Are you ready to make your dream of working with animals a reality? Working at a vet's office is a great place to get some hands-on experience. While these jobs aren't easy to come by, you can increase your chances of securing one by focusing on a few key things.
Finding an Opportunity
- Small animal clinics have a larger staff. Your best chance at an entry-level position will be at a small animal clinic. Small animal clinics require a larger support staff because they usually board patients daily or overnight. Large animal vets are on the road and visit their patients at farms. These vets generally only have one "ride along" assistant traveling with them.
- Don't rely on the classifieds. Many vet clinic jobs are never advertised. You will have to seek them out. Put together a list of clinics in your area by researching online or using a phone book. Some clinics will also post a help wanted ad in their window.
Get Their Attention
- Prepare a resume with references. Also, consider writing a brief letter of introduction. Never use the salutation "to whom it may concern." Make sure you tailor your resume and letter to the specific clinic to which you are applying. If possible, deliver your materials to the clinic in person. You might be able to hand them off directly to the vet or the office manager.
- Highlight relevant experience working with animals. Include any animal experience such as pet sitting, dog walking, volunteering at the Humane Society, grooming and bathing pets, working at a riding stable or farm, etc. If you have certifications or college degrees related to the animal industry you should be sure to point that out. If you are a student interested in pursuing veterinary medicine in the future, say so. Many aspiring vets work as assistants during college and vets tend to go out of their way to help the next generation succeed in the business.
At the Interview
- Arrive promptly and dress nicely. Being late for your first appointment will make the vet wonder if you will be a chronically late employee. Remember, first impressions really do count. Also, consider your wardrobe choices for the interview. You don't have to wear a suit, but wearing flip-flops and torn jeans will not present you in the most favorable light.
- Are you an intern or an employee? It is far easier to get your foot in the door when you ask for an internship rather than a paying job. A good strategy is offering a brief trial period of unpaid work before the clinic decides whether to take you on as an employee. Realize that if you do find a paying entry level position, it will often start at minimum wage.
- Be open to the concept of working your way up. You will likely start as a kennel assistant: cleaning cages, feeding, bathing, trimming nails, administering medications, and providing basic daily care. Once you prove yourself, you will have the opportunity to move up and assist the vet with exams, treatments, and x-rays. Vet clinic employees all pay their dues. You have to learn the business from the ground up.
After the Interview
- Say thank you. Take the time to send a handwritten thank you note immediately after your interview, whether you get a job offer or not. A clinic that might not have a place for you now could keep your resume and call you at a later date. Employers tend to remember candidates who are courteous and take this extra step, as most applicants fail to do so.
- Keep looking. Don't sit at home waiting for a clinic to call you back, even if you had a great interview and think you'll get the job. Keep sending out your resume and interview at every clinic you can until you have a firm job offer.