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Invest in yourself: You can’t afford not to!

June 17, 2020
It's important for dental assistants to take the time to learn, share, and grow in your careers, says Natalie Kaweckyj. You should also focus on a positive outlook, which will go far in your career development.

As an active dental assistant professionally, I interact with dental assistants worldwide. Although miles or practice acts may separate dental assistants individually, it is easy to see those who actually invest in themselves personally and professionally and those who do not. You are probably thinking, why does it matter? Read on for some encouraging insight.

You often hear, “What is the ROI (return on investment)?” when contemplating a business decision. Frankly, I feel the term is overused because what the question really should be is, “Is it worth the money?” Those with experience know that there are intangible benefits to most investments because we can see the large picture and not focus on the immediate monetary return.

Investing in yourself is one of the best things you can do. The investment can be in the form of learning a new skill, exploring your creativity, developing yourself personally and professionally, or contacting a mentor or coach. It’s important that we take the time to discover and develop our talents so that we can better assist others and our patients. Expanding your knowledge, enhancing your skills, and expanding your network are gifts that keep on giving because they increase your satisfaction. This improves your job performance, which leads to new opportunities and career growth.

In spite of many good reasons to invest in ourselves, we can lose sight of actually taking action. We often defer, hoping our employer will take on the task, or we become absorbed in the day-to-day and lose sight of the actions we can take to make tomorrow better. It isn’t complicated. Here’s what I recommend.

Choose to be happy, even when it is difficult

Happiness is a choice we can make every day. Happy people choose to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than dwell on the negative. They are not held hostage by their circumstances, and they look at all of the reasons to be grateful. Some days are more trying than others, and it’s important to remember that everyone goes through periods of time like this. By focusing on the positive, you will see changes in your outlook on life and the things that bring you joy. Look for the silver lining in every cloud and you may discover a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow!

Set personal and professional goals

Setting goals helps you become organized and accomplished. For me, it’s the daily to-do list that keeps me on track when life gets hectic. Sometimes it’s as rudimentary as a reminder to pay a particular bill or make a certain phone call. Being able to cross things off of a list brings me a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes it’s these little things that get lost in our busy, over-scheduled lives. Learning how to set personal and professional goals may take some practice, so it’s OK to start out small. When setting goals, be sure to also set time frames. Goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Baby steps lead to marathons!

Invest time in cultivating your creativity and building your confidence

When we’re young, we dream and find creative solutions for any dilemma we encounter. As we mature, this creativity needs to be revisited to keep life interesting. Creativity can be the stimulus for continual learning and lifelong activity. It allows us to be inspired, have fun, and appreciate life’s beauty. It keeps us young no matter what our age. People who know their value have something to say and others will listen. They exude confidence. You can invest in yourself by developing an understanding of the value that you possess. Learn to have the courage to speak your truth and your value. The more you do this, the more confident you will become in sharing it with others.

Learn to take advantage of networking

Sometimes it really is all about who you know. Attend seminars and workshops to expand your professional knowledge and skills. This will give you the opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals and expand your circle of acquaintances. Peer groups matter more than you think—they are sometimes a means to surviving certain situations.

Innovation comes from connecting ideas and it’s a great way to expand your thinking. Make your network broad by connecting with others who are smarter and more skilled than you are in your career. They will pull you up and broaden your perspective, and you will have something to offer them in return—a willingness to learn!

We are presented with opportunities to develop ourselves every day. With focus and repetition, you’ll learn more quickly, and the benefits will grow over time. Commit to developing your skills, network, and capabilities with intention. Set some learning goals because we never get to the point where we cannot benefit from learning. Carve out time whenever possible, and that may involve prioritizing. If necessary, set aside money, for example, give up that weekly mani-pedi. Ask others to coach or mentor you, and feel free to reach out to me. I would love to help you achieve your potential. Invest in yourself—you cannot afford not to!

Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, is a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.