Close this search box.

New Graduate Survival Manual Introduction

Congratulations on being a veterinarian! Now it’s your turn to be turned loose in the real world. Like so many of us who have gone before you, you’re probably about as frightened as you are excited.
The VIN Foundation is here to help make your career transition smoother and less intimidating through coaching and insights into your new profession. This New Graduate Survival Manual is first stop guide to helping you succeed as you embark on your veterinary career journey.
Below you will find helpful resources to guide you toward a successful transition as a veterinarian. As always, our door is open for questions or feedback.


The first 5 years are the most formative.

This New Graduate Survival Manual is part of the VIN Foundation’s Thrive in Five Toolkit, helping new veterinary graduates thrive as veterinarians in their first five years out of veterinary school. Born out of a need identified by the Vets4Vets® support group, they found if veterinarians were thriving in their first five years out of veterinary school they were thriving throughout their career, and vice versa. This toolkit combines the most helpful tools and tips for new grads into a one-stop-stop resource. Take a moment to visit the Thrive in Five Toolkit.


A fast-paced and chaotic environment may be perfect for some, versus others might prefer something more low-key. Spending time (at least a week) shadowing and observing at your potential workplace will help you recognize the pace, support style, and other key aspects of the hospital and staff which will contribute to your eventual job satisfaction. Matchmaker, matchmaker find me a job provides techniques to make your job search more effective. It’s important you recognize the qualities- both desirable and less-so that your potential job holds.
Most jobs mix our “dream job” characteristics with “work in progress” qualities… and, frankly, all of us have to accept the reality that no job is completely perfect. The key is balance. Does the compensation balance the schedule? Does the good outweigh the not-so-good? Be sure to spend time understanding the compromise you are making between your dreams and the realities of the position you are considering.
Job hunting can be such a stress filled experience. Having a bomb-proof cover letter and resume can take a little pressure off of the search once you find a position to pursue!
Great cover letters will make employers dig back into the digital envelope for the resume. Your cover letter builds interest, concisely explains resume gaps, and shows your prospective employer how you will fit seamlessly into their crew.
You will “dress to impress” for your job interview; likewise, your cover letter and resume need to look professional. Tie your cover letter and resume together by using the same header (with your name and contact information) on each document. Use the same font for both; choose a font that is easy to read and not overly formal (avoid anything that appears overly stylized or quirky).
Contracts are relationship-savers. The best contracts clarify all aspects of the relationship you are creating with your employer and can be a bonding opportunity. They spell out the hours and days you will work, what will be expected from you, and your remuneration. They spell out what you are paid for, what’s not included in your compensation, and clarify all of those pesky details such as benefits and vacation time. If your potential employer doesn’t have a contract for you, the customizable Model Employment Contract is available at no-cost to help. Most practice owners who don’t offer a contract are simply afraid of the cost and complication of creating the document and might be happy you are bringing a fair one to the table.
The Model Employment Contract is a customizable template contract created by an attorney for the VIN Foundation. It will help you have a meaningful, and hopefully bonding, discussion with your potential employer. Contract negotiation is a conversation; your employer makes an offer and you respond with your requests or concerns while respecting their point of view.
Realize your salary depends on a variety of factors:
  • Some positions are available because an associate is leaving. The perk here is you will be stepping into an already-created client base.
  • Some positions are available because the owner wants to grow the hospital. This situation will likely offer a slower start and may allow you to bring your special interest to the hospital as a new profit center.
  • Some positions open up because the owner hopes to step back a bit. Be clear with your new boss if you feel you need a specific amount of time and experience in the position before the owner heads off on vacation.
  • Many newer graduates need help understanding their veterinary school educational debt situation, the Student Debt Center can help you to double check that you are making the best decision that you can when it comes to repaying your loans.
Figure out what role you will be filling so that can make an informed decision as you contemplate taking your new position.
VIN Foundation | Supporting veterinarians to cultivate a healthy animal community | Resources | Thrive in Five | New Graduate Survival Manual | Workplace Fitting In
The staff and doctors of a veterinary practice are members of an established family, with all of the wonderful bonds that come with family- and all of the uncomfortable quirks!
You will need to find your way into this group with respect and courtesy. Although you will outrank support staff in terms of education and responsibility, you may be near the bottom of the practice’s social order. Many employees have been there for years and know the ins and outs of the clinic and clients. They can be an excellent source of help and advice. Most staff will respond favorably to simple courtesy and will appreciate recognition of their hard earned knowledge and experience via your requests for their advice and help as well as your “thanks” for a job well done. You worked hard to gain your degree, but it does not grant you instant credibility and respect. Respect must be earned by being a competent and courteous team player.
Clients, for the most part, will be respectful of your degree, but remember many long-term clients feel they have a personal relationship with more senior colleagues. They may insist on having another veterinarian see their animal, and this can be hurtful. Even more unpleasant, they may repeat everything you told them to a senior veterinarian or technician. This can make you feel they didn’t believe or understand anything you told them. Grow thicker skin and ignore this; they may be just talking to an “old friend” or want some assurance from the people they know. They don’t know you yet, but they want the best for their animal. You’re new, and they trust the old guy. Soon, they’ll be asking for you, especially if you are honest and caring in your approach.
Make sure the clients know you as a person, then they are more apt to treat you like one.
Jealousies and personality conflicts lead to a miserable working environment. You can avoid these situations by being friendly but neutral and staying out of work conflicts unless you are directly involved. If you think a staff member has some animosity toward you, talk to them politely but directly and try to understand what you might be doing to cause these feelings and how you might work together to correct the problem. Be accountable for any responsibility you have in the conflict.
Everyone needs a little guidance, especially during the early days of a new job. Not quite a marriage, but close! provides guidelines you, and your boss can use to customize your work relationship.
The practice owner or senior colleague may have worked years without a vacation. They may be exhausted and waiting for someone to “help them out”. Your initial interview is a good time to ask what vacation plans your future boss has planned. Ask specific questions such as when they are leaving, how long will they be gone, can they be reached, and is there another veterinarian available to help you. If you are uncomfortable being left alone you must tell them. They should be willing to stay available until you get your bearings, agree to be in contact by phone, or have another veterinarian available.
We all make mistakes. Mistakes don’t mean we are bad veterinarians; often they even make us better. The key is to own our mistakes, learn from them, and not repeat the same ones. Tell your boss when you make a mistake, then together decide how to tell the client and to fix the issue. The difference between school and practice is simple: in school you learn the lesson, and then take the test. In practice it’s the opposite, you take the test, then learn the lesson.
Don’t beat yourself up when you learn a painful lesson; you will remember these incidents for future reference. Sooner or later most small animal veterinarians will spay a tom cat, equine veterinarians will tear a mare’s rectum, and bovine veterinarians will deliver a calf and not check for a twin. Hopefully it doesn’t happen twice to the same colleague. If there’s a mistake to be made, chances are someone before you has made it.

