t work that way. If you try it, the wave will “wipe you out” and you’ll find yourself gurgling and flailing in the water, your surfboard churning under the relentless surf.

No, as any surfer knows, you must start paddling in the direction of the wave before the wave reaches you. Then, at the right time, you stand up on your surfboard and catch the wave as it arrives, allowing it to carry you in the direction you want to go. It’s the same with the market recovery and your Animal Health or Veterinary success.

A wave of opportunity is coming our way. However, if you want to ride that wave and allow it to help you and your career, then you have to start paddling (preparing) before the wave reaches you. In fact, in this case, you have to start paddling before you can even see the wave. And even more importantly, you can’t see the wave unless you’re actually looking for it.

And here’s why that is important: we could see a rapid recovery. Once the pandemic and the corresponding lockdowns and “shelter-in-place” orders are over, the economy will resume in earnest. People will go back to work, the unemployment rate will decrease, production will increase, and there will once again be more employment and career opportunities.

#2—Keep networking.

Even with social distancing protocols and the lack of face-to-face events, you can still network. You can accomplish this mainly online, including through social media sites like LinkedIn. Speaking of which, this is the perfect time to maximize and optimize your LinkedIn presence and make sure that your profile is branding yourself the right way and also providing as much value to you and your career as possible.

#3—Look for opportunities to add to your skills.

I’m not talking about technical skills per se. I’m talking more about soft skills or supplementary skills, including computer and/or software skills. Once again, since your social calendar is probably light right now, this is a great time to explore online training classes and courses that can increase your value as an employee and as a professional. Our next tip is to . . .

#4—Take time to reflect.

Since your social calendar is going to be less full than usual, this is the perfect time to reflect upon your career. You might think I mean this tip more for those who have just lost their job or are unemployed, but that’s not the case. This tip is for everyone, including those who are currently employed. In fact, it might be even more important for those who are employed. That’s because how your employer responds to the COVID-19 pandemic could tell you a great deal about how it handles crisis situations. Hopefully, it will handle the situation well and you will be assured about your choice of employers.

However, if it doesn’t, that brings up a series of other questions. Are you truly working in a supportive environment? Is your career in the hands of the right people? Are you at a point in your life where you are re-evaluating your priorities, and if that’s the case, what does that mean for your job and your career? Your answers to these questions could have a large impact on the decisions you make regarding your professional life once this crisis is over.

There are many traits and attributes that are valuable in the employment marketplace, and I have long been a believer in the value of resiliency. In fact, resiliency is one of the characteristics that employers have told me that they look for the most in job candidates and employees. Resiliency is something that is valuable regardless of the economic or marketplace conditions, but it’s even more valuable in conditions like the ones we’re seeing at the moment. The more resilient you are as an individual, the more valuable you’ll be to not only your employer, but also to yourself.

And I have some attributes of resilient people that I’d like to share:

#1—They are flexible, both in their thinking and their approach.

Resilient people often have the mindset of “Whatever it takes to get the job done.” Now, that doesn’t mean they’re willing to do something unethical or illegal. However, it does mean that they’ll continually strive to adjust and adapt to find a solution. Remember: being a problem solver is one of the best forms of value for any employer.  Keep in mind that a problem solver is the opposite of a complainer. It is one thing to complain about a problem and another thing to do something about it.

#2—They are self-motivated individuals.

These types of individuals are intrinsically motivated, as opposed to extrinsically motivated. When you’re intrinsically motivated, the motivation comes from within. YOU are the one pushing yourself to achieve and to be successful, not anyone else.

#3—They manage stress well.

Stress, by itself, is not inherently harmful. What a person does with the stress and how they react to it dictates the level of harm involved. The amount of stress that a resilient person can handle is typically more than a person who is not considered resilient. Your reaction to what happens around you and to you is crucial in determining your level of resiliency.

#4—They do NOT give up.

This is perhaps the most important attribute of a resilient person: not giving up, regardless of the situation or how many defeats they’ve endured. You can increase your resiliency exponentially if you make the decision to simply not give up. In many ways, perseverance is the #1 key to resiliency.

The last thing that I’d like to address when it comes to Veterinary hiring and employment in today’s marketplace is that a big part of being resilient and thriving during this time is mental. The mental aspect is very important, and I encourage people not to overlook this aspect.

Unfortunately, people often sabotage themselves. Specifically, they can’t—or more specifically, they don’t allow themselves to—see anything other than their current circumstances and the circumstances that exist in the world around them.

The fact of the matter is that we WILL recover form the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, we recovered from the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession of more than a decade ago. Before that, we recovered from 9-11 and the bursting of the dot com tech bubble. And during those recoveries, the economy and workers both prospered.

Sure, before those recoveries began, things looked dire. However, that’s why it’s important this time around to focus more on the market recovery and NOT on the pandemic.