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 any professional.
Too often we get short-sighted on our career goals and aren’t prepared for huge opportunities or massive problems that come our way. Everyone likes to think their job is secure or that they will always be happy with their current job.
But things often unexpectedly change, so it’s a wise and career-minded individual who is always looking ahead. Let’s review three habits that will make a big difference for you.
Career Habit 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” 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 I become a subject expert 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 don’t have to include specific jobs you want, they can and should also include additional skill sets and other accomplishments or goals.
Think big, but remember, your plan is a living document for your career. Refine and update it regularly (at least yearly) with lots of smaller steps along the way to get you there.
Finally, keep your plan somewhere you are forced to see it regularly. This is important because plans are like plants – without adequate sunlight and TLC nothing grows.
Career Habit 2: Always be Learning
If all you are doing is the basic requirements of CE to maintain your license, you are missing out. Try taking additional classes in areas of dentistry that really interest you. But also, take classes outside of dentistry that really interest you.
Always watch for interesting topics that stretch you a bit. This is important because I think we sometimes cling to what’s safe or easy. But just like at the gym, the easy weights don’t do as much as the heavier ones. This might also include subjects that will require a sustained deep dive over a period of months or years to truly master them.
But don’t let that interest die on the vine – share what you learn with others. Give local and online colleagues the benefit of your education. It’s not so that they can marvel in how great you are, but so you can generate discussion. This discussion will add to the richness of what you have learned.
It may also turn into opportunities to share what you know more broadly. If you don’t like writing, you can speak about it. If you don’t like speaking, you can write about it. Either way, share what you learn.
Career Habit 3: Leverage Failure
Everyone makes mistakes in their career. It’s worth repeating: EVERYONE makes mistakes in their career. It isn’t unique 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 – 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.
That self-pity or loathing is painful but, properly channeled after a day or two, is an important springboard. Remember, EVERYONE has those moments. And most, if not all, mistakes, problems and challenges can be a blessing, forcing you to act or think in better directions.
You will always gain more career-wise (and in many other ways, too) from struggles. None of us enjoy it, but I think we all know it intuitively. So don’t run from or try to mask them – own your failures and move forward.
Finally, don’t shy away from telling your success story. Everyone loves a good comeback story! There’s no shame in something everyone does. Use your story to demonstrate resilience, that you are a fighter, and that others can overcome also.
There you go… the three most important career habits: Have a plan, Always Be Learning, and Leverage failure. If you made it this far, there’s one more important habit I want to share. Take action – in fact, I will stop abruptly here so you can take action now!
Doug Perry is an expert resume writer and job search coach. He and his wife, Tracie, who is a dental hygienist, created GetHiredRDH in response to the challenging dental hygiene job market and have helped thousands of dental hygienists through tips and individual services. If you need individual help, click here to contact Doug.