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Even if you haven’t decided to commit to the job hunt yet, it can be worth gauging an idea of what is out there.
Look at the type of roles available and the package offered to give you some inclination of what to expect in terms of out-of-hours rotas, number of working days, location, proportion of different species, and so on.
Narrowing down your options
It’s okay to not really know what you want – I changed my mind about the type of practice I wanted to go into several times during my final year. In fact, I probably didn’t really know what I wanted until I started in practice.
While you can be open to a variety of different roles, you should try to get an idea for what is going to be important to you in your first job. Set some definite criteria as a starting point and perhaps have a few others in the “desirable” pile.
You will probably have to compromise on some points, but just be clear about what you absolutely want. Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t at least tick the “essential” boxes for you – even if it seems nothing suitable is around at the moment.
So many practices need vets; you can afford to wait or negotiate what you are offered.
Points to consider
- Species – proportions if mixed
- Rota – 4/4.5/5-day week, time off in lieu for on call, what does a weekend consist of?
- OOH – yes/no/how often?
- Support – but what sort of support do you need, compared with what the practice can offer?
- Independent or corporate practice?
- Do you want a new graduate programme?
- Will you be able to continue your hobbies at the practice?
- Do you want a social practice?
A couple of points can be expanded on here: new graduate programmes sound very nice in principle, but all they really do is guarantee you some half-decent CPD once a month.
My point is, these programmes still rely very much on the individual practices to support and mentor new graduates.
Case by case basis
Don’t assume a new grad scheme will ensure you have support – I am walking evidence to the contrary. I started on a new graduate scheme, but didn't get allocated a mentor or have an official meeting until three months in, at which point I’d already decided I was leaving.
That said, don’t discount corporates entirely if you’ve heard these horror stories. Again, it is very much dependent on the individual practice – many of my friends work for corporate practices and love their jobs.
Also, the very real possibility exists that a seemingly independent practice will be swallowed up by a corporate body after you start working for it, which has happened to some of my classmates.