Whether your first veterinary job takes you across town or across the country, you may find yourself missing the network of friends and colleagues you’d built during vet school. Without those familiar faces, your new home may feel cold, unwelcoming, and uncomfortable.

Making new connections isn’t always easy, but it is crucial for your wellbeing and early career success. Chronic loneliness not only affects your emotional health but can impact your health, productivity, and how you view the job you’ve worked so hard to attain.

Remember, the best veterinarians care for themselves as well as their patients. Here are 7 tips to help you make connections and build community after veterinary school.

#1: Growth is awkward. Embrace it!

There is literally no way to avoid the discomfort of being new. Instead, reframe your nervousness or stress by telling yourself that relocating is an exciting and rare opportunity to start fresh and make positive connections with a new and diverse group of friends and acquaintances. Regard each person you meet as someone you can relate to or learn from and you’ll receive social satisfaction from each positive encounter, no matter how small.

#2: Find a newcomer group in your area

Every city has resources designed to welcome new residents and help them feel at home—and many are free! Check out your local chamber of commerce for detailed information about the area including community calendars, volunteer opportunities, and networking events that can help you connect with other new arrivals and learn more about local businesses, services, and attractions. 

Another great resource is concierge groups—volunteer programs that match newcomers with established locals who are eager to share their tips, insights, and experiences. Concierge group formats can vary by area but may include text or online forum-based communication or live meetups for one-on-one social interactions.

#3: Explore your non-veterinary interests 

Although you’ll naturally have a lot in common with your new coworkers, maintaining or developing non-veterinary interests can help you connect with interesting people and maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Search for local interest groups that fit your current hobbies or explore new areas (e.g., cooking, kayaking, beekeeping, how to play an instrument) by signing up for introductory group classes. Learning a brand new skill or activity creates a level playing field for participants and a positive environment for connection and camaraderie. 

Additionally, most niche interest groups host recurring events (e.g., training days, meetings, competitions, classes) which can help you create a routine and build relationships over time.

#4: Practice inviting someone out

If you find someone with friend potential, a low key one-on-one or small group event (e.g., going out for coffee or shopping) can help build your relationship. But if no one initiates the opportunity out of fear of rejection, both parties miss out.

Remind yourself that you’re not the only person looking for connection and friendship, then be brave enough to extend an invitation. If you’re worried about what to say or how you’ll sound, practice in a mirror or video yourself initiating an imaginary conversation. This may sound silly, but it can help you find the right words and make the actual offer natural instead of forced, stiff, or awkward.

#5: Explore your new neighborhood 

Although it’s tempting to hibernate after a long shift or workweek, doing so can lead to depression or cause you to develop resentment for your job. Make an active effort to get outside on your mornings, evenings, or days off and explore your new neighborhood. Ask your neighbors or local business owners for recommendations on where to eat, get coffee, have your hair cut or styled, and take your family when they come to visit. Aim to try something new every week to ensure you consistently leave your home or apartment, make new acquaintances, and curate your own list of local favorites.

#6: Build a routine

Sometimes you meet someone and things simply click. Unfortunately, this incredibly efficient scenario is rare. Instead, most friendships begin with mutual kindness and grow steadily over time. Routines can increase the likelihood of friendship by creating predictable social encounters, but they don’t need to be complex to be effective. Routines include:

  • Visiting the same coffee shop or grocer
  • Attending the same yoga class
  • Taking your dog to the same dog park 
  • Working out at the same gym  

Establishing yourself as a repeat visitor at various businesses and local resources will foster familiarity and turn pleasantries with baristas, instructors, or owners into actual conversations.

If your routine isn’t yielding any results, don’t panic—try switching locations or times to access a new crowd.

#7: Rejection isn’t personal: Bounce back and try again

No matter how warm and likable you are or how much you have in common with another person, you will face rejection on the road to friendship. When you do, accept their declination gracefully and understand that it isn’t personal. Despite being an interesting and friendly person, the other party may not have the time, space, or emotional bandwidth for additional close friends. 

While the occasional “No thanks” is normal, repeated rejection should prompt you to reevaluate your techniques. If you’re coming on too strong you may be accidentally communicating desperation or insecurity, which can raise red flags about your dependency levels. Try joining a group class or event where there is less direct pressure on the other person and you can focus on the activity instead of making a good impression. Eventually, you’ll find the right fit—or they’ll find you!

Making connections and building a community in your new location won’t happen overnight, but taking small actions every day can ward off loneliness and help you feel at home whether you’re on the clock or not. 

At Ready, Vet, Go Veterinary Mentorship, we believe community is essential to personal and professional wellness. In addition to devoting an entire learning module to practice culture and wellbeing, every mentee enjoys bimonthly mentor-led small group workshops and unlimited access to our private learning community where they can engage, interact, and bond with fellow mentees. 

Are you ready to make the most out of your first year in practice? Visit our membership page for details.



Share This