The biggest challenge can be deciding what the career goals are
By Mary Jensen, RDH, MS
Everyone sets goals. They set them at the beginning of a new year, the start of a new job, or when they want to lose weight. How successful have you been with your goals?
About a year ago, I attended an Illinois Dental Hygiene Association (IDHA) board meeting. I’m part of the membership committee. Then IDHA president, Gaylene Baker, asked us to take a few minutes and fill out a goal-setting form. (I know. You’re rolling your eyes here.)
But hold on, I have a story. This form eventually came back to me and it was a real surprise. The simple act of writing down my goals, as uncomfortable as it was, helped me see not just my weaknesses, but also my strengths, and the exact direction I needed to take to achieve my goals. The form started out defining a purpose—identify career-related interests in which I might want to set goals, such as pursue a new clinical position; take on a service project; shift careers paths; or attain an advanced degree, among others.
So, I got started. I identified my major interests as education, health, and seniors. These interests are all tied together. I am the lead oral care specialist with HyLife Oral Health Alliance, a network of RDHs who provide weekly oral hygiene care to dependent seniors. I like to say I’m “bringing oral care to elder care.” I love helping my clients in memory care stay healthy. My overall goal is to help as many seniors as possible.
The second area we were to fill in went a little deeper. It asked me to identify three reasons why I wanted to achieve this goal. My answers were my personal purpose in life, professional involvement, and expanding into a new career area. I knew this, but writing it down made it seem that much clearer.
It then asked what strengths I have that can help me achieve this goal. Those would be my education, experience, compassion, and energy. Why is it that so many of us feel uncomfortable listing our strengths? Do we think we’re bragging? Will others think we’re conceited? We all have strengths. Are you doubting yours? Ask a family member or colleague to be honest with you and share your strengths.
But the exercise was not done yet. I needed to fill in what opportunities I had or could create to achieve this goal. First, I’m a member of ADHA. Knowing so many other RDHs from my state gives me a great platform to share what I’m doing in the profession. I follow other professional groups, such as Oral Health America and the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health. I’m a member of four senior service networking groups. These groups have provided me with support and contacts to move forward.
I had to fill in what challenges I needed to overcome to be able to achieve my goal. Did I have to list my shortcomings? Oh, there are plenty. Did I really have to write them down?
The next question was easy to answer, but hard for me to acknowledge. I had to fill in what challenges I needed to overcome to be able to achieve my goal. Did I have to list my shortcomings? Oh, there are plenty. Did I really have to write them down? Yes, because it is so important. I listed my lack of computer and technology expertise, my limited ability to think outside the box, and my unwillingness to push myself past my comfort zone.
There they were. I stopped at three. I just stared at them on the paper. In my mind, I was already thinking about ideas that would help me in those areas. The first thing was to ask others for help, which was out of my comfort zone. But people want to help; we’re just afraid to ask. When someone asks me for help, I’m happy to do so. Working on both of these tasks helped me to think outside the box and generate new marketing ideas to push my goal forward.
But wait, that was just the first page. Page two got into the nuts and bolts, listing actions and deadlines to move me toward my goal. Now I had to be specific. So, I set a goal regarding how many new clients I wanted at the end of the year. I also mentioned that I should review my referral tracking system, read another business or caregiver book, increase my networking with other senior services business owners, and reach out to authors of articles on senior memory care. Seeing these goals written down felt overwhelming but exciting. I felt like I could do this!
Finally, I had to list key goals. By February 2017 (six months from that day), I wanted to achieve educational, career, or personal goals. I listed the exact number of new clients I would have by the deadline, August 2017, one year from that month. Again, what would I achieve? I wanted to double my client number.
So where did all this take me? We put our completed forms in an envelope, addressed them to ourselves, and returned them to the coordinator. To my shock, it came in the mail several weeks ago. How amazing to read, in my own handwriting, what I wanted to achieve. Even more amazing was that I had achieved my goals! I had done what I set my mind to. But the key factor here was writing it down. It clarified where I was going and how I was to arrive at my goal. I’ve said to my family for years, if it’s not on the calendar, it does not happen.
Why should it be any different for our life goals? Break them down, write them down, and get started. Achievements and reaching your goals are just around the corner.
Mary Jensen, RDH, MS, has been a registered dental hygienist for more than 36 years. She is the lead oral specialist with the HyLife Oral Health Alliance where she provides weekly oral hygiene care to dependent seniors in memory care and assisted living communities. She is the lead dental hygienist for Alliance for Smiles, a nonprofit that provides free reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips/palates in China and other countries. In 2014, she received the Young Dental Caring Clinician Award; in 2015, she was named Volunteer of the Year for Alliance for Smiles; and in 2017, she received Heart to Hands Award from Philips/RDH magazine. She can be contacted at [email protected].