You have a lot going on, so this week I will keep it short and give you what I believe are the three most important career habits for dental hygienists.
Don’t think about these entirely to your own benefit – as important as that is – these habits will positively impact the people you serve and professionals you work with.
Career Habits 1: Have a Plan
Reverse engineer or map out where you want to be professionally in 5, 10, 20, and even 30 years from now. I’m not to talking about a list of “I want to be successful” or “I want to be happy” type statements.
Get specific – such as “I want to be working for All Smiles Dental for the next five years, then pivot into working at the dental hygiene program at State College for 10 years to extend my career in the event I develop back or neck problems.” Or, maybe it’s something like “I will spend the next three years researching alternative forms of advanced perio therapy so that I can become and expert on the subject and lecture all over the country.”
Spell it all out in detail. But be sure to include the “why” or purpose behind these moves. And they need not be all about specific jobs you want to have, they can and should also include additional skill sets and other accomplishments or goals.
Think big, but your remember, you plan is a living document for your dental hygiene career that you refine and update regularly (at least yearly) with lots of smaller steps along the way to get you to where you want to be.
Finally, keep your plan some place where you are forced to see or be reminded of it regularly. This is important because plans are like plants – too often goals and plans don’t see much sunlight and nothing grows without sunlight and some tending.
Career Habits 2: Always be Learning
If all you are doing is the basic requirements of CE to maintain your license, add to your career habits. Try taking an additional class in an area of dental hygiene that really interests you.
Always look for and find some topic that interests you and can stretch you with some self-directed research or study. A subject that can sustain a really deep dive over a period of time (months or even years).
But don’t let that interest die on the vine – share what you learn with others. Give others the benefit of this expansion you have achieved. It’s not so that they can marvel in how great you are, but so they can be inspired to do the same. This is what makes the world a better place, people learning and sharing extraordinary things.
It also makes you more interesting and relevant to the profession and to those you seek to serve. Share interesting articles, help spread the word about interesting lectures. Consider writing and delivering presentations of your own if you are inclined.
Career Habits 3: Leverage a Failure
Everyone makes mistakes in their career. It’s worth repeating: EVERYONE makes mistakes in their career. It isn’t significant that you handle something poorly, fail to meet expectations, or just flat out suck occasionally.
What is important is where you go from there.
We all know people who just can’t seem to get past certain challenges in their dental hygiene career – maybe even WE fall into that. Reminding ourselves (and perhaps others around us) of the guilt, shame, and embarrassment for days, weeks and even years.
I think those emotions are actually okay and serve a good purpose for maybe a day or two. But you can’t stay there. Remember everyone does it and those that are great use failures and mistakes as a springboard for bigger and better things. Some mistakes or problems can be a blessing, forcing you to act in ways you might not have otherwise.
You will always gain more career-wise (and in many other ways, too) from struggles to overcome failures and challenges. I know this from several personal experiences. Don’t run from them or try to mask them – take them on and you will become a better dental hygienist without any question.
Finally, don’t shy away from telling your success story. Everyone loves and is inspired by a good comeback story! There’s no shame in something everyone does – use it to demonstrate your resilience and that you are a fighter.
There you go… the three most important career habits: Make a plan, Always learn, and Embrace failure. If you made it this far, there’s one more important habit I want to share. Take action – in fact, I will shut up so you can take action now!
PS – I thought I would share with you some bad career habit tips. What here as Chrissy Scivicque shares some common ones: