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Setting Your Dental Career Goals (in the Midst of a Pandemic!)

Posted December 15, 2020

The DentalPost Team

Have your 2020 dental career goals hit a snag due to the pandemic? You’re not alone. And with the holidays upon us, we begin to reflect on the year as we reconnect with our family and friends. This holiday season is unlike any other we’ve experienced in our lifetime. Some of us are doing virtual gatherings, while others are having smaller, more intimate gatherings. No matter how you’re celebrating and bringing in the new year, you’re probably going to get asked a few questions.

“What are you up to these days?”

“Where are you working?”

“How is your office handling the pandemic?”

“What is it like working with all your new PPE?”

“Do you like your boss and coworkers?”

While these questions may be stressful or annoying when you just want to relax and not think about work, it really is a great use of your down time to think about where you are and how you are feeling about your current job and your 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.

Reevaluate 2020

2020 was like a never ending dumpster fire. Finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many of us had work changes – hours cut, jobs lost or jobs gained. We’ve had all these changes forced on us, at no fault of our own. 2021 is the time to take back control and set up what you want in your life. It’s time to get out of the back seat and start driving the car to the destination we want to go.

Despite all the stress and heartache this year brought, what were some of the good things that happened? What gave you back that glimmer of hope? 

Take note of all the people who were there for you – and those who weren’t. What about your boss and coworkers – did they make the pandemic harder or easier to get through? 

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 need to be considered when setting realistic goals and expectations to know which direction to take your dental career.

Recognizing Accomplishments Throughout Your Life

The best way to set realistic and achievable goals for yourself is to recognize what you have already accomplished. Start by writing down your age and what you have accomplished, giving yourself credit for the small and large things. If you completed your education, continued it by getting new CE courses under your belt or participated in a mentor program, you should pat yourself on the back. 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. 

Set a Big Dental Career Goal, Then Set Smaller Goals

Next, write down your future ages, 5 and 10 years from now, and what you hope to accomplish by then. Remember again, 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 your own dental practice or become a registered dental hygienist in a quiet beach or mountain town? Your big goal should align with your passions, your drive, and your “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 be achieved, so you need to set smaller goals that help you get there. If you think about your career in small packages of time, it will help guide you throughout the year. If you want to change your career for example, maybe 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.  

Be Willing to Pivot

This year was the year of “life happens.” Everything was outside of our control, and it made us feel as powerless as ever. Take the power back, pivot your goals with grace. 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. Just keep pursuing your passion and you will find what you’re looking for.

Reward Yourself Along the Way

Treat yourself. As you’re achieving and putting effort towards your goals, you need some positive reinforcement! 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! 

Don’t Give Up

We have all had our share of challenges this year. 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 2021!


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