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How to navigate job hunting, courtesy of a new grad

Dr. Tricia Nguyen (pronounced “win”) is a 2019 graduate from University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and a companion animal/emergency veterinarian in Irvine, California. She is passionate about business management and hopes to one day own a few hospitals. She shares an Instagram page called @nextgenvets with her best vet school friend, Dr. Paige Livingston, where they detail their experiences as new graduate veterinarians. In her free time, Dr. Nguyen can be found burning calories at Orangetheory, enjoying a glass (or two) at happy hour with friends, or snuggling with her cat named Little Orange Kitten (a.k.a. Loki).

Congratulations to those who are surviving and thriving in their fourth year, finished, or are soon taking the NAVLE and are now entering the job hunt. The time has finally come to fly away from the safety nest of veterinary schools and teaching hospitals. But where, oh where, do you start?

Below are tips from a recent grad on how to survive and thrive in the job hunt:

1. Clean up every website out there.

It’s time to polish up your cover letter and resume, dust off your LinkedIn profile, and (maybe) set to private the pictures you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. On your professional public profiles, incorporate the awe-inspiring and rewarding experiences you had on your rotations. Did a cool surgery for the first time? Write it down! Incorporated a new procedural technique? Mention it!

Talk about your extra-curricular activities such as leadership opportunities, jobs, and participation in volunteer organizations. Employers are attracted to people whose lives revolve around more than veterinary medicine. Have any honors and awards you’re proud of? Brag about them. We want to hear about your scholarly accomplishments too, as these can set you apart from other candidates.

By the way, remember your GPA is not a reflection or prediction of how you perform in clinics or in the real world. I would recommend leaving it out. Lastly, before sending out your cover letter and resume or publishing your website(s), ask at least two people—one of whom is a veterinary professional—to proofread.

2. Location is everything.

This might be the hardest choice for some. The world is literally your oyster. Do you have eyes for the big city or are you more of a small-town girl? This is your chance to move somewhere you’ve always dreamed of living. Pick a location where you feel like you would be thrive.

I chose to move back to Orange County, California, because the majority of my family, my friends, and my boyfriend live here. I definitely toyed with the idea of moving out of state, but my boyfriend and I ultimately decided staying near our families was a priority for us.

3. “Tell me what you want, what you really really want.”

This is probably THE most important step in the job hunt. Prioritize your needs and wants; remember that YOU are your biggest advocate. Sit down and really think about what you value in a hospital most. Is it mentorship? If so, define what mentorship means to you. Is it salary? If so, decide on an acceptable range.

Let me burst your bubble now and say that no practice is going to fill all your boxes. Expect that every practice you apply for will have its pros and cons. Stay to true to your list and pick the one that is most comparable.

Don’t forget to write down what you can offer them. Remember, job hunts are a two-way street. They need you just as much as you need them. Don’t undersell yourself.

4. Bookmark and subscribe.

There are many veterinary job search sites. Subscribe to all of them and make sure to mark the box for new job opportunity emails in the area you’re looking. Don’t forget word of mouth is just as, if not more, valuable than any of these resources. So, keep your ears open (and don’t burn any bridges).

Before landing my job in Irvine, CA, I scoured through the following websites: AVMA, CVMA, Southern California VMA, Clinician’s Brief, and my school’s job portal. It took me three months’ worth of countless emails, numerous phone screenings, and five in-person interviews until I finally decided on my current hospital. During the process, I was “ghosted” by one practice during the negotiation stage—yep that happened—and given a short deadline to accept a low-ball offer by another. Needless to say, those didn’t work out for me so I kept hustling while my colleagues were being matched to internships or signing job offers. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t the most fun experience, but I stayed true to my advice in #3 and eventually found a hospital that suited the majority of my needs.

5. Meet and greet.

Do your due diligence and try to get as much information as you can about each of the practices you’re applying for during phone and in-person interviews. Talk to the associates about their experiences, especially during their first year at the practice, to the technicians about their day-to-day, and to your potential boss about the challenges the hospital faces and how they’re planning on overcoming them.

This is your time to ask the hard questions—write them down before the interview. After all, you may find yourself there soon, and you should know what you’re getting yourself into.

I recently celebrated seven months as a new veterinarian in a multi-doctor practice. I work four days a week on a rotating schedule with the other doctors. I see companion animal and small mammal cases that range from wellness and prevention to emergency and urgent care. These are only some of the reasons I chose this practice. The species variety and case unpredictability can be challenging at times, but the experience I’m gaining as a first-year veterinarian is invaluable.

Remember your preferences are unique and personal. Don’t feel pressured to accept a position at a practice you don’t feel good about just because your classmates already have contracts signed or because graduation is around the corner. Last but not least, don’t feel obligated to start your new job right after graduation. You deserve a nice, relaxing getaway. Trust me when I say there’s no such thing as too much vacation. Good luck!



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