There comes a time when you will be applying or seeking a paid position as a veterinary nurse. There are essentially two ways to obtain a paid job – you can apply for an advertised position or you can cold call in the hopes that a position has not yet been advertised or is coming up soon. As the veterinary industry often fills positions by word of mouth or from resumes on file, we suggest tackling job hunting both ways.
Here are some tips and tricks for job hunting and applications:
Get to know the employer.
Whether you are cold calling or applying for a position, a little research goes a long way. Employers will be much more interested in potential employees who took the time to get to know them first. Why? Like employees, employers are all different, they have their own workplace culture and business style.
To get to know what that is, you should start with checking out their website – see if you can find their Mission Statement, Vision and Core Values (not all businesses will post these publicly). These statements will provide you with a snapshot of the heart and soul of the business. From this you can see if your own personal values align with theirs and thus provide you with a harmonious relationship for many years to come.
Not only will this information be able to tell you if the business suits you, but you’ll understand them more which will enable you to focus your application on what they value in an employee, this in itself will instantly give you appeal over another applicant. Employee / employer fit is extremely important and should never be underestimated. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world but if you don;’t fit in with the business workplace culture, the chance of obtaining a position or having any longevity in the role will be greatly diminished.
Ensure your CV (or resume) is updated and appears neat and professional.
The power of a clear and well presented resume is amazing. Do not use multiple types of fonts, sizes and colours. Ensure you use headings, paragraphs and dot points appropriately.
Make sure your resume is tailored to the position you are applying for, or seeking. Highlight pertinent education and experience. Relate other non-veterinary industry experience back to how it would fit in to a veterinary nurse role. Veterinary nurses have such a varied job description that we are sure you have something you can bring to the role, even if this would be your first ever veterinary nursing job. Things like sales, retail, customer service, counselling, cleaning and more are all aspects of veterinary nursing too!
If you are struggling to put together your resume and make it present well, it is a wise investment to get a professional to review and edit for you. Tabatha Whitehead, of Help Meowt, is a veterinary nurse and HR expert and is perfectly placed to help you in the resume and cover letter department!
Include a Cover Letter
Write a personalised cover letter that is specific to that clinic and the position (especially if advertised).
A cover letter is letter that goes along with your CV. The letter explains a little to the prospective employer why they should consider you and give an insight into you personally (something your CV may not be able to do).
Cover letters should ALWAYS be personalised and addressed to the practice manager (by name) or person who is handling the recruitment (the advertisement should provide these details).
The content of your letter must include information about what you understand about that particular business, address any selection criteria listed in the advert, and include your contact details and availability clearly. If they are asking for a qualified vet nurse with a minimum of three years experience, with the ability to run puppy school – you must state WHY you meet these criteria in your cover letter (and ensure your resume backs this up!). For example you could write “I qualified with a Cert IV in Veterinary Nursing in 2009 and have been working full time at my current clinic since 2011. In my current position I am responsible for running two puppy school classes per week and have undertaken additional continuing education on behaviour and socialisation.”
Consider details mentioned within the job advertisement but get details not in the ad too, by researching the clinic via their website and Facebook page. Look at the services offered and discuss how you can enhance or contribute to these services. The reason being, you want the receiver to understand you want a position at their clinic, not just any clinic.
Cold Calling Clinics
If ‘cold calling’ (applying even though there are no advertised jobs), visit the clinics you’d like to work at and ask to chat to the Practice Manager about possible employment opportunities. A professional and friendly appearance is essential! Dress and act like you are going in for an interview!
Do understand that clinics are busy workplaces and if the Practice Manager is not available at that moment, ask if you can make an appointment time to come and chat to the Practice Manager at a time suitable to him or her. It is a good idea to leave with the clinic a copy of your cover letter and CV (which of course are already tailored to that clinic).
If you decide to post or email your cover letter and CV to clinics, follow up with a phone call a week later to make sure they got your application/email and ask if they would like to meet with you to discuss any potential employment opportunities.
If you have dropped off, posted or emailed your CV to a clinic but not had the opportunity to chat to the Practice Manager, follow up. Call or visit and ask if they received your application and if there might be any possible vacancies in the near future.
Take with you another copy of your cover letter and CV to leave with them.
If there are no positions currently, make a note in your diary to contact them again in 3 months. Remind them you are looking, keen, and still available!