Making the move: how to transition from practice to a commercial veterinary job

Published: 26 Mar 2015 By Vet Times Jobs

Practice to commercial

Original images ©iStock.com/UroshPetrovic, .shock & traffic_analyzer

Being a qualified veterinary surgeon, nurse or technician opens doors beyond a veterinary practice. The skills you obtained through your studies, and perhaps within a practice environment, are highly desirable to other employers. For example, there are pharmaceutical, chemicals and equipment companies in the animal health industry looking for qualified veterinary professionals. 

Alternatively, veterinary surgeons can look to work in regulations, standards or the public health sector. In a more commercial environment, you could be working in a veterinary advisor job or even technical support. Our article "Vets aren’t limited to life in practice" covers a few areas of veterinary medicine that qualified surgeons can enter. 

But if you’ve already decided to make the move from practice to a commercial or industry veterinary job, there are a few important points you must consider. 

When you’re transitioning from practice to the commercial sector in the veterinary field there will be elements that feel reassuringly familiar. 

However, there will be big changes too. This post is particularly important for those who are changing to a commercial veterinary job after years in a veterinary practice. 

Have a read of our veterinary career change advice below. And with all the advice in mind, why not search for commercial veterinary industry jobs today too? 

  1. You won’t be working with clients any more but don’t wave goodbye to your inter-personal skills just yet

    For a lot some vets their transition from a practice to a commercial job has been triggered by their desire to step away from direct, day-to-day client interaction. It’s definitely one of the more challenging elements of working in a veterinary practice – clients will be worried about their pets, often unfairly demanding (or so it may seem) and difficult to communicate with.

    It’s understandable that for many vet surgeons, nurses and technicians the move to the commercial sector is driven by their wish to step away from client-facing role. However, in many commercial roles the skills you have built working with clients will still be extremely valuable.

    You may, in a commercial role, have new clients that instead of being pet owners are businesses, perhaps even veterinary practices. The skills you developed in being able to explain complicated ailments, procedures or illnesses will prove important in helping you to concisely and accurately communicate with a new type of ‘customer’.

    Not only that, but your inter-personal skills will be essential when communicating with your new colleagues.

    Adapt the inter-personal skills you have built whilst working in practice and you’ll find them invaluable in your new commercial environment.

  2. Recognise the commercial skills you will have gained in practice

    As you look for a commercial job in the veterinary industry you will, no doubt, hear the phrases ‘commercially-minded’ or ‘commercially-driven’, maybe even ‘commercially-savvy’ time and time again.

    Clearly there is a set of commercial skills that you will need to bring with you when you change careers in the vet industry. But what exactly is classed as a commercial skill? And will you have gained any of them within a veterinary practice?

    Good news! In the vast majority of veterinary practices you will have developed some kind of commercial skills. For example:

    • You will understand the value placed on a good work ethic. The demanding work in a veterinary practice will have definitely have instilled a good work ethic.

    • As long as you’ve put your CPD hours to good use and stayed up to date with veterinary sector news you’ll understand the wider picture. This is particularly important in commercial vet jobs because you will still need to maintain this wider awareness of the sector to ensure the organisation is at the cutting edge of the industry.

    • Whilst working in a veterinary practice various salesmen will probably have approached you hoping to pitch in their products or services. As a result you will have an awareness of the different commercial organisations in the industry – and this can be crucial when transitioning from practice to commercial roles. You will have an awareness of competitors and the market, which can be very valuable.

    • Veterinary practices also face challenges from an economic and political point of view. Changes in legislation may affect the running of the practice and economic situations may present difficulties. All of these issues will also impact on commercial veterinary businesses and you knowledge will be very important to your job hunt.

    • An awareness of costs, profits and budgets will also probably have been instilled whilst working in practice. This understanding will be readily transferrable to the commercial world, and no doubt you’ll also be familiar liaising and negotiating with clients on said costs.

  3. Consider an additional qualification or put your CPD to good use

    A lot of commercial jobs in the veterinary field require qualified veterinary surgeons with at least one year of veterinary practice experience. As a result, they often require the successful candidate to continue as a registered vet with the RCVS. As a result your CPD will still be a requirement. Is there a way that you can tailor your CPD to benefit your wish to move into the commercial sector? For example, could a temporary placement in another workplace be beneficial?

    Although CPD is plenty to manage alone, if you’re looking at moving into a very specific area of the commercial veterinary field then you may want to consider an additional qualification. For example, if you’re looking to move into marketing then perhaps a distance learning course in marketing will help you stand out to commercial employers.

  4. Passion is still a requirement

    In many commercial veterinary roles you will still be required to show a real passion and dedication to the veterinary medicine and animal care. Commercial employers look to recruit those who have worked in practices for that precise reason – because they are passionate about veterinary science and as a result are more knowledgeable about the industry and what matters most: Two very important qualities for businesses in any sector.

  5. Be ready for the change in atmosphere, working style and environment

    On a more practical level, when you’re considering how to manage your transition consider that there will be a change in atmosphere, working style and environment that may come as a bit of a shock at first.

    You may be moving to an office environment with flexi-time or a nine to five working day. You may be required to travel between veterinary practices offering presentations and training. You may be working in a relatively solitary role or as part of a large corporate team. When you’re applying for commercial veterinary roles make sure you also find out about how and where you’ll be working – you want something that suits you.

    If you’re looking to leave the veterinary practice but don’t want to go to an office job then search for something that sits comfortably in between the two. These kinds of jobs do exist!

  6. Leave on good terms

    As you leave veterinary practices behind it’s important that you manage every aspect that would normally be involved when changing jobs. You will want to:

    • Notify your regular clients that you’re no longer going to be working at the practice, but you’re pleased to say that they will left in very capable hands

    • Be ready to work your notice period or to leave a little sooner than you expected. Depending on the veterinary practice you work in it may be that they would like you to leave sooner, rather than later, after handing your notice. Be ready for this eventuality and remember it’s not necessarily a sign of upset from your employer – it may simply fit with their work ethics a little more comfortably. On the same note, look at whether you still have paid holiday to take (and make sure you do take it).

    • It goes without saying that the relationships you will have built during your time in practice may still prove valuable to you in a new commercial role. Do all you can to keep things civil between you and your employer.

Hopefully with these bits of career change advice you’ll feel confident stepping into your job hunt, and into the commercial sector. Good luck!

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