© Banol2007 | Dreamstime.com
2101 Rd Hcar P01

Finding your path to career development

Jan. 1, 2021
Do you feel like it's time for a career change? That's a very big move, and you may not know where to begin. Carol Jahn, MS, RDH, is here to help. She shares tips on how to start to move out of clinical hygiene to head toward a new beginning.

It’s no secret that many hygienists are unhappy with clinical practice, often for very good reason. Things such as not having enough or the right personal protective equipment, misclassification of a 1099, or being forced to clock out for no-shows do not contribute to a safe and healthy work environment. It is no surprise that many hygienists are seeking ways to find the respect, security, and satisfaction that can be lacking in clinical practice.

Through the years, I’ve had numerous conversations with many hygienists about how to transition from clinical practice into corporate dentistry or various other roles. Some of these hygienists had been practicing for a few months and others for many years. I tell them all the same thing: knowing that you want to do more is step one, and figuring out what doing more means is step two. This takes self-reflection, soul-searching, and most of all, time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you contemplate your career development pathway.

  • What does “doing more” look like for you? Is it a side gig or a full-on career move?
  • What do you love about clinical practice that you can use in an alternate role, such as relationship building and time management?
  • What can you do to learn more about different roles that interest you?
  • What is your idea of a dream job?
  • How can you learn about the day-to-day life of your dream job?
  • What skills or education would you need to acquire for that dream job?

When I realized that I wanted to do more, I had been in clinical practice for about 10 years. I thought my only options were teaching in a dental hygiene program or working in public health. I was not sure either of those options was right for me. At the time, I had become involved with the Illinois Dental Hygienists’ Association (IDHA), and that was a great career move. I served as treasurer and then president.

In my four years of leadership with IDHA, I learned how to manage the organization’s finances, give presentations before large groups, write articles, and be a leader. I also met many great hygienists who continue to be role models for me today. I learned there were options besides the traditional ones of teaching and public health. I discovered that I enjoy writing and speaking, and I realized that I did want to teach, but in continuing education—not in a traditional classroom. The next steps for me were to enter into a master’s degree program that focused on adult learners and developing business skills. Three years after first deciding I wanted to do more, Water Pik Inc. hired me, and the rest is history. I’ve been with them for 24 years.

My path does not have to be your path. You might choose to take a side gig to learn about sales, become an independent contractor for a company to get a view of corporate life, or work as an adjunctive instructor in a dental hygiene program. You may choose to further your education. It will all depend on you and your goals. My best advice is to embrace each role as a way to learn and grow.

In this column, we will take a deep dive into topics that can help you find and develop your individual career path. We will explore topics such as learning why “perfect” can hold you back, confidence is your best success tool, how to know your value in the marketplace, and much more. I am open to hearing about the topics you would like to see addressed in this column. Contact me at [email protected].

CAROL JAHN, MS, RDH, is the educational programs manager for Waterpik Technologies where she designs multimedia educational programs for dental professionals. She provides continuing education programs in the areas of periodontics and patient compliance. Jahn may be reached at [email protected].