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Fulfilment at work
  1. Ebony Escalona, BSc, BVSc, PhD, AHE, MRCVS

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Ebony Escalona is a veterinary training adviser at VDS Training.

‘[As a vet] I could finally help pets how I had always dreamed. However, something was lacking . . . What an unsettling thought for someone who had knit her entire life’s identity with the singular goal of being a veterinarian. I cannot convey how difficult this notion was to process and acknowledge to myself, even more so to others.’

This is a quote from American vet Maranda Elswick in an open letter to the veterinary community posted on her website the Meowing Vet. Does this ring true for you?

It’s common throughout our career to find that work may no longer have the same fulfilling effect. Our sense of purpose is subject to change and is critical to our sense of fulfilment, and so it is important to note that:

  • Purpose is built, not found,

  • It is not enough to have a sense of purpose once in your lifetime,

  • Purpose is not a single thing. Think about building purposes.

We must continually and mindfully develop our sense of purpose as our circumstances and personal values change over time, and to capture the multiple sources of meaning that cross our path. Here are some tips for keeping that ‘sweet spot’ at work.

This concludes our monthly wellbeing series, provided by VDS Training. Topics are listed below:

  • Knowing what you want from life✓

  • Managing perfectionism✓

  • Becoming responsibly selfish✓

  • Getting the most out of your time✓

  • Feeling in control✓

  • Setting achievable goals✓

  • Personal leadership✓

  • Developing a resilient approach✓

  • Developing an assertive approach✓

  • Dealing with difficult clients✓

  • Worried about a colleague?✓

  • Fulfilment at work✓

Assess what you want

Think about what you want at this point in your life. What drove you in your 20s will differ from what drives you in your 30s, 40s or 80s; this applies to both your work and your life outside of work.

What floats your boat? Passions outside of work can help to counterbalance any monotony in your day job, helping energise you to re-engage with work challenges and opportunities.

Be aware of your mindset

Try this exercise: every day for a fortnight, jot down how much time you have spent in these three mindsets:

  • Job mindset – resorting to pay cheque mentality.

  • Career mindset – is your focus on advancing your title, team, influence or salary?

  • Purpose mindset – is your day mainly filled with passion and commitment to your role?

If you are spending more than 50 per cent of your time in job or career mindsets, think about redefining your purpose.

Connect your work to service

Do you identify your roles and responsibilities with regards to serving others? This could be linked to animals, people, the organisations you value or the environment we live in. As veterinary professionals, we have multiple ways to consciously connect our daily tasks with something that matters to us.

Get crafting

Craft the work that is meaningful for you, from the work you are assigned. This does not mean only doing the things you like, but actively up-skilling and redesigning your job to foster positive outcomes. If we are motivated and encouraged to customise our jobs to better fit our motives and strengths, then everyone comes out a winner. How about changing the scope of your tasks or relationships at work, taking on fewer tasks or changing the way you perform them? Could you lengthen your consultation slots, to enhance rapport building with clients? Or perhaps change your relationships at work, such as engaging with marketing teams to improve how your team is seen by your client base and the general public? Finally, change your perception of your role; for instance, a cleaner might see their role as key to infection control and fostering positive environments, rather than simply cleaning.

Empower others and yourself

Positive relationships at work help build our sense of fulfilment. Work is, after all, where we spend most of our lives. How can you encourage more listening among your team, more laughter and more sharing of gratitude to those we work with?

Find your why

You are not your work. We must take care not to obsess over daily metrics, surgery numbers or educational accolades, but instead to have sight of our bigger picture and ‘why’ we do it. Veterinary work is just one of the things that brings our ‘why’ to life. Don’t define yourself by what you do, but rather by why you do it.

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