By: Shannon Patterson, CPR, CMSR
Kolbe Certified™ Consultant
Director of Practice Opportunities
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with hundreds of orthodontic residents every year who are looking for the right opportunity after their graduation. One of my first questions is, “Why did you want to become an Orthodontist?” I hear various answers every day as a recruiter but many times I hear this one, “Because I had an amazing experience with my Orthodontist.” So, you’re telling me that your experience with your childhood orthodontist was so awesome that it inspired you to travel this long, difficult academic path? Wow, it gets me right in the heart every time. And it’s that connection that as future practitioners you all want and desire to have with future patients whether it is in a private practice, group practice, or corporate model.
My next question is usually, “Where do you want to land and where do you see yourself in five years?” I don’t usually hear as much excitement, and often I hear confusion and concern. The answer to this question often sounds something like this: “I don’t really know I just know I want a good job to start paying off my debt.” I don’t blame you for not knowing the answer. After all, how can you know if you’ll be happy in your future job five years from now?
Well, lucky for you, I absolutely love what I do, and when you love what you do you have a passion for helping others. Most of you have identified your passion, now you are looking for a place to combine your passion and a career. Every day, I counsel candidates on what factors they should consider when seeking an opportunity. Through trial and error and knowledge gained from many candidates through the years, I have found these steps to be helpful as you narrow down your job search.
1) Know Who You Are!
We all want to get paid for doing what we love, but be sure to understand who you are and the must-haves before deciding on a job opportunity. What are your beliefs and values? Does this opportunity and community align with them and will you be able to fit into the practice and community cultures? Identify your practice values, your personal values, your interests, your “must-haves” in a community, your passions, and last- your financial needs. Yes, I said consider money last because, believe it or not, most people do not leave their current job due to money but often due to “it’s just not a good fit for me.”
2) Identify the Right Practice.
As residents, you might often hear “beggars can’t be choosers,” and with the debt load most residents carry, who can blame them? However, be sure to do your homework on a potential employer, as this person will be tied to your career forever. Be sure to spend a day with a potential practice or employer and witness the practice culture, sit in on new patient exams, watch how the reception area greets patients and watch the clinical team working with patients. I can assure you that all of these, and I mean every single one, will have a huge impact on your success. If a potential employer has an issue with you spending a day in the office, this could be considered a red flag, especially if you are being paid on a production incentive.
3) Find a Good Mentor.
First, do not ask a stranger or someone who does not know you well! A great mentor should be someone who inspires you and who already knows you. This person has seen your potential and hard work, they know how you think, how you communicate, how you tackle tasks and how you contribute to those around you. It should be someone who trusts you and believes in you, but, most importantly, it should be someone who is not afraid to give you input and feedback! Identify and join social media groups and blogs with other young orthodontists to hear their perspectives and voices as a resource in your career; Ortho 101 is a great one.
4) Practice Perseverance.
What is the definition of perseverance? Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, and endurance. There is an old saying, “do what you love and you’ll never work another a day in your life.” Is that really true? Probably not, but if you do what you love, it will never feel like a job. Success takes hard work, commitment, and persistence. All of you are talented and skilled clinicians, and with connections and a little luck you might find a good opportunity, but persistence will ultimately be what makes you successful in your career and is what will set you apart from others. Identify your vision and know that it will take stamina and endurance to get there!
A job search requires commitment and dedication. Making a career plan requires you to outline clear expectations and objectives. It means going back to the basics, discovering your likes/dislikes, values and beliefs and taking them all into account for a job opportunity. Even if you don’t land your dream job and you have a short-term opportunity, stay committed to your long-term career goals.
It will take time and effort but in the end, it will be worth it. And for those of you who are looking for that new key phrase “work-life balance,” I believe it is important to understand that your job will ultimately take up most of your time; it financially supports your dreams and it is a core part of your identity. If you simply live your life, love what you do and do your very best at it, ultimately you will achieve great success!