What you must know about how life’s going to change when you decide to work as a vet in the UK

 

In the UK, the veterinary profession is highly regarded. Among many other factors, non-UK trained vets consider moving their careers to the UK to gain experience, have access to better career opportunities and also better working conditions and pay.

If you are trailing this path, no doubt you expect to need to go on a journey if you are planning on moving to the UK to develop your veterinary career. You can see a few challenges and barriers into the future and feel the uncertainty of what’s to come. Maybe that’s causing you some anxiety and making you second guess yourself. But did you know that the entire journey is predictable? The timescale is different for everyone, but most people experience all steps.

 

Let’s have a look at the different parts of this journey.

Shake Up

Before anything happens, something happens. Something that makes you decide that you want to move to the UK. Poor career opportunities, a lifelong dream of travelling in the UK, a TV show, a case that has gone bad. Something shakes up your life to the point where the option of developing a career in the UK becomes real.

This stage can linger around for a short period of a few days to several years, and some people never go past this stage. Those are the people that have decided that they don’t actually want to try to make it in the UK. 

The end of this stage is marked by the decision of creating a UK career, which marks the beginning of the next stage.

Move

Until you take action, you haven’t really decided. That’s why people that never do anything and say “maybe I will go into the UK” are still on the shake up stage and may never transition to the move stage. This is where things get real. This is when you start your research, talk to friends, visit UK VetMove and start to assess if the decision of moving to the UK really is a good one. You start to prompt up your CV and look for jobs. You may visit the UK and get a job. You may actually move to the UK. This is where your career abroad becomes real.

Some people need a few weeks to get the ball rolling, while others need a bit more time. Some frustratingly give up as they are not able to find a job. This stage is marked by a rise in overwhelm and frustration, the feeling that there is so much you don’t know about and so much to learn and do. These feelings will sometimes lead to paralysis and other times automatically reduce our confidence in your decision.

Initial overwhelm

When you think you’ve gone through the hiccups of moving to the UK, the real challenge starts. This is typically associated with the first days to months of work and life in the UK. This stage corresponds to the negotiation phase of culture shock. 

During this stage of overwhelm, everything around you is new and different. You don’t know anything about work, everything you thought you knew no longer works, and you are overwhelmed by inadequacy and insecurity. However, this is pinned by a feeling of hope that things will get better. This is what most vets are expecting when they move to a new country – a rocky start until they get more accustomed to everything and learn more.

During this initial overwhelm your confidence levels hit rock bottom and your overwhelm and frustration is at its peak. However, this is also the stage where your learning curve moves up the fastest. 

Personal rollercoaster

There is the misconception that once you get a job and some experience, the hardest part is over. That your initial overwhelm ends in some peace and quiet. Well, that’s not quite true!

In many cases, what follows is a period of personal rollercoaster. This still correlates with the negotiation stage of culture shock and paves the transition (or not) to the adjustment stage. To make matters worse, the ups and downs occur in three different areas that are linked: your workplace and career, your lifestyle and your connections. 

During this period, one experiences fluctuating levels of confidence and frustration. While the level of overwhelm has dropped as the previous stage evolved, the levels of frustration are increasingly higher as several repeating systems and situations are seen as clashing with your own beliefs. This is the typical period where you feel amazing after having done a c-section and delivered 11 puppies, and then feel really frustrated the next day when you hear about a client complaint that was clearly not your fault. 

It is also the period where most vets look for another job as they feel that their learning curve is stagnating or they are not getting what they hoped for their careers.

This period can be overcome in a short period of time, such as a few months, or take years to master.

Make it or break it

Some vets will spend varied lengths of time going through this stage. For some it may take an instant, for others a few days, yet for others it may take years or never be reached.

The make it or break it stage happens when the frustrations and stresses of the personal rollercoaster stage surpass one’s resistance to change. Confidence levels hit a low and vets experience urgency for immediate action and change in their circumstances. It can result from one single episode or an accumulation of several events. This is the tipping point and culminates in change. It’s when you say “enough is enough”.

Most people think of this stage as something big and in reality, for most vets, this change is “big”, such as getting a new job, going through a career change or taking a career break. It may also lead to international vets returning to their home countries. However, this change may also be internal. In other words, nothing seems to change around the vet or in the conditions of their work and life, but the individual changes. 

While most people change for better, this change may be a negative change. In this situation, change may lead to culture rejection instead of culture adjustment and adaptation and, in the worst situations, may be responsible for severe mental health issues. 

The make it or break it stage is the one where the levels of frustration are the highest although they are strongly fluctuating. The key catalyser, however, is the surpassing of one’s point of tolerance to change.

Growth spurt

Some skilled people go past the make it or break it stage quickly and put themselves in situations where they are better off than they were before –  and they feel it. The growth spurt happens when one’s actions and decisions lead them to a better place than before. There is an overarching feeling of “mission accomplished” and levels of confidence go up again. Frustration and overwhelm drop. Growth happens.

The growth spurt may happen in one or more areas of one’s life and not just career. It’s a period where life is flowing but it may be fleeting depending on how much attention you are paying to your insecurities and how consciously aligned you are with your “soul purpose”. This is why some vets seem to “have it under control” while others go back to the personal rollercoaster a few weeks after getting into a new job that they thought was going to fix their problems.

Despite what this journey makes you believe, these stages are not separate and one can go from initial overwhelm to growth spurt. The simple fact that you have gained awareness of these stages will already help you face them and see them as something to learn from. But there are two more important concepts that you must grasp that are related to your veterinary mindset.

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