If you feel you need more support than your job and social network provide, email to be paired with an online or telephone mentor or to gain admission to the Vets4Vets® confidential support group. Vets4Vets® is a confidential support group available at no cost to all veterinary students and veterinarians through the VIN Foundation. You can learn more in the Thrive in Five Toolkit.

Your new career will be an adventure. Like all adventures, it will bring excitement, anxiety, rewards, loneliness, and joy. Throughout those experiences and in all the phases of your career, the VIN Foundation will be here for you, offering support when you need it. When, and if, you become ready to share your knowledge and experience with other new grads as a Vets4Vets® mentor, we will also be here for you! Congratulations and remember you are not alone!
Above all, the VIN Foundation is here to help you succeed in the veterinary profession. If you have feedback or questions, our door is always open.

Explore More


The job search experience can be uncomfortable and intimidating, but you aren’t alone.


Job hunting can be a stress filled experience, having a bomb-proof cover letter can help.


You will “dress to impress” for your job interview; likewise, your resume needs to look professional.


A practical guide to the mentoring relationship. Here we’ll be walking through some tips for developing successful mentoring relationships.


Everyone has a first day at work, and if this is your first mentoring experience you may be feeling similar jitters.


Relationships are always a two-way street. In order for your mentor to help you effectively, there are some things you’ll need to do.

Scroll to Top