6 New Job Negotiation Tips For Associate Veterinarians

You've found the perfect new job, nailed the interview, meshed well with the team, and received an offer from your potential new employer. Congratulations! Now, the delicate balancing act of negotiating contract terms can begin.

Whether you have experience or are new to the game, the negotiation process is often stressful for new veterinary graduates and associate veterinarians. If you push too hard for what you want, you risk appearing greedy or ungrateful. But, if you don't ask for anything, you could get locked into a less-than-ideal contract. Here are six negotiation tips to help you successfully navigate the process.

1. Educate Yourself About Compensation Options

As a veterinarian, your salary structure can greatly impact your income potential and your overall happiness at work. When considering the initial terms, think about your experience level. A production-only salary is generally not advised for new graduates, who are initially less productive as they learn, and a flat salary can frustrate experienced veterinarians who feel their increased productivity should be rewarded.

A production-salary hybrid (i.e., ProSal) can be a good compromise, but it may still have pitfalls depending on what you're looking for—such as being penalized for taking time off work. If you aren't comfortable with the details included in your offer, ask for provisions that will make the pay scheme work for your needs and practice style.

And, always ensure you look closely at the contract's fine print.

2. Know Your Worth

Do your research before locking in the salary amount you believe you deserve, based on your skill level and experience. Because veterinarians are currently in high demand, you have the leverage to request what you need—but try to balance your request with the experience level you bring. Asking for too much could hinder future negotiations and put a damper on the start of your relationship with the practice. Ask for a salary that's comparable to others in your area, will allow you to live comfortably, and takes into account your experience, skills, education, and training.

3. Enlist a Lawyer

Ask a contract lawyer to look over your offer and contract, so you can request changes before you sign on the dotted line. Legal jargon can be difficult to sift through, and a lawyer will help ensure no cleverly hidden clauses will surprise you in the future. A lawyer will review your contract, suggest amendments that will make the agreement fair, and discuss any items that can and cannot be legally enforced, so you know exactly where you stand.

4. Pick Your Battles

Remember that during negotiations, each side is vying for their own best deal. But, finding a fair middle ground is important, which means you should agree to the items you can live with and only counter items with the most significant impact, including your salary and schedule. Nitpicking can leave a sour taste in your employer's mouth, so choose your battles wisely.

5. Don't Accept the First Offer

In most cases, the employer's first offer isn't the best they can do. Negotiations are expected during the normal hiring process, and most initial offers leave a little wiggle room—but you have to ask. If you think the salary offered is more than fair, negotiate some of the other benefits. Do you want to start on a different day, work a non-traditional schedule, or have the option to do telemedicine from home? These are reasonable requests in lieu of a higher salary.

6. Assume Good Intent And Look For Win-Win Solutions

Most employers make offers that have their best interests in mind, but they aren't actively trying to give you the short end of the stick. They know that good candidates will see through bad intentions. They simply want to find the best people for their practice, at the best possible—yet fair—price. Assume good intentions from the start to build a relationship with the employer—but still carefully consider any offers to find a win-win solution for all.

Negotiations are an opportunity to find an agreement that works well for all parties, which will establish a solid foundation for a healthy working relationship. Keep these negotiation tips in mind and ask for what you want, always be respectful about the employer's needs as well as your own, and be willing to give and take. If you find, despite your willingness to cooperate, that your new employer takes a hard stance and is unwilling to budge on your must-have requests, your lawyer can determine if walking away is in your best interest. Negotiations and employment are two-way streets, and you should start out on the right foot, feeling comfortable and happy about your new position.

Angela Beal

Angela Beal is a veterinarian in Columbus, Ohio who loves using her writing to help veterinarians live more fulfilling lives by helping make practice life more efficient and less stressful. Angela has a background in private practice and academia, and since 2020, she has worked full-time with Rumpus Writing and Editing, a veterinary-specific writing and editing company. Rumpus’ clients include veterinary practices and industry partners, including marketing companies, national corporations, consultants, and several international businesses. Learn more at rumpuswriting.com. The views and opinions in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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