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Recruiting for the Future

Posted July 10, 2018

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From left: Fourth-year veterinary student Austin Hardegee, associate dean for professional programs Dr. Karen Cornell, and fourth-year veterinary student Caitlin Conner

Veterinarians from the farthest corners of Texas, some driving four to five hours, traveled to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) on Nov. 18 to meet, network with, and, hopefully, recruit students.

Here at home, more than 200 eager first- through fourth-year veterinary students entered booth-filled lecture halls in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), armed with their resumes and ready to secure coveted jobs and externships in their preferred areas of the state.

The first expanded Veterinary Job & Externship Fair was a resounding success, drawing a tremendous number of practices of all sizes that care for animals of all species, as well as students who were serious about securing positions.

“In the spring of each year, the college has traditionally organized an evening of interviews during which practitioners interested in hiring a new veterinary school graduate would meet with interested fourth-year veterinary students. This year, we wanted to maximize graduating students’ opportunities to meet with practices seeking an associate, earlier in the year,” said Karen Cornell, CVM associate dean for professional programs. “Additionally, we wanted to give our first-, second-, and third-year students the opportunity to meet with practices and discuss possible summer employment opportunities and externships.”

After developing the idea of the Veterinary Job & Externship Fair, Cornell contacted the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), and they were excited to partner with the CVM to provide this opportunity for both students and practices seeking associates.

“This is an event that has been needed for a really, really long time,” said Dan Posey, TVMA president and academic coordinator for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (TVMC) at West Texas A&M University. “This actually allows the students to see what the opportunities are.

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All four classes of veterinary students took
advantage of the chance to speak with
prospective employers at the fair.

“There are 110 practices here that are all looking for veterinarians,” he said. “That opens up the eyes, the first-, second-, and third-year students get to learn about the opportunities in Texas. And it happens in one place, where students actually don’t have to get in a car and drive all over the state of Texas, so it’s really student-friendly, too.”

That student-friendly aspect appealed to many of the students who attended, each of whom had their own reasons for attending.
Carling Urben, a second-year veterinary student who plans to specialize in mixed-animal medicine, came to the fair looking for summer externships and to begin scouting fourth-year externships “because it’s never too early.”

“It’s been a pretty positive experience; it’s been super helpful. Everyone I’ve been talking to has been really open to summer externships and been really awesome,” she said, adding that she was impressed by the variety of exhibitors. “They brought a lot of people together; I’ve talked to someone from Beaumont, someone from Abilene, the Dallas area, Houston area; so, it’s been really nice to be able to kind of get all corners of Texas and talk to them.”

Urben said that while she’s been told that she shouldn’t be concerned about her job prospects following graduation, a bit of anxiety about that had persisted until she attended the fair.

“It seems like a lot of people are looking for associates soon, or looking for people to take over their practice. Yeah, it kind of looks like the future’s bright for us,” she said. “It is nice to have it cemented that all of these people are looking.”

Likewise, fourth-year veterinary student Stephanie Dodd had experienced a bit of “job-related anxiety;” she wants to practice mixed-animal medicine but she plans to return to the Houston area, where she’s from, where her boyfriend works, and also where there aren’t a lot of mixed-animal practices.

“I was a little nervous, for sure, because there were only three practices that were mixed that were in the area that I was looking for, but I had some good conversations and the couple practices that I talked to today really seem like good potential jobs,” she said. “I’m excited to go and schedule some time later to spend some time there.”

Dodd said that while salary will be a contributing factor to the position she ultimately decides to take, her biggest consideration will be the type of people with whom she will be working.

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Employers from all over the state of Texas attended
the fair to recruit externs and future veterinary
associates.

“I think the things that I value are good mentorship, veterinarians I’m going to feel comfortable going to asking for advice, asking you know, ‘What would you do in this situation? I’ve never done this. Can you just be there and make sure I’m doing everything OK?’” she said. “I think long-term, my goal is to own my own practice. So right now, it’s just getting the experience under my belt and having the right mentors.”

Exhibitor Joe Hillhouse, owner of Carson County Veterinary Clinic, two mixed-animal practices in Panhandle, Texas, also said that personality is something he is looking for in potential employees.

“We hire by character; we look for work ethic probably more than anything. Secondarily, we look for somebody who is enthusiastic about a mix of things. And then once they get into the practice they can have an opportunity to develop niches within the practice of things they like to do,” he said.

One reason character can have such a high priority in his hiring process is because he knows he’ll get solid, skilled veterinarians from Texas A&M, he said, adding that he believes the education students receive in food animal medicine from Kevin Washburn and Brandon Dominguez as part of the two-week Texas Department of Criminal Justice rotation fourth-year students can take as an elective is particularly valuable.

“I’m very, very pleased with our Aggie graduates,” he said.

Hillhouse said networking with and tracking students has become a big part of his recruitment process, especially in their location, where there is a huge demand for veterinarians, and the CVM’s Veterinary Job & Externship Fair will become a big part of those efforts.

“I like this (event); I think that we, as practices, need more opportunities to bring our faces forward,” he said. “Networking is, I think, the most important part. If we can pull the students in to talk to us, if nothing else, we will have developed an initial relationship with colleagues that may last for years.”

Overall, Cornell was pleased with the fair’s turnout and is looking forward to making the activity an annual event.

“We had more than 110 practices in attendance and provided students in all four years of our DVM program the opportunity to interact with their future colleagues from all over the state of Texas,” she said. “We learned a great deal from this first event and plan to utilize the feedback from practitioners and students to make the event even better next year. We truly appreciate the support of the TVMA and the practice colleagues who joined us here in College Station for the fair.”

The 2018 Veterinary Job & Externship Fair will take place at the CVM on Sat., Nov. 3rd.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of CVM Today magazine.

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