5 Ways to (Potentially) Damage Your Career

Jan. 15, 2014
Now that 2013 is over, I thought this would be a great time for all of us to reflect on our workplace personality and personal beliefs about our profession

by Trish De Dios, RDH

Now that 2013 is over, I thought this would be a great time for all of us to reflect on our workplace personality and personal beliefs about our profession to ensure we are not doing anything potentially sabotaging to our career. Although the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped for the third month in a row1, there are still many qualified hygienists who would love to have your job. So, if clinical hygiene is where you want to be, let's make sure you keep your job. If a change is what you crave, then read on to see if you are on the right track.

Being defensive or in denial -- Everyone makes mistakes on the job; in fact, it's expected and usually accepted. How you respond to these mistakes defines your character. The way I see it, failure is in our favor: we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes to build character and improve our skills. Because of my shortcomings, someone more experienced was able to step in and help me out. What's not to love about that?


Other articles by Trish De Dios:


It becomes a serious problem, though, if you're always justifying or denying your slip-ups. You will earn more respect by showing that you are accountable for your actions and that you are not too prideful to admit any shortcomings.

Social media and smartphone addiction -- Today, many people grab their phones to check in with their social media updates automatically. Grabbing your phone to check the time can turn into a 20-minute Facebook session.

Social media absolutely has its place for professionals, and indeed I recommend staying connected to various media sites as part of your career development. But with that said, there is a time and place for everything. Surfing the Internet, texting, and browsing social newsfeeds can be big time-wasters at work. Don't risk your employer or coworkers thinking for a minute that you are unproductive during schedule lulls or that you are disinterested about what else might be going on in the office.

If you find that you are frequently having the time to "play on your phone" at work, then take a look at why. Are you too comfortable in your position and see no need to do more? Are you avoiding helping out the assistants or other hygienists in the office? Do you feel that when your schedule isn't filled with patients, it is permissible to have "you" time? These are questions that can shed light on possibly a bigger issue at hand -- like job dissatisfaction -- and if that's the case, I recommend instigating a change.

Saying no to big (but scary) opportunities -- One of my favorite questions I come across on career blogs is, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" The unfamiliar, the unknown, and the uncertain are all very scary. But don't forget: they are also potentially very rewarding. If you allow your self-doubt to get the better of you, your career development will surely suffer.

When I was asked to be a regional coordinator for the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), I remember my e-mail response to the offer was written with doubt, uncertainty, and pretty much an explanation of how I felt unqualified. I doubted myself so much I probably made them regret ever asking me to take the position. The most annoying part was that I don't even think I gave them a clear "yes" or "no" answer. At the time, I was obviously insecure. I did not think I could take on such a big commitment, and even though I thought I was being humble and fair by expressing my concerns, there was no need to be so dramatic in my response. Taking on that role with OCF has been incredible for me. Like any position, it requires continued learning.

The next time something comes along for you, think it through, express your position and willingness to learn and give it all you have, and then do it. If you don't bite at the next big opportunity, someone else will. Remember, high risk carries high reward.

Staying too long at one office -- I know of hygienists who are not happy working where they are, yet they aren't trying to change anything. If you are not happy and don't see the chance of things improving where you work, then why not move on? If you think that biting your tongue and going through the motions will eventually "pay off" when you get that raise or the office finally starts producing more -- well, you could be right, but you could also be completely burned out, resentful, and unmotivated by then.

Kathy Caprino of Forbes Magazine bluntly asks her readers, "Can you please just accept that if you want something different in your life, there is no better time than now to bring that into being, despite how ‘ready' you feel?"

My friends in this position are so deserving of a work environment that is rewarding and progressive, but the decision is theirs to make. Settling for a job that doesn't make you happy anymore can be toxic. When you settle and begin simply working for that paycheck, it leaves little motivation for you to improve or update your skills. This puts you at risk of becoming a dental hygiene dinosaur. You are better than this!

Not having a plan -- It is okay to be in a position you don't love right now; it is even okay to feel like you aren't sure what the future holds for you. My belief is, as long as you develop career plans for where you want to be, you will achieve your goals. Career planning helps define purpose and passion and leads to personal fulfillment. Waiting and wishing for your big break is poor planning. RDH Under One Roof and CareerFusion are especially inspiring conferences for hygienists that can provide career direction and opportunity for those who are determined. So where do you want to go from here? Are you on the path you want to be travelling? It is not too late to change directions.

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 [email protected].


1. Unemployment rate for US: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/national-employment-monthly-update.aspx
2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2012/12/28/the-8-most-damaging-excuses-people-make-for-their-unhappiness/

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