Step Next: anticipate, prepare, and accomplish your way to success (Part 1)
A self-acknowledged “late bloomer,” Dona Schulz, RDH, BS, MBA, started dental hygiene school when her second son was 6 years old. Despite enduring a divorce midway through the program, Schulz persevered to earn her hygiene degree. Now a consultant, she offers seven strategies for career success.
7 Strategies to Help Achieve Your Goals in Dental Hygiene and Beyond
Do you have an inner voice that speaks to you regarding your next steps in life or in your career? What does it say to you? Where do you want to go? Are your decisions to “stay put” in your current career path due to ecological purposes (i.e., dependent children living at home, caring for an elderly adult, financial constraints, etc.) that drive your decision-making directions?
Following similar traditional roles as my mother, I held off my desire to earn a college degree while I attended to my personal family ecological circumstances. I worked as dental assistant since the age of 16 until my late 20’s and continued to work while I got married and raised two boys at the time.
But the inner fire in my belly couldn’t last long. I found the desire to grow, to learn, to become. As a late bloomer, I started dental hygiene school when my second son was six weeks old and endured a divorce midway through the program. Fortunately, I had supportive parents who helped care for my sons and my vision to see myself as a practicing dental hygienist working to become a one-day consultant kept me fueled up and got me going.
After graduation, I was supporting my family, working clinically yet always had my “eye on the prize.” I knew I would continue my education one day and become a consultant, trainer and educator, and I did.
According to a May, 2013 Pew report, mothers make up 40% as either the sole or primary source of income or “breadwinners” for a family consisting of children under 18 years old.(1) Many women, myself included, come from situations where careers are placed on the back burner in order to care for their families. Another scenario is that they wait until the right “time” to develop their careers and fulfill their dreams.
Although I took the backward approach on achieving my success path, my 20/20 hindsight would encourage my 16-year-old self to follow these 7 strategies toward success:
• Never let anything get between you and your education. Nothing. Period. If your parents do not pay for your education, pay for it yourself--I did and I am grateful to my parents that they instilled the ability in me not to depend on them, and they raised me with the ability to make it on my own.
• There is no such thing as “enough” education. You should always find ways to reinvent yourself. You owe it to your patients, colleagues, and profession to constantly attend continuing education meetings, read journals, avoid complacency and keep learning! I have certifications above and beyond dental hygiene in employment law, human resource compliance, and Drake P3 team building. Drake P3 is an on-line talent management system that uses an assessment instrument to help companies hire and manage people who will perform well in their job.(2) I attended sales boot camp to increase my sales effectiveness. I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees while my children were young to earn credibility in order to educate and lead others. I strive to diversify myself so I can understand the needs of the practices or corporations I serve and make effective decisions to help grow their businesses.
• Follow Habit 2 of author Stephen R Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the End in Mind.”(3) Always see yourself where you want to be at the end of the tunnel. Every decision you make, every action you take will be more purposeful if you direct them toward a concrete goal.
• Network. Network. Network. I attended invaluable workshops, retreats and meetings that have literally changed my life. CareerFusion is one professional retreat that introduced me to like-minded dental hygienists and professionals, many of which have become my biggest mentors and best friends. I learned how to create a consulting business, become published, become a professional speaker and become a corporate advocate and key opinion leader. Beyond the Operatory helped me to redirect my career in exploring non-clinical opportunities. As a result, I am able to spread my wings in creating multiple income streams in being a corporate advisor and market my consulting business where I am a senior consultant and hygiene coach.
• Have a backup plan. As the sole supporter for my family, I relocated all of us to a different state, cross-country, and gave up my consulting business for a corporate director career. When a layoff occurred, I was fortunate to have networked over my career, I could call on my colleagues who have been extremely helpful for providing me additional career options.
• Live your passion. I know this sounds cliché, but if you don’t live it, breathe it, and love it, those around you can feel it – both your positive and negative energy. Your patients and co-workers can feel if you are “burned out.” My advice is to have an additional outlet. Whether that outlet is volunteering, writing, selling, teaching, mentoring, find one that speaks to you and your passion will determine your “happy place.”
• Step Next.“Step Next” is a term during my dental assisting days that my doctor would say to me. It means to always anticipate the next step. Implementing “Step Next” into your practice and career results in creating balance. Plan and sequence your day by preparing your charts ahead of time and have a game plan. In your career, make necessary steps to conquer your goals.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next chapter of RDH eVillage FOCUS newsletter where the 7 Strategies for Success can be applied toward the clinical setting.
RELATED | The voices of our mothers
1. Pew Research: Breadwinner Moms.
3. Habit 2: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Dona Schulz, RDH, BS, MBA, is a Senior Consultant with Step Next Consultants, LLC, with experience in every facet of the dental practice focusing on team synergy, increasing practice value and advanced clinical coaching. For more information, go to www.StepNextConsultants.com.