If you had a few hours to engage with experienced, high-achieving veterinarians reflecting on their career and providing advice, what would you ask? If you were given challenging advice, would you take it?
I was recently afforded this scenario as part of my state veterinary medical association’s Power of 10 Program. This program, designed to develop young veterinary leaders on the state level, provided me with a golden ticket to the Past-President’s luncheon for the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association.
As we mingled with colleagues and mentors from across the state, it became clear that the roughly twenty previous KVMA Presidents we were dining with were going to leave a lasting impression.
One-by-one each past-president told their story and provided a piece of advice to us as young leaders. They told passionate stories of fighting for our profession in the state capitol and expressed gratitude for a network of best friends they would never have met otherwise. While modestly avoiding discussion of their accomplishments, several voiced the thought that leadership had propelled their career forward through networking and new skills. Most of all, every local and national leader in the room implored us to say “yes” when presented with the opportunity to serve our profession through organized medicine, non-profits, or community outreach.
Perhaps the best summary of their advice was, “Getting involved in professional leadership is the best thing I have done in my professional life. I only wish I had done it sooner.”
Now, I have a confession to make. I’ve always felt strongly about getting involved and making the change you want to see happen. To hear that after 10 to 65 years in veterinary medicine, leadership was among the most important aspects of the careers of these diverse colleagues was shocking. Surely I had to share this.
If you’re anything like me, you wonder where you will find the time or skills to volunteer. As I looked around that room full of practice owners and parents, I was reminded that if we wait for ‘free time’ no one will care for our profession and tackle the many challenges it now faces. As VLE alumni, we have the basic skillset of a servant leader and the will to make a difference, the rest can be learned on the job.
The veterinary profession is currently facing difficult challenges on local and national levels. Find one you’re passionate about and get involved! Actively build a network that will complement your skillset, and encourage you to try new things. The next time you are presented with an opportunity to say ‘yes’, I hope you think of this knowledgeable and wise panel and that you jump in with a VLE smile.