by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
Getting e–mail about my column is not new. Sometimes it is an ego boost, other times a reminder that sarcasm is not carried well in written form. There is a pattern to the queries the last few months, prompting me to address a favorite subject matter — finding opportunities outside of clinical practice. It is not as difficult as one might imagine. Goal setting, and even some uncomfortable moments, is required, but as the saying goes, "If I can do it, anyone can."
I have received a lot of advice over the years related to my career direction. Most of it has been valuable, and some I still follow today. Probably one of the first and most helpful tips I received came from Kristy Menage Bernie when we were barely acquaintances: "Write everything down. List your goals, desires, and reasons for wanting change. Don't forget thoughts about your direction in life, whether they seem related to your career or not." I am still jotting down ideas as they come to me and I try to spend time every month on this task. It has been extremely helpful.
It seems ironic to me that some of my original writings had little to do with my professional roles today, yet they were steps along the path of finding contentment. Reading the list reveals how limited I once viewed my options. My first writings were very either/or. Now the scribbling tends to focus on widening my current scope.
Those mentors who provided suggestions at the beginning of my quest stayed with the theme of writing. Shirley Gutkowski gave me some startling and life–changing advice: "Do something about your discontent or stop complaining." She was the first to encourage me to write an article for RDH. Shirley told me the exercise would not only open my eyes to how many share my frustration, but also provide some solutions. One article led to another, and ultimately to my favorite role in dental hygiene — RDH columnist.
Networking is key to any positive change in life. It's free, not too difficult, and even fun. Networking does not require any monetary investment beyond being in the right place to meet people. In fact, it can be as close as your keyboard. I am certain every RDH columnist would answer e–mails that pertain to finding opportunities. Each of us can provide an introduction to editor Mark Hartley if writing is your desire, and share guidelines for submitting work.
If you aspire to a corporate role, networking is essential. Introduce yourself to company representatives instead of just grabbing samples during your next exhibit hall visit. Use the Internet and your contacts to facilitate introductions to the decision makers within a corporation. Most importantly, be sincere. Do not make a pitch to every company in hopes of finding a position. Align your desires and strengths with those entities that share a similar outlook.
Events and continuing education functions are another great way to network. Find out ahead of time who will attend and who can help you meet people in positions to provide guidance. This is where the fun comes in. I've made lifelong friends at Under One Roof events and ADHA functions. Valuable connections usually come from being where the leaders assemble. Attend your next state House of Delegates, no matter your role in the association, to rub shoulders and share items with those who are creating change now.
Skill, talent, and experience are not ignored when seeking a job outside of clinical hygiene, but without effective networking you have no way to show off your outstanding resume.
There are meetings and gatherings for almost any interest. Organizations exist for writers, speakers, meeting planners, consultants, and even those who want to improve their impact on the world. Let's share some networking moments at a gathering soon — the most fun, productive, and inexpensive way to pursue your career dreams.
About the Author
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is co–owner of Dental IQ, a partnership responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.