Skip to main content

Translating Education into Employable Skills

The NC State College of Veterinary Medicine is considered one of the most elite veterinary programs in the nation, in part because of how thoroughly its students are prepared for professional life.

And in addition to a world-class medical education, students have access to state-of-the-art career counseling from Jenna Hartwell, director of veterinary career services and professional development.

NC State’s CVM is one of just six veterinary colleges in the U.S. with a dedicated career services director. Hartwell joined the CVM in 2014 after serving as a career counselor at NC State’s College of Sciences. She holds a master’s in student development and college counseling from NC State and is in the process of earning an MBA.

What Hartwell’s resume doesn’t reveal is her off-the-charts energy level and relentless dedication to helping students transition to professional life.

“I have two objectives: to help our students be employment-ready and be that liaison that fills the gap between academia and the real world,” Hartwell said.

That means everything from assisting students with practical skills like preparing resumes and identifying job opportunities to developing career management skills and entrepreneurial thinking. With students heavily focused on mastering the demanding curriculum that prepares them for veterinary medicine careers, considerations like how to conduct a successful job search or how to build and maintain a professional network are often an afterthought, she said. Hartwell’s job, as she sees it, is to help students and recent graduates choose a direction and launch successful, sustainable careers.

With Hartwell’s assistance, we sat down with a group of five current and former NC State CVM students to talk about their personal experiences planning and beginning their professional lives. During a one-hour roundtable discussion, each talked about their personal experiences and goals, and described how they were helped by Hartwell’s expertise.

Hannah Hinson, a 2016 graduate, worked with Hartwell on a successful application for an internship. Hinson is also working with Hartwell to align her future career direction with her own goals and expectations, including how to maintain a desirable work-life balance. “I’ve realized I’m applying what I learned from career services during my internship search to my current job search” she said.

“I have two objectives: to help our students be employment-ready and be that liaison that fills the gap between academia and the real world,” Hartwell said.

Taylor Treadaway, a 2017 graduate, found his new job as a small animal veterinarian with the assistance of contacts made through the career services office. “I had never submitted a resume or gone through a formal search process before,” he said. “I found out how to sell yourself in two paragraphs.” Hartwell said 80 percent of jobs are found through networking.

Laura Winstead of the Class of 2018 is just starting her job search. She credits Hartwell with “doing a huge thing.” She has put together a booklet that Winstead calls “a mini-resume” that Hartwell hands out to attendees at North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association events to help Winstead and other students become known by prospective employers. “Several of my classmates are doing it,” Winstead said. She said that Hartwell’s non-veterinarian perspective is helpful when it comes to crafting an effective resume and related job search materials.

The CVM career services and professional development office
assists students with practical skills like preparing resumes and identifying job opportunities to developing career management skills and entrepreneurial thinking. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Samantha Gordon of the Class of 2019 is in the midst of a busy academic year, but with clinical year around the corner she is focused on connecting with potential future employers. Currently, Gordon is interested in pursuing an internship after she graduates. “Jenna has been really helpful with things like my resume, a cover letter and developing contacts,” she said. “She edited an email for me and made it a zillion times better.”

Allie Wetzel of the Class of 2021 is just six weeks into vet school, but she has a master’s degree and worked five years as a veterinary technician. Still, she is in the early stages of determining her ultimate career direction and is exploring options with the assistance of career services, taking advantage of the opportunity to talk with professionals in different kinds of careers.  Wetzel is also a rugby player accustomed to high-intensity situations, which may be reflected in her interest in working in emergency or even disaster response situations. However, she knows that her career choices will influence her academic choices, and she is proceeding carefully with both.

In addition to her work with students, Hartwell has also developed contacts with employers who help may have job openings for CVM grads.

Christy Bell is the director of recruiting and professional relations for the Southeast region of VCA Animal Hospitals, which operates more than 750 animal hospitals in the United States and Canada. Bell, who has a DVM, met Hartwell in 2016 when she started her job at VCA. Bell and Hartwell have collaborated on two workshop sessions for CVM students on the do’s and don’ts of elements of job searches, including resume writing and cover letters

Bell said it’s extremely helpful for recruiters to have contacts on campus like Hartwell — and it’s also very rare.

“In the six states I have responsibility for, only one other school has someone like Jenna.”

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine