Don’t Sell Yourself Short: Top Ways Your Veterinary Skills Apply to Other Jobs

“Well, I was just a small animal vet? Why would they hire me?” This may come as a surprise to you, but simply having worked in private practice and having a DVM provides you with a wealth of abilities- these are aptly named transferrable skills.

Posted: 18/03/2024

Read Time/Watch Time

5 minutes

Who should read this?

Veterinarians, vet nurses, vet techs, employers.


Melanie Barham


Global content

Don’t sell yourself short:
Top ways your veterinary skills apply to other job

“Well, I was just a small animal vet? Why would they hire me?”

This may come as a surprise to you, but simply having worked in private practice and having a qualification in the veterinary field provides you with a wealth of abilities- these are aptly named transferrable skills. Thinking of these skills in advance allows you to be perfectly poised to be in just the right place at just the right time.

If you’re looking at job postings, think of the skills you acquired while in your other jobs throughout your career, volunteering, or other roles you might have filled in your community. What situations can you think of where you demonstrated the skills listed? Sometimes it’s a useful exercise to look at job postings and think of where your skills would fit, even if the job isn’t one you’d apply to.

Here’s a light look at a few you might not have thought of.

1.Complex problem solving: Those working in the veterinary industry are uniquely qualified to look at multi-faceted problems, and solve them. Generally used to working with teams, rarely in solitude, we are great at satisfying multiple needs at once with one clinical solution.

2. Communications skills: If you’ve ever talked an intense dressage rider off a ledge about her horse’s lameness, or worked with a multi-generational farm family with different ideas on herd health strategies, or dealt with a very emotional euthanasia with multiple family members, you’ve got communication skills and experience with multiple stakeholders.

3. Compassion, empathy: Clinical practitioners see people at their most vulnerable, at their very worst, and we help them and their pets through whatever ordeal is presented. We see them with their pyjamas on, their noses running, ugly crying, and we see pets at their most stressed out times; when they are sick. We can easily place ourselves in their headspace, and we can also express empathy.

4. Small business world knowledge: Most of the world’s businesses are small businesses. Working in a veterinary clinic in private practice is almost always an excellent example of small business across many geographic areas and niches. If you got to know anything about the culture, the needs or the financial/logistic ideas of a vet clinic, you have small business knowledge. And here’s a secret: most large businesses started as small businesses, and many are small businesses nested in a bigger business.

5. Relatability to other professionals: Dentists, lawyers, engineers, human doctors, veterinarians. We’re all professionals. We take oaths, pay licensing dues, write lengthy exams, and we struggle in similar ways.

6. Ability to understand and meet the needs of a wide range of stakeholders: In private practice, if there’s one thing we know as veterinarians, it is that it takes all kinds of people to make up a client base. Every time you step out of the car or into the exam room, the person on the other side of the table or the barn door will require something different of you. Veterinarians are like chameleons, but way better! You understand what the client needs, how to talk to them, get to the bottom of their issue, and get a task accomplished to help their animal.

7. Advanced knowledge of biological systems: Don’t underestimate the excellent knowledge base you received in veterinary college. Basically, 4 years of comparative biology + clinical skills wrapped up in 3 letters: vet. Every “ology” you took added to your knowledge. You didn’t sweat through your shirt in bell ringers for nothing! This knowledge base transfers to a wide variety of professions with ease. Your undergraduate work prior to veterinary college may also be applicable.

8. One Health philosophy: The term One Health has become a big buzz word of late, and for good reason. Understanding the connection between human health, animal health, and environmental health is fundamental to veterinary medicine. While this might have been a revolution to our human med counterparts, veterinarians were doing one health before we had a term for it.

9. Organizational leadership skills: When you are a veterinarian, even the lowliest intern in the largest clinic, you are a big-L leader in your team. You likely understand your impact in the workplace, how to carry yourself. If you know how to improve morale in your team, how to build trust with the mean team member, how to kindly hold the staff accountable, how to mentor gently, don’t be afraid to share these skills, particularly with examples (e.g., supervised externship students, performed staff reviews).

10. Ability to handle high pressure situations: Can you triage? Can you organize your team to get everything accomplished when 3 emergencies bust through the door? Can you work under pressure and keep creatures alive, looking competent with a poker face that would put Vegas gamblers to shame?

Although this article is pretty light in nature, it seems clear (since all of our interviewees have mentioned it), that anyone looking to change career paths should look to their previous experiences, and think how they would apply to possible opportunities.

Be honest, but don’t sell yourself short either. It’s up to you to determine where you fit best, and it’s also up to you to help your potential employer see why you might be indispensable.

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