These DVMs put the rad in nontRADitional career paths

June 24, 2016
Sarah Mouton Dowdy
Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy, a former associate content specialist for dvm360.com, is a freelance writer and editor in Kansas City, Missouri.

Veterinarians Karen Bradley and Sarah Wooten map out their roads less traveled with directions on how to prepare and encouragement to get started and keep going.

Think putting in 50 hours a week at a veterinary hospital is your only (and most respectable) option? Sarah Wooten, DVM, and Karen Bradley, DVM, would like to have a word with you (okay, several). Their message? STOP LIMITING YOURSELF.

Wooten and Bradley speak from experience. Both have pursued nontraditional paths with their veterinary degrees, and both couldn't be more pleased with their decisions. So pleased, in fact, that they are passionate about encouraging others to expand their vocational horizons and did so at a recent CVC session. Here's some of what we learned from these rad nontraditionalists:

(Getty Images)Mantra:

“Begin, improve, reinvent, repeat.”

Wooten's nontraditional path:

Wooten has what she calls a “slash career.” She's a veterinarian/journalist, a THIS-slash-THAT, and thus divides her time between private practice and writing articles and filming video content for various media outlets. It's a life of constant tinkering and being comfortable with the idea that you can't plan everything, she says.

Wooten admits this career path can be more financially unpredictable, but she's come to realize that stability is a price she's willing to pay for opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

In order to diversify her income, Wooten and her husband own rental properties and a teahouse and sell pet products online. She is a firm believer that when synergies between two careers merge, opportunities materialize that you never knew existed.

Wooten's best advice for slashers:

  • The most important thing you can do is remain flexible and open. What works for you now may not work for you in the future. Learn to embrace change.

  • Remember, it's okay be a beginner at something. Don't miss out on opportunities by focusing too much on your current career level or skill set. You can learn by doing! Perfectionists: Overcome your fear of failure and not living up to the expectations of others and even yourself.

  • To make room for another career, figure out which parts of each job you can give up while still remaining at the top of your game in both careers. And heads-up-just because an opportunity presents itself doesn't mean you're required to take it. It's okay to be picky.

  • Give long-term financial planning more attention and diversify your income stream. Think of your working life like a balanced portfolio. Include some activities that are guaranteed returns on investment (like practicing veterinary medicine part-time), and choose others that are high risk but have the potential for high return. Pursuing your passion is like planting a lot of seeds: some die and some take root and bloom.

Up next: Co-captain Karen...

 

(Getty Images)

Mantra:

“Let's destroy the overwork model together!”

Bradley's nontraditional path:

After going from an associate to practicing emergency care to moving across the country and landing in Vermont at her ideal clinic, Bradley was convinced by the practice's owner to become really invested-literally. The Vermont practice owner believed there was no such thing as a long-term associate and financed Bradley and another associate so they could become co-owners. The process took 10 years and was a win-win for everyone: The owner made interest, and the new partners felt less risk.

Each of the three partners works 30 hours a week-a model that demands flexibility and creativity on everyone's part. The perks of the partnership include being able to share ownership responsibilities, to pool their respective skills and to enjoy some financial security with individual stakes in the business.

Bradley's best advice for co-captains:

  • Stay on top of your schedule and delegate, delegate, delegate. If you have a hard time relinquishing control, being a co-owner will be very difficult for you.

  • Don't underestimate the importance of choosing competent and compatible supporting team members. With the right personnel, you'll be able to focus all of your time and energy on your interests and strengths. (Hint: Perhaps you should consider a Complementary 10.)

  • Get comfortable with the economics of the profession and fully accept that good medicine is good business.

  • Use your network. Got an accountant brother-in-law? Hit him up for tax preparation and financial advice. Trade services with a handyman client. The possibilities are endless.

Work may be unavoidable, but being miserable at work isn't. If you are currently dissatisfied, why not try something new? Be creative, define success on your own terms, don't rule out something just because it's foreign to you and never (EVER) settle.