Conference Attendance as a Career Builder: How to Network with Uncommon Vets

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If only I had a way to meet that amazing vet doing uncommon work to solve the world’s big problems… they would totally recognize that we are kindred spirits and hire me on right away as their trusty assistant!”

Okay, maybe not those words exactly, but you know what I’m talking about, right? We read these stories or watch a special on TV about inspiring vets doing just the kind of thing we’ve always dreamed of, but it seems like it would impossible to ever get in touch with them, let alone train or work alongside them.

It’s actually quite easy, and I’ll tell you how.

Every year, there are a bunch of veterinary conferences held on every topic imaginable in locations all over the world. Who knew vets needed so many excuses to share stories over drinks and squeeze a little continuing education in on the side?

Well, they do, and this is a good thing because it gives us the opportunity to sit in on those stories and drink sessions without any prior introductions or personal connections. Sure, it still takes an extra dose of courage (or beer) for those of us who are naturally a little more reserved in social settings, but it is totally worth it.

I have made some of my best connections and laid the foundation for several incredible experiences simply by attending conferences, sticking around after presentations to ask questions, and taking advantage of the facilitated social events like happy hours, concerts, and banquets.

One such event was the combined annual meeting of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV), the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV), and the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. These three associations also frequently collaborate on annual conferences with other veterinary and wildlife organizations like the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, the Wildlife Society, and the Wildlife Disease Association.

Just as an aside, if you follow the above links to the respective internet homes of these organizations, you’ll find pages on almost all of them with information about internships, externships, and job opportunities for each respective field. I’ll write more about that later, but this should give you a head start on things.

I was able to convince my bosses to let me fly all the way back from Egypt to South Padre Island, Texas, in order to meet my annual continuing education requirement by attending this conference. Yes, there went your tax dollars at work!

Most of you veterinarians get some type of continuing education benefit through your jobs. Why not take advantage of this time and money to do something that will not only re-inspire you but also give you the connections necessary to step out into a new phase of your career?

I didn’t have any grand goals by attending this conference in South Padre Island, as I knew that I was still committed to the Army for at least another few years. The time was still incredibly valuable, though, because it enabled me to reconnect with a bunch of veterinarians I had worked with during vet school through various externships and research programs. I don’t know when or how these relationships will bear fruit in my own career, but I’m confident they will and I’ll continue to work hard to maintain and develop them.

Even if you vets aren’t planning to leave your job or make a big change anytime soon, now is the time to plant these seeds so that you have the relationships in place whenever you’re ready.

Even if you students still have a long road ahead before graduation, or you’re already planning an internship year in small animal clinical practice, don’t miss out on your opportunities to make connections and create a network for yourself. Apply for that conference travel grant your school advertised. Stay after class to talk to that guest lecturer in your Zoo Medicine class. Make it happen.

Who knows, you might just find yourself ordering a drink next to that veterinary hero of yours and signing on as his Trusty Assistant a few hours later.

What’s holding you back from taking this simple step in pursuing your goals? Leave a comment and let me know!

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5 Responses to “Conference Attendance as a Career Builder: How to Network with Uncommon Vets”

  1. Chris - Vet School Diary January 9, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly with this as I attended BSAVA Congress 2011 where I actually met the company that I am working for now partime to help fund my vet school!

    It is never too early to start making connections as you never know when you will need them!

    • Elliott January 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Chris, thank you for your affirmation of this important skill! It is really in everyone’s best interest to do as much networking as possible, wherever they are.


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