All of that changed when out of the blue one Monday morning, my phone rang and I was handed the news I never saw coming: “I’m sorry, but we’re letting you go.” I did my best to maintain composure while deep inside, I was completely devastated.
The weeks that followed my termination were anything but easy. I wrestled with feelings of anger, betrayal, intense hurt, sadness, and deep depression. Friends couldn’t understand why I allowed the situation to affect me so greatly, but did their best to support me by saying things like, “You’re smart—I know you’ll land on your feet!” or, “Just focus on your new baby at home; don’t worry about this!”
As much as I tried to mirror their positivity, I just couldn’t understand how I was finding myself unemployed after all the long hours, personal sacrifice, and dedication I had given at my practice. I had no disciplinary record and there was no momentous incident leading up to the decision, so how was this happening?
After taking the time to reflect and gain perspective, I was finally able to understand the simple truth of why my boss fired me: our expectations of each other were never fully aligned. We wanted different things from each other that we weren’t able to agree upon in the time I was on the team. It hurt in the moment, but my past employer was doing me a favor by releasing me to find a practice that was better suited for me and wanted what I had to offer. Since that experience, I have grown tremendously and learned five important lessons that are worth sharing with anyone who might encounter a closed door at their workplace.
Don’t be ashamed. While it’s probably not a topic you’ll be anxious to announce at your next social engagement, the fact of the matter is that job loss happens all the time to all sorts of people. In dentistry, relationships can dissolve between business partners, associate dentists, hygienists, assistants, and administrative team members. The same is true in any profession. There isn’t one role or position that is completely exempt and your attitude toward the experience will determine how others will react when you share the news. If you remain collected and understanding about it, so will your friends and loved ones. Just remember that many people have or will encounter a similar situation in their working career and it’s nothing to be embarrassed of.
Lean on your circle. From personal experience, I can say that losing a job can feel eerily similar to a painful breakup or divorce. Whether you realize it or not, a working relationship requires much of the same loyalty and commitment as any other type of relationship and it can hurt when that relationship comes to an end. It is common to experience a wide array of emotions in response to the pain you may be going through and the last thing you should do is isolate yourself. I can guarantee that you have people in your life who care about you and want to see you through this tough time. Whether it be your significant other, a parent, sibling, best friend, mentor or therapist, allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone you trust so that they can support you with encouragement, love, and outside perspective. The right kind of support will make all the difference as you cope with this difficult time.
Take time to reflect. If you’re anything like me, you may have a strong tendency to overthink many aspects of your past, present, and future! While it can be unhealthy to spend every waking hour pouring over all of the fine details that led to your separation from your place of employment, it is good to take some time to search your soul for perspective and closure. What made you feel your happiest while you were there? What do you wish had been different? What behavior or ways of thinking can you claim personal accountability for? What can you learn to appreciate from the overall experience? These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself as you think back on your time with your past employer that will allow you to grow and heal.
Learn from the experience. After spending some time considering the situation in hindsight, it is important to find the areas where you can develop in preparation for future career opportunities. Perhaps that means changing the way you choose your next working relationship by taking your time and setting specific standards in choosing your next employer to make sure they will be a comfortable fit for your personal and professional needs. Or maybe it means working to change certain habits, tendencies or attitudes that you may have developed over time that employers and coworkers may have found unfavorable. Believe me, this can be a difficult task to face, but we have to acknowledge the fact that we all have areas where we can grow in order to become better clinicians, team members and individuals. Failure to address areas of improvement, whether they are internal or external, will likely result in similar circumstances in the future.
Keep moving forward. Once you have had the time to recognize opportunities for change, apply what you’ve learned in your future endeavors and don’t let this momentary setback keep you from reaching your true potential as a successful, respected professional. Keep an attitude of optimism as you meet new potential employers and explore your options. You may find yourself stretching outside of your comfort zone as you are presented with an unexpected offer work in an area you were previously unfamiliar with, which is exciting! Once you’ve accepted a new position, be patient as you acclimate to a new team dynamic and be sure to stay true to your innate strengths and values. You will likely find that your new employer considers your unique talents essential to his or her team.
Job loss can be a difficult season to navigate, but it can also bring about a greater season of change and fulfillment if you approach it with an open mind. While it may be easy to focus on the discouragement you’re currently experiencing, your big comeback is waiting if you would choose to see the bright window of opportunity that is now open for you! Losing your job may be a defining moment in your life, but it doesn’t have to define you as an individual. I am happy to say that I’ve come out of my own experience a stronger, smarter, better professional – and person. Best wishes!
Bethany Montoya, RDH, is a practicing dental hygienist with nearly 10 years of clinical experience. She has advanced knowledge and training in complex cosmetic dentistry, sleep disordered breathing, TMJ disorders, and implant dentistry. She is highly experienced in productive hygiene and has achieved successes in hygiene diagnosis and acceptance that have far exceeded the industry standard. Over the course of her career, she has discovered a passion for leadership, building team culture, communication, and accountability. She has devoted her most recent years to specializing in the “human” side of dentistry: personal growth and relationships. She can be reached at [email protected].