Although “success” means something different for everyone, I would say that I was able to become a competent and confident vet during the development of my career in the UK. I didn’t think of my journey as much of a difficult journey, but I realised that I’ve had a few ingredients in the mix that made it work really well for me almost by chance. However, I’ve seen this happen to other colleagues who have been able to do the same, so we must be onto something, right? Here’s a series of secret ingredients that allowed me to create a successful career without having had any previous experience.
I didn’t move alone
I was not alone when I moved. Actually, the first time I visited the UK for a long-ish period of time, I came with family members. I then moved in with someone that was already in the UK. That was incredibly helpful – all the things I needed to do were simple because he had already done them and knew the places and customs. The best part was that I didn’t need to live in a tiny room while going through the stresses of finding a place to stay. I remember though how he was pretty darn stressed when he did it himself completely alone and I was the one hearing the despair far away during my sunny Portuguese veterinary degree.
It’s easier if you’re moving in with someone else, but it’s even better when you have someone to guide you. That way you don’t feel alone (a very common despairing feeling when moving abroad), but you also have the answers that you need to keep going with your life.
I had good English
Well, knowing that good English will help you isn’t quite a secret, right? But it’s very much true. The people I’ve seen having it easier are those that have the best English. I’m not claiming to be native myself, of course, but I could speak English very well when I moved to Scotland (I couldn’t speak “Scottish”, but that’s another story). One of the girls I’ve helped finding a job through UK VetMove had such a lovely Irish accent (though she was from South Europe!) that she quickly found a job in Ireland with nothing but a reviewed CV and a referral. This is something that I see happening over and over again with vets that reach out to UK VetMove for help. If they have good English skills, they will have a much easier time finding a job, often with multiple offers. And this makes a lot of sense, since communication is one of the most important skills we must develop as vets (yes, they are much more valued than in most other countries).
However, the most common mistakes I see are telling yourself that your English is not good enough (often a lie!) and, on the flipside, not having a specific plan to improve your English when it does happen that you don’t have a very good level.
I didn’t mind moving to a more remote area
By remote I mean 45 minutes away from the largest city in Scotland. A lot of vets want to move to big cities and London used to be a big beacon (now many realise that London is stupidly expensive). But when you are willing to move to more rural areas, you suddenly find more opportunities. Yes, it’s a bit annoying if you want to visit your family frequently, but at the same time, if you have a lovely job, is it not worth it? I will say, though, that you have to make this decision carefully. You must pay attention to your ideal lifestyle. If living in the countryside away from the big city is not what your soul is craving for, you want to be careful about going to such place. This is about you doing some career planning before starting to look for jobs so you know what areas you are willing to move to and which ones will make you feel desperate on your days off.
I could make a good impression with clinics and clients
Not trying to brag here, this is a personal trait that I’ve worked on and I can see it has helped me massively since ever (notice how I said “worked on”? Means you can also do it!). I’m an easy-going person; I don’t get nervous easily and when I do, many people can’t tell; I smile a lot; and I can be both a good chatter and a silent listener. All pretty useful when going to job interviews and even more when working in a client-facing role (like we do at the clinic). No one hired me for my CV (well, not on my first job anyway), they all hired me for my presence during the job interviews. Don’t forget this. People hire people, not a piece of paper. Practices are looking for a person to join their family, not a vet to do the job. If you develop your interpersonal skills, this is something that’s going to help you in everything that you do! (we work on this during the workshops we run on UK VetMOVE)
I may not have known much, but I was not afraid to learn
I have said this many times in many different ways, but the ability to learn and adapt is one of the most powerful skills you can have. Adaptation is about seeing change with welcoming eyes. On my first job, I didn’t know how to do anything. Seriously! If you’ve spoken to me on a career development session or watched some of my webinars, you’ve probably heard me say how I started a job in small animal practice with the following small animal experience: one subcutaneous injection, half of a cat castration, giving oral medication to patients at the hospital. That was it. Literally. I had done all of my undergraduate training focusing on horses. Always left dogs and cats for my friends, telling them “you do it, I’m not going to work with dogs or cats” (in Portuguese, of course). Yet, I was not afraid to learn and practise. I was not afraid to try surgery. I was brave enough to ask for help and brave enough to push myself a bit through the uncomfortable at times. I was quick at becoming a good employee, at keeping clients, at making money for the practice. Something that no one tells you either is that pushing yourself during the difficult times is what brings you confidence in your skills. It’s knowing that you’ve got your own back.
No one knows everything. Everyone makes mistakes. This is what the journey of life is all about!
Make It or Break It?
UK VetMove is my way of sharing all that has helped me with vets that are looking to turn their move to the UK into a success for their career and life. If you want to change something about your career right now, book a free career development session with me.