If clinical hygiene is not bringing the soul satisfaction you desire, the thought of moving on has probably crossed your mind.
Instead of reinventing your career into something totally different, consider a career shift using your hygiene knowledge, skills, and experience in a different or unexpected way.
by Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH
In every job, a person can grow restless and wonder if there is something more to be gained. The dream position at age 20 might not be working with young kids at age 30, or with the physical aches at age 50. Life changes and close calls can make us wonder why we are where we are. Maybe changing jobs and careers should be seen not as an anomaly but as a natural life progression. Faith Popcorn, trend expert, was quoted in 1991 as saying that baby boomers would be changing careers frequently. She said, “In the 1970s we worked to live, in the ‘80s we lived to work. Now we simply want to live - long and well.”
Finding the balance between work and life is never easy, but it is important enough to never stop trying. If clinical hygiene is not bringing the soul satisfaction you desire, the thought of moving on has probably crossed your mind. But when you’ve worked long and hard to earn that RDH title, it is equally important to look long and hard at the next career step before you take it. Instead of reinventing your career into something totally different, consider a career shift using your hygiene knowledge, skills, and experience in a different or unexpected way.
A career shift begins by carefully evaluating which direction you want to go. Use the following questions to help you formulate a path or determine if you need a job change, a career change, or a life change.
- Why are you looking for a change? What do you like and dislike about your current job? Think not only about specific tasks but also your own personal bent. What is the thing you most look forward to during the day - your patients, your critical thinking skills, going home?
- What features of the job make you happy? A fast or slow pace? Hectic or calm? Working alone or in groups? Do you need prestige and opportunities, innovation, and cutting-edge technology? What feeds your soul?
- When do you last remember having a passion for your job, and can you determine why you lost it?
- What is your current passion? Can hygiene knowledge or experience feed that passion in any way?
- What have you discovered about yourself so far? Grace under pressure? A hatred for red tape and bureaucracy? Do you love to wear that suit and pumps, or do you prefer to work in your slippers?
- What skills do you possess that could translate to other jobs? For example, as hygienists we need to be active listeners, problem solvers, and motivators. We need to be good at oral expression, speech clarity, and attention to detail. Many hygienists also excel in patient psychology, administrative abilities, coaching, writing, and translating complex, technical information into easy-to-understand public information. The underlying components of our work are frequently prominent in the business world, and we’ve often developed them to very high levels.
- Research the possibilities of what you might like to do. If possible, talk to someone who already has the type of job you are considering. If you’d like to work for a dental distributor, talk to several colleagues in the business. Learn what they do in a typical day. Network at dental meetings and find a mentor in the business to help you. Search the Internet for ideas. If you want to know the salary ranges for various positions, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook online from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/oco). If the job you are dreaming about hasn’t been discovered yet, consider being the pioneer. It’s not always the job out there that matters, but the job that’s in the person.
- Consider your education. If you need more, get it. But don’t rush out and fork over hard-earned dollars for education you already received from the school of life. Many times, the things you have learned on the job have prepared you more than you think. Plus, some employers will provide training for employees at their expense. Better yet, if you can find a volunteer position or temporary job in the area you want to move into, it can give assurance of ability to the job seeker and employer at the same time.
- What jobs have you held in the past? Don’t overlook the smallest job. Everything that has ever been done counts. Period. But that doesn’t give anyone a license to pad the truth. Make a list of all of your previous jobs and study it. What did you learn from each one?
- Don’t forget to include volunteer experience and newly developed skills.
Next, consider the pros and cons of moving out of clinical dental hygiene. Changing jobs and getting out of the rut can be exhilarating or frightening, depending on the individual. The wages for clinical hygiene are usually much higher than entry-level or mid-level wages in most corporations. And wages for part-time positions are lower still. Clearly, money isn’t everything when it comes to working. When asked to rank the 15 most important job considerations, a recent survey found money ranked number 12. The number one answer was “challenging and interesting work.” Unfortunately, many companies pay only for the body of the worker to be present, not the brain. Challenging and interesting work may need to be created with the right mindset. A job that at first appears uncertain and lacking in resources may actually be innovative and the next big thing. One with prestige and opportunity may be next in line for downsizing. Make a plan; don’t rush, but don’t let uncertainty paralyze you. Very few things in life are ever certain.
As hygienists, we have close physical contact with patients, and we develop long-term relationships. This is not usually the case in most of the business world. Office politics may mean that you would go from being influential in a small dental office to having many layers management with a distinct pecking order. It may be harder to leave the job at the end of the day in the corporate world, but the clock won’t be quite the taskmaster it is in dentistry. Job performance evaluations may go from nonexistent to scheduled meetings that examine how much you have affected the business’ bottom line. Don’t forget the possibility of paid vacations, bonuses, and other benefits in the dental world outside of clinical practice.
Be sure to involve family members in your plans for support; they may see things in you that you have missed. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that you own your life. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you can or can’t do. Live your life the best way you know how. Do your homework, and don’t be afraid of success or failure.
About the Author
Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, is a frequent contributor. She is based in Clarkston, Mich.
Clinical Dental Hygiene Skills That Relate to Business Skills
- Critical Thinking
- Working Directly with the Public
- Oral Expression and Clarity of Speech
- Customer Service