Finding happiness in your dental assisting career might mean you need to step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. But when will you know if it's that time? You'll know if you are no longer enjoying your chosen career.
This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. Subscribe to the monthly e-newsletter here.
Many of us like to apply quotes from people who we believe are wiser than us because of their life experiences. You may have heard the Confucius saying, “Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life." Substitute the word job for career, and now we’re talking dental assisting.
When we were children, we spent countless hours playing pretend and turning our creative ideas into fun. We had aspirations to become astronauts, ballerinas, firefighters, or dog whisperers, and some of us actually followed through on our dreams. The closest I ever came to being an astronaut was declaring astrophysics as a major in college for all of two semesters.
If you aren’t passionate about your job, you may be having to get through break-free days, less-than-appreciative boss and team members, crabby patients, and general chaos. Daily work without passion sets you up for unhappiness and less-than-ideal habits to get you through each day. Work doesn’t have to be this way. We all go through periods in life where we feel we need a change. How big that change needs to be is entirely up to you. It may be risky, it may be crazy, but passion is what brings the most joy and achievement in life.
Like it or not, risk taking is an unavoidable part of life. Whether you’re changing routes to work, ordering coffee, or contemplating a change in your career, you’ll eventually be confronted with some degree of risk. Taking a risk requires courage, but the greatest rewards go to those who take them. How do you know when the opportunity you’re facing is the time to take a risk?
• Know your personal vision, values, and goals—These three things can act as your GPS and be your guide to your desired destination in life. Knowing your personal vision, values, and goals helps you seek opportunities that are right for you. It keeps you from going down a path that is inconsistent with what you believe.Having a clear idea of your personal values prevents you from taking on things that would lead you to sacrifice your confidence or integrity. You know what you need to sustain and fulfill your goals, and you are only accountable to yourself. Knowing your personal values allows you to understand how your employer’s organizational values align with yours.
• Identify your passion and where it fits in the scheme of things—Identify your niche and explore how it can help you develop yourself and your career. Know your passion and evaluate how it fits with your role in your organization. Make sure you’re comfortable doing what you want to do. If you truly need a change, get out of your comfort zone. Golden opportunities lie just outside your comfort zone. Have the courage and guts to go for it.
• Develop your own flair and know what you’re good at—Think about what works for you and pattern the process to match your strengths. Be thoughtful and define what success really means to you. Look for areas that may need development. Don’t try to imitate other’s approaches because if it’s not genuine, it won’t be true. People know when you’re a phony. You’ll be amazed at how much further you’ll get in an organization when you are your true self. This starts with being real about the risk, the opportunity it presents, and whether or not it’s the right fit. Make the present the primary focus in your life, not the past or future. The present moment is all you’ll ever have in life. If you don’t think about taking that risk, where will you be 24 hours later? The same place you are now.
• Somehow, the biggest risk is not to risk at all—Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Swim out and meet it. There will never be a truly perfect time to act. Life happens and tends to get in the way of choices. You generally learn more in life by doing rather than waiting. The perfect time to act is when the opportunity of the lifetime appears. Have the courage to work through your fear and use it to drive your strength and renew your focus. Have the courage to take the leap and close the gap between your dreams and reality.
When was the last time you risked disappointment for something you passionately believe in? Sometimes you have to go it alone, and other times you’ll need teamwork. Experienced leaders can clearly communicate what they do well, what makes their skills important, and how this distinguishes them from their colleagues. It’s why they are where they are today—they found their career niche and they love what they do.
Now put all this together to learn yourideal career niche. What can you be doing more of in your career that aligns with your passions and strengths? Is there something you’re great at that you can do in your own style? Would it be possible to find a career path where you get to do all of that while delivering a service in dentistry that will make you highly valued? Networking can garner you some insight and lead you to new opportunities. The ADAA has many wonderful opportunities just waiting for you. You have the power to make a change, no matter how daunting the task may sound. Take the plunge, and I hope you have the time of your life!
Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA
American Dental Assistants Association