|Is the grass greener on the other side?|
Are you considering changing your job, or even a career change? Do you just want to change up your workplace? The New Year is a time for reflection. Recent research has shown that some veterinarians feel trapped in their current role, which can cause stress in itself. Jenny Moffett, is a veterinarian who has had her own career change, and has put together a short online course for those wondering what their next career move should be. She took some time over the break to talk to us about her career, why veterinarians change jobs and even careers, and what are the barriers to change. .
What is your day job?
I am founder of SkillsTree, a company which uses training and coaching to help healthcare professionals develop both personally and professionally. I spend about half of my time on the conference trail and running workshops, with the rest carrying out private consultancy work and 1-on-1 coaching. Whatever I’m doing, though, I still refer to myself as a veterinarian; it’s important that we recognise that there’s a wide range of veterinary career options outside of clinical medicine.
What prompted you to develop the Veterinary medicine: Where To Next? course?
At SkillsTree, we have noticed a recent trend of increasing career dissatisfaction amongst veterinary staff. These observations have been backed up by widely publicised studies such as the Vet Futures report which suggests that around half of recent veterinary graduates say that the career has not matched their expectations. And there is a real shortage of experienced veterinarians and veterinary nurses in the UK right now. So you have to ask: “Are people leaving the profession because they just can’t see a way to improve the situation they are in?” From a coaching perspective, we can help individuals to identify the challenges they are facing at work, and explore ways to improve their circumstances. However, not all veterinary professionals have access to 1-on-1 coaching - there can be financial barriers, or maybe they are not yet ready to share their ideas with another person. “Veterinary medicine: Where to next?” was intended to be a low-cost, self-guided course for veterinary professionals who feel they are ‘stuck’ in their career, or are looking for a new challenge.
Why do veterinarians change careers?
There are many reasons why veterinarians choose to change careers, or take a different path within their own profession. Many of us choose the profession at a relatively early age - why would we expect the career to still be a perfect fit for us five, 10, 20 years out from graduation? People make a career change when there are sufficient push-pull factors. If clinical medicine is no longer a good fit - say if our family circumstances change, or we lose a sense of ‘meaning’ in what we do - we may feel ‘pushed’ out of the career. Similarly, we may be ‘pulled’ towards new opportunities, e.g. taking up position as a clinical director or setting up a new business.
What prevents veterinarians from changing careers?
We know from research that veterinarians have a strong sense of professional identity, and that many feel ‘inseparable’ from the career in which they work. And it’s hardly surprising; many veterinary staff have wanted to work with animals since a very early age, they have made considerable sacrifices to enter the profession, and they often feel a strong sense of ‘belonging’. When you combine this with the financial difficulties associated with greater levels of student debt, it can be difficult to turn your back on a relatively stable career.
We often hear about burnout in the veterinary profession. How do professionals find their mojo again?
We know that burnout is an occupational hazard for veterinary staff. And it’s important that we recognise and address the signs of burnout before it happens - prevention is definitely better than cure. It’s a bit of a cliché, but we do need “put our own oxygen masks on first”. It’s tempting to put our lives outside work on hold until the workload lessens/ rota changes/ children get a bit more independent, but that simply doesn’t work in the long term. Investing in social relationships, getting exercise and learning new things outside of work can often, paradoxically, be the key to enjoying our work more, or finding out what we need to change.
Thank you Jenny. You can find out more about “Veterinary medicine: Where to next?” at http://skillstree.teachable.com/p/vetcareers, or more about 1-on-1 coaching with SkillsTree at www.skillstree.co.uk
I enrolled in Jenny’s course as a fee-paying student and found this a useful program. Things I liked about the course included the distinction between goals and values (and how to work out what yours are), and the variety of resources that Jenny has pooled together including interesting articles, self-guided exercises and practical advice. The good thing is you can pace this yourself, so I spread it out over a few weeks.