5 steps to a successful career


Consider these lessons from team members who've been there-and done that-and build the ?foundation for a lasting career that offers opportunities to grow and celebrates your passion for practice.

During my first week working at NorthStar Vets, I was sitting in a planning meeting with the hospital administrator when there was a knock at the door. Dr. Jennifer Kim, who leads the oncology department, stepped into the room holding a small cat.

"This is Norman," she said. "He's our new hospital cat, and he needs to get used to being around people."

She put Norman in my lap, turned, and stepped back out of the room. I started petting the little guy and the meeting resumed without missing a beat. That's the moment I knew I was going to love working in a veterinary hospital.

Recently, I asked friends in the veterinary profession what they loved most about their jobs. Then I took that insight and created this list of steps you should take now to break into, advance, or reinvigorate your career.

1. Love what you do

Stay true to the kind of work that gets you excited. The thing that makes veterinary medicine great is that people go into this career because they absolutely love what they do. Most team members knew they wanted to be working with animals since they were children. You don't necessarily find that level of passion anywhere else.

2. Differentiate yourself

Be yourself and offer your special talents to stand out from the crowd. You possess a unique set of skills that can separate you from your peers and make you stand out. Over the years, I've started side projects that were not only fulfilling and fun, but gave me an opportunity to do things that nobody else was doing. From working with Dr. Hillary Israeli to launch Generation Vet, the first online graphic novel about today's veterinarian, to starting my own consulting business for a brief time, I've had the opportunity to make my mark on our industry.

3. Be open to new experiences

Take on new tasks and try new things. In my role as marketing director, I work side-by-side with the team at NorthStar Vets to set the standard for our medicine, culture, and client service. I've also observed this team do amazing things. I've seen Dr. Michael Doolen and Dr. Garrett Levin's open reduction with toggle-and-suture on a rabbit's luxating hip; Dr. Daniel Stobie's new approach for correcting luxating patellas currently being studied; and Dr. Laurie Culbert and Dr. Melissa Logan's canine craniectomy and titanium mesh installation (see "Prepare to be amazed" at right). I was awestruck to watch these miraculous efforts in animal health.

Equally incredible is the way the veterinarians work with fellow specialists and technicians to solve problems and take a team approach to medicine. Even the way the team relates to our clients has taught me a lot about empathy, friendship, and relationship building. If you're looking from inspiration from a leader, Dr. Laurie Culbert, DACVS, is a prime example of empathy and collaboration at NorthStar Vets. Last fall, she donated her time and expertise to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., to perform surgery on a stranded grey seal with osteomyelitis and an infection. An animal that would have certainly not survived on its own was healed and released back into the ocean. If you always remember that you have something new to learn, you will evolve professionally and personally.

4. Develop your skills

When you're conducting your job search, ask potential employers how they will support your continuing education and make this criteria important in your job search. Find an employer who will not only give you a shot at embarking on your career, but one who takes the time to teach you new skills and makes sure you get training to grow in your chosen area of expertise. This is critical for your long-term career path.

When I moved from industry partner to team member, I felt even more connected than ever to everything that happens in practice. As a result, I've spent much more time building personal relationships with the team members I work with on the East Coast, and I'm finding new ways to be of value beyond my job description. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, I leveraged my personal and social media networks to connect suddenly out-of-work technicians with volunteer opportunities while their practices were knocked out. I also helped connect other industry partners who could donate supplies with team members working in suddenly under-stocked animal shelters.

5. Network

Connecting within the industry can open many doors. It was through years of building relationships with the team at NorthStar Vets that I was able to learn of a job opportunity at my practice the day it was available. No matter where you live, attend every conference, lecture, and industry social event you can, and meet new people. Then keep in touch in person or by phone, email, or social media.

By following these five steps, you will not only find yourself with a rewarding career­—you'll enjoy your profession and set the stage for a lifetime of loving your job.

Find some inspiration

Phil Barnes is the marketing director for NorthStar Vets, the veterinary emergency, trauma, and specialty hospital currently serving New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, and the greater New York City areas. Connect with Barnes at dvm360.com/community.

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