When I got to vet school, I swore I wouldn’t get a job. Or become over-involved in extra-curricular activities. Then I attended club night, and since every club related to working with and learning about animals in the context of medicine, I wanted to join every one. Fortunately, being a club member is only as time-consuming as you want it to be – there is no minimum requirement for meeting attendance.
Then came job opportunities – working in the hospital, walking dogs, helping with surgery labs. Every job offered opportunities to work with professors and clinicians one-on-one – something we are told is essential if we are to set ourselves apart. How can we form the kind of relationships that lead to letters of recommendation if we don’t take part in these jobs?
Second year rolled around, and club leadership was handed off to our year. Some clubs had fierce competition for leadership, others had to appeal to the entire class to get enough officers. SCAVMA, being a necessary entity for our students to have certain benefits, had to appeal several times; such time-consuming positions are hard to fill in vet school. Each time an appeal went out, I felt guilty. Not because I had any responsibility to fill these positions, but I felt the need to fill vacant positions to ensure the continuation of essential clubs, even if I had no desire to fill those positions. Such are the joys of a Type A personality.
Each position that I did fill – and I am by no means the most committed, by far – is far more time-consuming than I was led to believe. My job has added responsibilities that previous students did not have, as professors are re-shuffled to other positions or take on other responsibilities, and the student is left to fill the gap. The sheer number of emails that are required to get one club meeting established, the territorialism that occurs when two clubs want to have a meeting on the same night, and the forethought required to plan events in September that won’t happen until June, take up more brainspace than I thought – maybe more than I can actually spare.
Every single professor I work with tells me, “School comes first.” But… you have to establish relationships with clinicians. But… this job or that responsibility is shared among second years, so someone has to work or do treatments the night before a big exam. But… when I was in vet school, we did it this way. But… if you don’t take on a leadership role, you won’t get that job offer. But… if you don’t become involved, you’re a slacker.
If you are in vet school, or considering vet school, or just in a job or situation where you have the opportunity to take on a lot of extra responsibilities, don’t go crazy. Do less than you think you can, because each of those responsibilities can become a behemoth standing between you and the thing you actually want. Keep your eyes on the real goal, and don’t let a multitude of clubs and activities draw you away. Become involved, but have restraint. It’s ok to let an awesome opportunity pass you by every once in a while. Another one will come along – life is short, but it’s longer than we give it credit for. You don’t have to live out every opportunity just to see that it isn’t the right one, and you really don’t want to lose the one opportunity you actually want because you were too preoccupied with side quests to pursue your dreams.