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3 perspectives about the dream job: Realistic expectations about your dental hygiene career

July 1, 2017
Dee Humphrey, RDH, loves to entertain fantasie about the dream job in dental hygiene, but reality kind of gets in the way.

By Dee Humphrey, RDH, BHSc

Today I woke up and thought I would tackle the world and finish working on my CE programs that have taken me months to finish. As I sat at my desk, I became overwhelmed and couldn’t muster up the oomph to get started. What little motivation I’d had quickly diminished when I saw how much work was needed.

Who was I kidding? It was too much for me, so I left my office and went back to bed. As I lay there, I thought of trying to find the perfect dream job, and what a daunting task that is. I contemplated whether I was supposed to be a speaker and writer because I couldn’t even rally enough motivation to get out of bed. Finishing speaking programs seemed impossible, and fear of the unknown surfaced because of a lack of future speaking engagements. Financial obligations would come knocking on my door if I didn’t get busy.

The tough questions continued. How on earth will I pay my bills? Am I insane to think other career options will come even remotely close to doing clinical work? Should I go back to or just stay in clinical? (My current injuries have disabled me and I am not physically able.) But it is a consistent and stable income. Do I really want a clinical job that places me at risk for musculoskeletal injuries? How long can I keep working with daily aches and pains? What are my options and where can I find them? Will I ever be able to maximize my potential in what I’m passionate about? Is there really a perfect job for me? These should be considered by anyone wanting to find their dream job.

While lying with the covers over my head, my husband came in and found me. Our conversation went something like this:

Husband: What are you doing back in bed, Dee?

Me: Leave me alone. I’m trying to dream up the perfect job for me.

Husband: How’s that working out for you?

Me: It’s not at this moment because I don’t know if this is really what I’m supposed to be doing.

Husband: (Grabs his phone and looks on LinkedIn.) Here’s a great sales job for an implant company you could work for on here.

Me: Ugh! (I pull the covers off my head.) I don’t know much about implants, plus I’m not passionate about them.

Husband: Oh, I didn’t know we were looking for a job that you had to be passionate about.

Me: Yes, dear, passion is a must!

Husband: Well, let’s see if I can compute you the perfect job. (He comically pretends to push buttons on his phone and asks me questions.) What do you want in this job?

Me: I don’t know.

Husband: Do you want to work from home? Check! Do you want to work one to two days per week? Check! What about two to three breaks per day or two lunch breaks? Check! Do you want free health care? Check! Oh yeah, and you must be passionate about your job. Check! Dee, what else do you want in this dream job?

Me: (Annoyed, with a big duh on my face.) It needs to successfully pay our bills!

Husband: Ok, you want $275,000. Check! Well, let’s see what this computes.

Me: (I play along with his joke.) What did it say?

Husband: It says, sorry cannot be computed right now.

Me: Arrrrrrgh! (I throw the covers back over my head.)

Husband: Dee, be realistic. There is no perfect job out there, and you must take the good with the bad. You are where you are for a reason.

As much as I hate to admit this, he was right. Boy, is that hard to say for someone who thinks she has it all figured out. Now, top that off with being married to someone who thinks he’s always right. (I carefully constructed that so his head wouldn’t explode, so let’s just keep that he was right again between us for now.) But what I learned is that there is so much truth in what he said. Every position we’re in, whether it’s clinical, sales, educator, speaker, or writer, has its ups and downs and it’s our choice to make it better. We must be realistic and understand that it is all about perspective when looking for that dream job.

You may already be in the right job for you, but we must know our abilities. When you go looking for your dream job or try to answer the many questions I asked earlier, keep in mind these three key points:

  1. Don’t set up unrealistic expectations. Start small. Trying to conquer my goals in one day left me overwhelmed, and I set myself up for failure. This caused me to go back to bed and hide. Work each day toward your goals, whether it’s baby steps or starting a project. Little steps are better than no steps at all, and don’t try to conquer the world in one day. Good things take time. Writing a paragraph or creating three slides for a CE program is better than doing nothing.
  2. Get experience under your belt and find a mentor. Understand that it may not be time or you might not be ready for it. As hard as that truth is, getting more experience in the areas that you’re passionate about will take time. Accomplishing goals or creating CE programs does not happen overnight. We must use each experience as a stepping stone to success. Also, it’s vital to have an array of mentors who can point you in the right direction, even if you want to quit, hide in bed, run away, or give up. Ask for advice when you’re not sure and take what the mentors say seriously because they have the experience. Learn more about your passion and research topics when you get stuck.
  3. Squash your fear of the unknown. I didn’t say that it wouldn’t happen for you. I said it may not be time or you may not be ready yet. (In my case, I needed more experience and research to help me become unstuck. Clinical is no longer an option for me.) But allowing fearful comments and damaging “what ifs” can destroy your ideal dream job. It does exist, but you must take into consideration the good with the bad and change your perspective or goals to something that is attainable.
    Having unrealistic goals, little experience, and bad mentors is a terrible combination that will stunt your ability to find your dream job. It is out there, or you may already have found it and failed to see what’s in front of you, like I did. If not, my advice is to press forward in those small steps and work until you get there. Only then are you one step closer, and remember to heed the advice of those who have learned it.
    In the words of my husband, “Be realistic. There is no perfect job out there, and you must take the good with the bad to make it better. You are where you are for a reason.” There is no perfect job out there, but you can have your dream job that’s perfect for you if you keep the right perspective. So tomorrow, get out of bed and start over! RDH

Dee Humphrey, RDH, BHSc, has been infecting the masses with her contagious laughter and enthusiastic passion for dentistry and ministry. She worked as a clinical dental hygienist and prevention specialist for six years in a tribal community dental clinic in Northeast Oklahoma. Dee has respectfully earned intuitive public health knowledge and continues to educate the community with various prevention programs. She is a communication engineer; speaker, author, and influencer who inspires and motivates people to take action and have faith. She received her RDH and bachelor of science at Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, Missouri.