The age-old question is: how to start getting veterinary experience if you have no experience or skills to qualify you for a job or even a volunteer opportunity. Just about every vet student nowadays has tackled this conundrum, so you are not alone. Though some vet students are fortunate enough to have a family member or close family friend in the field that can get them in, many of us are not that fortunate. As a result, we need to be more creative.
Where to start:
- Get “animal” experience first. Most people cannot expect to get a job working in a vet hospital without any experience working with animals. You may have to start out as a kennel worker and work your way up the totem pole or you can find places to volunteer. As a kennel worker, you may be relegated to cleaning as your predominant duty, but that’s fine — many people have started there and worked up from there!
- Get in contact with your local animal shelter(s) about opportunities to volunteer. If there is no veterinary clinic at the shelter, you can use this opportunity to gain experience working with animals which can make you more qualified for future veterinary positions. If there is a veterinary clinic at the local shelter, then you may need to work your way into the clinic by gaining experience elsewhere in the shelter, but you may be able to go directly into the veterinary clinic. Prepare a resume and share it with your volunteer coordinator (for them to pass on to the medical staff) so that they can see what your goals are and a little more about your background.
- Dress professionally and drop off your professional resume and cover letter to some local veterinary offices. (You are never too young to have a professional resume and everyone should become accustomed to writing cover letters!)
- Inquire with your own veterinarian about opportunities to volunteer in his/her practice or if they know any places in the area that would accept volunteers. These connections often play out nicely!
Once you start getting experience, don’t forget to keep track of your hours, what you’ve done, etc. You will be glad you did and ahead of the game when it comes time to fill out the VMCAS application!