There's no time like the present to evaluate your life and career and create a plan that will set you up for success.
Have you ever wondered while you’re sitting at work waiting for your next patient to arrive, “What am doing with my life?” I wonder that all the time. It goes beyond a career to the core of who I am. Are you living your life to the max or just existing day to day? For some of us the answer is the latter. We don’t dream. We don’t think about our future. We just exist to get through another day of patients, another day of screaming kids and carpools and laundry.
My family knows that the worse thing you can call me is a housewife. Being a mother and wife have been the most important roles I have played, but that isn’t enough. The professional side of me - the things that I do for work or for volunteer purposes - is really who I am. So, who are you?
Do you get up each morning motivated to start the new day? Do you get excited when you see who is on your schedule and notice that your favorite patient is coming in at 11 a.m.? Does that make you feel good about yourself knowing that you are playing a major role in someone’s healthcare? While that may be enough for some of us, for others it isn’t.
Take a minute to sit down and really ponder this question: What are you doing with your life? I was at a dental program last week and met John, who has been on the job as an assistant for only two months. He had an interesting career but crossed over into the dental field with some real concrete goals. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but I still need to go ahead and talk about him. Why? First, because how many men are dental assistants? Second, because he has a wife and young son who he takes care of. He mapped out for me how he plans to be earning $75,000 in the next couple years because of the career path he is on. He knows what he is doing with his life. He did his homework coming from the pharmaceutical field into the dental field. He researched what kind of opportunities he could expect and found a path as to how he’ll get there. This inspired me, and it inspired me to ask you, “What are YOU doing with your life?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking that question to say that your life isn’t meaningful or one without purpose. Instead, I want it to be a wakeup call to look around and evaluate if you’re getting what you want out of life. You may be incredibly happy as a dental assistant and that is fantastic! It’s those of you who aren’t thinking about your future or even your present that this article is for. If you’re getting up each morning dreading going to work, then there’s a problem.
So, what can you do about it?
1. Look at your life and really see it. Put down on paper the pros and cons to your job. What can be changed?
2. Explore other jobs in the industry or in your office. Are you interested in learning more about them? If so, do your due diligence.
3. Figure out how much money you want to earn. Or, what you need to earn. You need to plan and save money for retirement. Some of the lower paying jobs in this field won’t provide enough income for you to save for old age or a crisis. This puts you in a vulnerable position.
4. Attend conferences and any training that gets you out of the office. This will help you bring new ideas back to the practice that can make the business work smarter.
5. Network. You may think that you don’t need to network, but I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Jobs are found through networking. The critical piece is that you find positions and then reach out to your network to help you get in the door. Or, your network may tell you about the unpublished jobs that are going to be opening up. This is your ticket to new opportunities.
As someone who sees what goes on in dental practices, I know about the venting that happens behind closed doors, and the frustration and anger that some of you have about lack of raises or upward mobility. The truth is no one is going to hand you anything. YOU must do the work. YOU must figure out what you want. YOU must create your own career path like John did. Most importantly, YOU must figure out what you’re doing with your life. For some of you, you’re currently at your dream job - the perfect practice with the most amazing staff to work with. If that’s the case, then look at what you can do to make that dental practice run even better. YOU are the person in control of your destiny. Remember, no one is going to hand you anything for free. You need to do the legwork. So, evaluate your life, your career, your family and whatever else is important to you, and then decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.