Work Experience – Top Tips from Phoebe

Veterinary Work Experience

Phoebe Russell, with her horse, LuckyPhoebe Russell

My name is Phoebe Russell and I’m from Norfolk, currently in year 12. I’m hoping to apply to vet school this September, for a 2015 deferred start, after a gap year. I work at a local petting farm, and have a pet snake called Casper, among a menagerie of other pets, including a horse too, called Lucky!

We all know the journey to vet school is a challenge; the course is competitive, and everyone applying is going to have tip top grades. So, to set yourself apart from the crowd, you really must get some work experience under your belt. Although not always an easy task to find placements, they are so valuable and will pay dividends when it comes to writing up your personal statement, and during interviews.

Obviously there will be loads of keen vetty hopefuls who are also applying for placements at your local vets or farm, for example. So how do you get the establishment to notice you? I’ve found it best to generally write a formal letter to them, one directly tailored to the particular institute you’re applying to, not merely a one for all. This proves you have genuine interest in their business, and you’ve not just sent a stock letter out willy nilly, and hoped for the best. Also, it may sound obvious, but remember to include:

  • Your name
  • Your age
  • Address
  • Email
  • Telephone number
  • Reasons for wanting the experience
  • What you are currently doing (e.g. sixth form/college)

It could also be beneficial to mention previous placements if you have any, and that you are willing to send a CV or references, if required. Better still, you could send them with the letter in the first place. Lots of contact information gives the person you’re writing to very little reason to not get in touch. After all, you’ve made it so easy!

However, do not expect that by merely sending this letter, you will actually get a number of responses. In fact, you’re lucky to get any offers at all. Vet practices in particular want to see that you really do want the placement, and you’re a worthy and willing candidate, so you should write a follow up letter, a week or so later, if you’ve not heard back. Otherwise, give them a call, drop them an email, or go straight in and ask! Being confident enough to do so would be admirable by potential placement establishments, and what’s the worst that can happen? They tell you no? Suck it up!

 The same issue stands with farmers or abattoirs too; they’re incredibly busy and you’re not their prime concern, so your letter may be at the bottom of their “to-do list”, so get in touch!

In a desperate panic in mid June, I realised summer was quickly approaching, and I needed to fit in some placements! So I hastily picked up the phone, called two vet practices, an abattoir, and a research centre. Straight away I was given the opportunity to organise placements, with email addresses of the person who I directly should contact thrust at me! Fab!

Remember your “pleases” and “thank yous”, before, during and after your placement; it will be completely appreciated and you never know, you may be offered a job at the business, which is always great. A card or phone call afterwards shows you truly are grateful, and the experience has been beneficial- the place is more likely to accept future applicants if you’ve not been a hindrance to them!!

So, my top tips are:

  • Be enthusiastic!
  • Be organised and get booking early!
  • Be polite!
  • Be confident and go that extra mile to get where you want to be: vet school.

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