In today's culture, it's perhaps easier than ever to "be yourself." It's possible to personalize everything from greeting cards to M&Ms. And you can easily create a presence on the Web, exerting your opinions and sharing your photos in just a matter of minutes. (Hey, why not do just that by building your own dvm360.com community profile?) But with all this individuality, there still seems to be value to falling in line with your practice's ways—or the man, if you will.
At least, that's what political scientist Hugh Heclo suggests in his recent book, "On Thinking Institutionally" (Paradigm, 2008). Though the mention of institutions may conjure images of corrupt banking behemoths or other staid organizations, Heclo points out that a career is an institution as well. By committing yourself to the pursuit of a profession, you are, in a sense, consenting to conform to the systems of an institution—in your case, the field of veterinary medicine with its long-established set of values and policies. And this is a good thing.
Heclo contends that by buying into a discipline, you uphold and benefit from its almost sacred traditions: "In taking delivery, institutionalists see themselves as debtors who owe something, not creditors to whom something is owed." This devotion to doing a job in the ways of countless others before you may seem like the perfect way to disappear into the background. On the contrary, it's the devotion itself—your willingness to work as part of a team that strives to help pets—that demonstrates integrity and professionalism. Over the course of your career, this experience, in turn, will help shape you into the "self" you're so proud to be.
So get institutionalized. It's a great way to be an individual.