Vet Natalia Strokowska has built a portfolio career that allows her to achieve the work-life balance she wants.
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I qualified from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland in 2014 and initially worked in a small animal practice in the city. I also started postgraduate studies in non-domesticated animals and my PhD, studying wildlife.
In Poland, vets’ incomes are frustratingly low, which soon led me to rethink my career. Locum work had always been an intentional component of my plan because I felt it would help me to develop as a vet. The other benefits it offered included flexible working and an opportunity to travel.
As a result, I now find that my vet degree is helping me to explore the world – I have worked in Dubai, the UK, Sweden and Norway.
2014: graduated, finished my Erasmus practice exchange in the UK, started work and began my PhD.
2015: locum work and set up www.vetnolimits.com
2016: promoted the ‘Veterinary English’ course, locumed and did my research.
2017: organised the first ever rabbit medicine conference and workshop and guinea pig conference, workshop and masterclass in Poland as www.furryvets.com. Exhibited Vetnolimits at London Vet Show.
2018: locum contracts in Sweden and Norway and started international business collaborations.
Locuming is a great experience, but it can be challenging. It often involves doing emergency shifts and rarely offers the opportunity to follow on up a patient’s progress.
Local clinical challenges can be interesting too, introducing you to things you haven’t encountered before. For example, this summer in Sweden there were some days when I treated between three and five cases of snake bite.
Setting up in business
Flexible working has also allowed me to set up a business with a group of colleagues. Vetnolimits (www.vetnolimits.com) provides educational and career support services.
We developed a course for vets and vet students in Europe who want pursue a career abroad, such as in the UK. So far, we have helped almost 250 participants apply for their dream job, secure an internship, get involved in volunteering or gain confidence in English veterinary medical terminology.
And Vetnolimits is also a social media platform where I share my vet experiences through my blog and Instagram (@vetnolimits).
What are your next steps?
I’m now the clinical director of a newly established small animal practice in Warsaw. My contract allows me to take unpaid leave for a proportion of the year, so that I can continue to do some locum contracts abroad and help maintain Vetnolimits. I will complete my PhD this year as well.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
World-class writer and speaker Simon Sinek’s presentations have helped me to understand myself, find my inner purpose and add value to what I offer. I recognise that my career journey has already been unconventional.
What would you tell someone considering a vet career?
Don’t listen to those who try to discourage you from following your dreams.
Explore all your options. For example, I regret not knowing that if I had taken international A levels, I would have stood a good chance of attending a UK vet school.
Being a vet is a challenging, busy and demanding job and it’s not for everyone. For me, having a mixture of roles offers independence, freedom and flexibility.
Take every opportunity to find the path that suits you
If you’re adventurous, enjoy changing your work environment and challenging yourself in various situations – go for it! Take every opportunity to find the path that suits you.
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