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A journey with someone: Meet a mentor at RDH Under One Roof to help keep career goals in focus

June 18, 2016
This July 28-30 is RDH Under One Roof in National Harbor, Maryland. Register for the meeting and specifically ask the conference planners to assign you a mentor.

By JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, PhD

I am recovering from shoulder surgery less than a week ago, and my orthopedist insisted that I take it easy and rest. For the first time in I cannot recall when, I actually listened to that advice and limited my work activity. Every afternoon, I scheduled two hours to rest and turned on the television, looking for something entertaining. I can honestly say I have never been so bored in my life!

However, one day, I was intrigued by a program on self-made millionaires and their tips on how they became successful. One of those tips caught my attention-seek a mentor. The particular millionaire who was showcased during that segment spoke about the importance of gaining guidance from someone more experienced, and the value of learning from the wisdom of others who have traveled the path you desire.

This particular individual described her circumstance as something to which we can relate. She built a business and was successful for a period of time until the market collapsed during the economic crisis of 2008. She lost everything. She found the courage to reinvent herself and rebuild her business by examining her talents, listening to her mentor, and taking slow but certain steps to secure her future. She focused on being true to herself and allowing her mentor to guide her through a process of personal and financial security. Now, she is more successful in 2016 than she was with her previous business.

Mind you, this column is not about becoming a millionaire, but it is about finding career satisfaction using the guidance of a mentor. Too often we think we have to do everything ourselves: Get a job in a thriving dental office, start a collaborative practice or an independent practice, and just figure things out as we go. And we hope for the best. We hope our employer will offer us benefits and treat us well. We hope that we will be reimbursed for the services we provide. We hope we can get products and instruments that will allow us to practice in a quality manner. But hope is not an indicator of career success.

In 1993, I started my own small business-a speaking and consulting firm. I did this with several goals in mind, both career and financial, and with the help of a mentor, determined what my path should be for sustainability. I took some local business courses, worked with an accountant, and learned how to balance a young family with my career. It was exciting and terrifying, but it worked. I have to give credit to my mentor who helped make things possible by listening to my goals, sharing her knowledge and experience, and introducing me to people who could help me along the way.

If you are open to learning, a mentor is a wonderful gift. Think about the opportunities you have to work with a mentor, either within dental hygiene or outside of our profession. If you are feeling a little uncertain about how to get started, several options are readily available to you.

This July 28-30 is RDH Under One Roof in National Harbor, Maryland. Register for the meeting and specifically ask the conference planners to assign you a mentor.

Why? Because instead of just attending courses, you need to learn how to network, meet the speakers you want to meet, and make connections that will help start you on a new path with a new vision for your career. Go to the meeting with your own printed business cards, and make sure you have had face time with Ann Spolarich, Jo-Anne Jones, Maria Goldie, Shannon Nanne, Karen Davis, Tricia Osuna, Alice Horowitz, or whoever has inspired you in some way. Exchange e-mail addresses and follow up when you get home so you can continue your journey of learning and growing under their guidance.

The individuals you meet may know someone who knows someone who will give you advice, make connections, and help you begin on a new activity. If this meeting is not for you and you want to think outside of dental hygiene, attend a business meeting and do something similar. Network, exchange contact information, make connections, seek advice, listen, learn, and-above all else-follow through. The world is your oyster and you are one step away from the pearl within it! RDH

JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.