Dental hygienists: You are more than your job title

You are more than your job title – but if you feel like you aren’t, it will hinder career development.

Woman Happy Dreamstime Web

By Trish De Dios, RDH
December 17, 2013

Woman Happy Dreamstime Web

"Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career." – Earl Nightingale

This quote has the potential to be a game changer in the way you approach everything you do.

You are more than your job title – but if you feel like you aren’t, it will hinder career development. It is a true disappointment if potential employers fail to see that you are much more capable than taking X-rays, probing, scaling, and polishing. Let us not become defined by a list of things we do at work. As our profession develops, our ambition is that the term “dental hygienist” will automatically define and represent a college-educated health-care professional, one with a multi-faceted skill set and an abundance of transferrable knowledge. The responsibility lies with us. I encourage you to push the envelope and set an example for others to follow.

The new hygienist: Having your cake and eating it too

Don’t let others’ perception of your position define your limitations. Consider building a professional reputation that is not attached to any job. This can be achieved by being part of a network outside of clinical hygiene. Ask yourself these questions: How do fellow hygienists perceive you? What do dental vendors think of you? Have you in anyway set yourself apart from the “dental hygienist” job title? If not, it’s not too late to develop your other talents that create your unique brand.

“I owe this in part to … having opinions and questions and being confident to voice them. Soon I found I was being sought out for my input.”

Millennials: Can I have that yesterday?

As children, we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And while I am not the famous ballerina I cited as a five-year-old, my career has taken the path I wanted, because I pursued the avenues I believed in. The jobs of product evaluator, writer, event coordinator, branding ambassador – none of which I am formally trained in – I have made my own. I owe this in part to the relationships I have built within my field, and by having opinions and questions and being confident to voice them. Soon I found I was being sought out for my input.

The operatory doesn’t have to be the only place or platform you have for educated discussions. Find the things you want to discuss, learn the things you want to learn, teach what you want to teach. There are other platforms available for dental hygienists to educate and learn; explore them, travel them. Every networking opportunity counts. The discussions you have make people remember you. The more versatile and resourceful you are, the more opportunities that will arise.

Ask yourself what your professional goals are. How can a hygienist achieve these? Where have these been achieved before? Replicate, model, or start your own trail. Read the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not have traveled both…” The career path you want, deserve, and can have is there for you. Find your voice and your career will follow.

Trish Border

Trish De Dios, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works full-time clinically and is also a regional coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at hygienist.trish@gmail.com.

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