The Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession are not large, by any stretch of the imagination. Compared to industries and professions such as Manufacturing, Engineering, and Healthcare, they’re quite small.
This means many things, one of which is that word can travel quickly within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. At the very least, it travels more quickly than if you worked within the other industries listed above. This can become problematic if you’ve damaged your personal brand and/or “burned bridges” in your career.
I’ve been a recruiter and search consultant in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession for 25 years. When I started in recruiting, there was no such thing as personal branding. Perhaps more specifically, no one used the phrase “personal branding.” That’s because personal branding did exist. It’s just that no one was really talking about it, and it wasn’t something that people recognized.
In terms of a definition of personal branding, I’d like to use a quote by motivational speaker Jay Danzie:
“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
The part of this quote that is important is, “how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you.” That’s essentially the definition of personal branding: how people feel after having an experience with you. Because how they feel about their experience will directly impact what they think about you. Those two things go hand-in-hand.
Obviously, you want people to have a positive experience every time they interact with you. This could be in person, over the phone, or even through email or text. The better the experience is, the more positive your personal brand becomes, and the more positive your personal brand becomes, the bigger the advantage you have in terms of growing your Animal Health or Veterinary career.
However, there are two forces working against people’s desire to brand themselves in a positive way:
- The current state of the employment marketplace, especially conditions within the Veterinary profession
- The “immediate gratification mindset”
In regard to the first force, there is a shortage of qualified candidates in the job market within most industries, including the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. Because of this, top talent and the best candidates have the leverage in the majority of hiring situations. This means employers need the candidates more than the candidates need the employers, specifically because there are so many employment opportunities available. The problem is that when a person has leverage in such a situation, the temptation exists to not just use the leverage, but to abuse it.
In terms of the “immediate gratification mindset,” it has become more commonplace for people to place a higher priority on what is short-term gain, as opposed to taking the long view and the “big picture” into consideration. Unfortunately, when a person has this mindset, it makes it easier to abuse the leverage they have in a situation. In other words, they’re more willing to run the risk of branding themselves in a negative way if it means they’ll receive the immediate gratification that they’re seeking.
In fact, sometimes these professionals are not even aware of what they’re doing in the moment. They’re too focused on what they believe is the benefit to them or what they can gain from the situation. As a result, they’re not aware of the potential risk and the downside for them in the long run. When this is the case, they’re more likely to engage in behavior that will “burn bridges.” This means they brand themselves in a negative way that could very well affect them later in their career.
Below are some examples of behavior that qualifies as “burning bridges”:
- Lying or being dishonest on the resume or at any other stage of the hiring process
- Being disrespectful during the hiring process, including during the interview
- If the person is working with a recruiter, circumventing the recruiter and contacting the hiring manager directly
- “Ghosting” on the employer (including the interview, the offer, or even the first day of work)
Because the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession are small in size and scope, “bridge burning” behaviors can follow you throughout your career. And the consequences of those behaviors can affect you when you least expect it. You may have forgotten all about it, but then the hiring manager who you “ghosted” earlier in your career may now be the decision maker regarding the great new employment opportunity that you really want.
Why is this critical? Why is it so important to avoid “burning bridges” and instead brand yourself in the best way possible? The answer is that your capacity to grow your career is ultimately tied to two things:
- The number of opportunities that you have
- The quality of the opportunities that you have
The best-case scenario would be to have a lot of opportunities and for the majority of those opportunities to be of high quality. However, when you “burn bridges,” you’re essentially eliminating potential opportunities that you might have in the future. This is where the “immediate gratification mindset” can betray you, because in the present, you’re not thinking about your future opportunities. Instead, you’re thinking more about the opportunities and options you have right now, and when you act on those opportunities in the wrong way, not only are you branding yourself negatively, but you’re also possibly sacrificing future opportunities.
No matter how many options you have or how much leverage you possess, it’s never a good idea to sacrifice the future for the present. Especially when you have the power to both brand yourself in a positive fashion now and still take full advantage of premium career opportunities later.
(Stacy Pursell is a Certified Personnel Consultant and a Certified Employment Retention Specialist. She is a workplace/workforce expert with 25 years of executive search and recruiting experience in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. For more information about Stacy’s firm, The VET Recruiter, visit www.thevetrecruiter.com.)