With the holidays upon us, we reflect on the year as we reconnect with our family and friends. No matter how you’re celebrating and bringing in the new year, it is a great use of your downtime to think about where you are and how you feel about your current job and long-term dental career goals. When looking at the year ahead, here are some useful strategies and tips to figure out what you want to accomplish in your professional and personal life.
Each year provides us a new chance to reflect upon what we want to achieve, continue, and change in our lives. Reflection starts with questions such as the following:
What were some of the good things that happened this year that you want to continue? What new perspectives have you gained that you want to bring into the new year? Even hardships and difficulties are times to evaluate, problem-solve, and set goals to improve our lives.
Take note of all the people who support you and make you happy and fulfilled. What about your boss and coworkers – do they make work more difficult than it has to be or enjoyable to go to?
What new additions to your life do you have to account for? A new partner or spouse? A new baby? New house? New pet? These financial commitments must be considered when setting realistic goals and expectations to know which direction to take your dental career.
The best way to set realistic and achievable goals is to recognize what you have already accomplished. Start by writing down your age and accomplishments, giving yourself credit for the small and large things. For example, completing your education, continuing it by getting new CE courses, or participating in a mentor program. Perhaps you even remodeled your home, got a side gig, or moved cross country. Anything that took prolonged effort is an accomplishment, especially during trying times.
Next, write down your future ages, 5 and 10 years from now, and what you hope to accomplish. Remember to write anything big and small that captures where you want to invest your time and energy. By then, it should become more clear what your big dental career goal should be.
It’s important to set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for your career. When you think about your future, what do you dream about? Maybe one day you want to own a dental practice or become a registered dental hygienist in a quiet beach or mountain town. Your big goal should align with your passions, drive, and “joie de vivre.” Whenever you feel down, that goal should be what you look to as your “north star.”
These big goals take time to achieve, so you need to set smaller goals to help you get there. Thinking about your career in small packages of time will help guide you throughout the year. If you want to change your career, for example, from a dental assistant to a dental hygienist, a good first step would be to look for schools and programs. Another small step would be to find out how to finance it and look for available financial aid. If you have a good relationship with your dentist, you can tell them about your goals, and they may want to help you, too. The key to goal-setting is announcing and declaring them, which helps you not only with accountability, but helps you achieve more.
When life happens beyond your control, pivot your goals with grace instead of frustration and anger. Change and adjust your goals to fit the circumstances. Reaching our goals is great, but should not define us as a “success” or a “failure.” Learn to adjust your sails when the wind changes direction, and don’t make it mean anything. Keep pursuing your passion, and you will find what you’re looking for.
Treat yourself. You need positive reinforcement as you achieve and put effort toward your goals! Small achievements can drive you forward, especially if you receive a confidence boost from your friends and family congratulating you. Treating yourself to something relaxing like an at-home spa day or another small reward will keep your spirits high and give you the boost you need after efforts in making bold steps forward. Fortune favors the bold!
We all have our share of challenges. Keep your chin up, and keep moving forward. You are the only one who can point your dental career in the right direction. Anything is possible if you keep on keeping on.
If you’re not exactly sure where to start with career goals, but you know you need to, set up a free job seeker account and take our free assessments, which are great at helping you uncover more about who you are and what you want in your professional life. You can find out what’s been waiting for you and what could be. Maybe it will give you that insight to make your big and bold moves for the new year!
Updated December 2022