You never really stop learning, especially in a field that continues to evolve as new science and medicine is discovered, so finding someone who you admire that you can learn from is a great way to get your veterinarian career going. This learning goes both ways; you may have learned about new techniques in school that your mentor has not heard of yet, allowing you to teach them as well.
You can have more than one mentor to learn from too, in fact, it could be even more beneficial if you had two or more mentors to help you.
Set Realistic Goals
When you set your overall career goals, do not be vague about what you want. It is hard to make a solid plan for the future when your goal is simply to be successful. Without that firm plan for the future, it is difficult to figure out what direction you need to go in to make that happen. If you decide you want to be the top canine heart surgeon in the state, spend time breaking that down. What training do you need to achieve that? What experience do you need?
Breaking down your overall goal into smaller, more manageable ones will help you get to where you want to be, and it will seem like a more attainable goal when you look at just the first stop on your goal roadmap and think "I need to get this much experience in this practice." When you reach that goal, look at the next one, and so on until you finally reach the top.
You may be done with school, at least for now, but now you get the hands-on experience to back it all up. You will never truly stop learning.
When you have goals in mind for your career, sit down and figure out what training you need, what skills you need to sharpen, and what knowledge you need to learn. You may not know the answers to those things yet but giving yourself a basic idea is a good way to stay on task. Include this with your goal roadmap and use it to help keep you on track to where you want to be.
In a veterinarian career, you truly can learn something new every day. New illnesses and injuries can show up and take you by surprise but try not to let it become overwhelming. Try to avoid showing frustration over having an illness in front of you that is difficult to diagnose, and the tests keep coming back inconclusive. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity to research a new ailment and be willing to share your results when you eventually solve the puzzle in front of you.
Also, never be afraid to ask someone for help. There is nothing wrong with asking questions to help you increase your knowledge in any specific area.
Network with Former Classmates
Staying in contact with some of your former classmates can help you set up a strong support system, which can help you later on if things get tough. They understand what you are going through even more than a mentor does, because they are currently experiencing similar things. You will have a group that you can talk to when things get difficult, people to vent to, and people to share career-related news with. This network can also be a valuable tool in helping you find a job, by acting as references for you and they may even be able to help you find a job at the clinic they are now working at.
Balance Your Life and Work
There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on the importance of having a good balance between your work and your life. Even in a job as demanding as veterinary medicine, you need to remember that your work is not your whole life. This can be an emotionally challenging job at times, so having distractions when you get home, like spending time with your family and friends, can help you shut work out of your mind for a while. Without this option to step away from work for a few hours, you will not be coming back to work refreshed each day, and eventually, you will begin to burn out. So, finding that balance quickly is vital to your veterinarian career and to your overall mental health.