If you invite them, they will join, survey says


Veterinary associations try to understand, lure new veterinarians to their ranks.

National Report — It's not that recent veterinary graduates are too busy to join professional associations, it's just that they don't know what's in it for them.

At least, those were the findings of a recent American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives (ASVMAE) survey and meeting. The ASVMAE realized that the future of its organizations depends on how well those associations can attract, engage and retain recent graduates, which is why Karyn Gavzer was brought in — to help design a survey and facilitate a meeting to make a plan to address this challenge.

The survey shows that new graduates and current association members have mistaken assumptions about each other and that members have different views on reasons for joining veterinary medical associations. The ASVMAE Recent Graduate Task Force learned that recent graduates would be interested in joining veterinary associations if they knew about the association and how to join, saw the relevancy, could afford membership, felt welcomed and were personally invited.

"The 'old guard' thought that the No. 1 reason that recent graduates did not join their associations was that they were too busy to participate in organized veterinary associations," says Gavzer.

In contrast, "recent graduates thought that associations were highly political, and they were not interested in joining an 'old boys' network," Gavzer adds. "If they felt they had important work to do and were actively engaged, they were enthusiastic about participating."

Reaching out to new graduates is key to gaining new membership, research showed. The most successful associations reached out to recent graduates in a timely manner and met with them in informal groups to get acquainted and to invite the recent graduates to join. Some associations created board positions and other roles for the graduates so they could benefit from their perspectives.

One way ASVMAE decided to reach out was to create a Web page that lists resources — everything a recent graduate needs to know to be successful in his or her new career. Another activity was to establish a fan page on Facebook.

Dr. Karlene Belyea, executive director of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association and a board member of ASVMAE, oversaw the organization's move to Facebook and has been examining ventures into other social networking sites, such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

"The main thing we've focused on so far is Facebook," says Belyea. "There are a number of different options out there, but we felt most students and recent graduates had Facebook pages."

Initially started as a group page in March, the ASVMAE quickly transitioned to a fan page providing daily information recent graduates can use for themselves or pass along to their clients.

The page, which can be viewed at www.facebook.com/ilovemyvet, has more than 300 members.

"The younger vets are communicating in different ways than the older vets," Belyea says. "While the Baby Boomers want to communicate face-to-face, the younger generation wants to communicate via the Internet and social networking sites. We need to meet the needs of different demographics with different communication styles. It's a challenge."

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