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Ask your local vet about career openings

Q: I really want to work with animals but don't have much experience in a vet office yet. Now I have experience with animals because I volunteer at PetsMart with New Hope Animal Rescue so I know how to clean and take care of cats and dogs. I just don't have any experience in a vet office, but I really want a job in one. Any advice on how to get my foot in the door with a veterinarian?

A: This sounds familiar. I, too, knew I wanted to work with animals early on but had no experience. My mother helped me get my foot in the door. She was a little lady from Boston who was not afraid to ask questions and send me on any crazy mission she thought was important.  Here's the quick version . . .

She found a kitten with a broken leg. She took it to a veterinarian in Huntington where she lived. They started talking because the veterinarian, like my mother, was quite chatty. They talked about veterinary medicine, animals - and eventually, me. This veterinarian suggested I ask a classmate of hers for a job here in Charleston. So I did. He was young and wasn't hiring at that time so he suggested I go to another, bigger hospital just outside of Charleston. So I did it again, blindly following the advice of a stranger.

I believe timing is everything, and they hired me to work in the kennels on the spot. To this day, I really don't know why. I worked there while applying and all through veterinary school each summer. In fact, I still work there to this day. Strangely, that chatty Huntington veterinarian my mother convinced to help find a job for me also found her way to my present hospital and is now my closest colleague. It was not until years later, one day at work, that we put all the pieces together and realized our connection through my mother. We all had a great laugh. Life always finds a way to work out if you stay open to possibilities.

So the moral of the story for you as a young person wanting to be involved in veterinary medicine is to start talking with your local veterinarian. We are a friendly bunch and like to give advice and help people. Veterinarians know and like other veterinarians and can suggest an opening with someone if they have heard of one. If you don't have a veterinarian yourself, ask some people at PetsMart and New Hope who they use and start there.

Once you fill out an application and get to talk to an office manager or veterinarian, share with them your experiences with animals and your goals. I believe if you are honest and persistent, people will respond to that and doors will start to open for you.

Many veterinarians will train you on the job, and most start nearly 90 percent of employees in the kennel areas. That is where I started, cleaning and feeding patients. In fact, even now our doctors still do that when we have treatments on the weekends. Some things don't ever change.

The other 10 percent of new employees in a veterinary hospital who don't necessarily start in the kennels are the ones who are enrolled in veterinary technician schools. The schools help to place their students in local veterinary hospitals as part of their education. Those placements often result in a permanent job opportunity after graduation. So if you are interested in formal veterinary assistant or veterinary technician training through a career college, the college will help you get your foot in the door and also give you skills for a really cool career to boot.

You can decide which path is best for you. You have my crazy example, or you can talk to your local veterinarian and friends, or you can try to find a veterinary job associated with formal veterinary training. Whichever path you choose, keep working for your goal of a career with animals. Hopefully, with some luck and good timing, you will be rewarded with a great job in veterinary medicine.

Send questions for Dr. Allison Dascoli to "Ask the Vet," Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston WV 25301 or email them to Comments or suggestions can be submitted the same way.



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