When I was in the 8th grade, my dad, a veterinarian and practice owner, had me read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, in which Collins discusses the importance of having the right people, in the right seats, “on the bus.”2 I did not appreciate the wisdom of the concept then but cannot overemphasize its importance now. When hiring a new veterinarian, the current excess capacity3 can give a false sense of security and lure us into hiring a good, instead of a great, candidate.
Great new graduates understand the value of and want mentorship—not because they lack the confidence to be good general practitioners but because they hunger for knowledge that will allow them to be examination room stars, team leaders, and top practice producers. Before hiring, I screen candidates for their ability to be a strong mentee. Here’s what I look for in a candidate:
- Interest: The candidate should ask about the practice’s culture, management style, medical philosophy, strengths, challenges, and goals—someone who wants my job, not just a job
- Confidence: An arrogant candidate will not work, but neither will a candidate who is insecure; an ideal mentee is confident in both what he or she knows and does not know
- Proven leadership experience
- The pursuit of continuing education and advanced training (even as a student)
- A willingness to enter a give-and-take relationship. The candidate has ideas and recommendations to bring to the table that I must be willing to hear and discuss. The mentee needs to understand that although what he or she learned in veterinary school provided a great foundation, this is actual practice, and the ideas and processes that work for us may differ from what he or she has learned.
A successful mentoring relationship starts with the right people. I look for a mentee who meets the above criteria. As a mentee, I also look for those traits in a mentor. I have seen many mentoring relationships fail because the mentor, not the mentee, was arrogant, a poor communicator, or not committed to the process.