Earl Nightingale once said, "Jobs are owned by the company; you own your career." I also like this quote from an article written for pharmacists: "If ever we get this through our heads, whatever profession you happen to be in, it has the potential to be a game-changer in the way you approach everything you do."1
You are more than your job title. 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 capable of much more than simply taking X-rays, probing, scaling, and polishing. Let us not become defined by a list of things we do at work.1 As our profession develops, our ambition is that the term "dental hygienist" will automatically define and represent a college-educated health-care professional, with a multifaceted skill set, and an abundance of transferrable knowledge. It is upon us that responsibility lies. I encourage you to push the envelope and set an example for others to follow. Don't let others' perceptions 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 are you perceived by fellow hygienists? What do dental vendors think of you? Have you in any way set yourself apart from the "dental hygienist" job title? If not, it's not too late to develop your other talents that create the fabulous brand, "You!"
Consider reading these articles by De Dios
- 5 Ways to (Potentially) Damage Your Career
- Future-proof Your Career
- An online advantage for job-hunting
As children, we are often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" 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. Product evaluating, writing, event coordinating, and being a branding ambassador are things I have made my own, although I am not formally trained in any of them. I owe this in part to the relationships I have built within my field, and to my having opinions, questions, and the confidence to voice them. I soon found that 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. Every networking opportunity counts. The discussions you have make people remember you. The more versatile and resourceful you are, the more opportunities will arise.
Ask yourself: "What are my professional goals? How can these be achieved by a hygienist? Where have these been achieved before?" Replicate, model, or start your own trail. Read the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. It says, "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. It is dependent on your creating that which will ultimately lead you to success.
Find your voice and your career will follow.
TRISH DE DIOS, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works clinically part-time, while also being a product educator for Water Pik, Inc. and a regional coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.