A dental career offers so many potential paths. As your skills expand and interests evolve, it’s smart to periodically review your options. You might discover that you want to buy a practice, expand your services — or reduce your own hours. A family health issue, your partner’s career, or another factor might also prompt you to consider a change.
How can you think through what is right for you?
Last week, ADAPT's own Dr. Suzanne Ebert moderated a great conversation during the ADA Accelerator Series webinar, Finding the Practice That Fits You. Dr. Ebert and the two panelists, Dr. Daniel Hall and Dr. Sara Makary, shared the twists and turns of their own transition stories and offered advice on thinking through your options. Their discussion included several topics, including:
- The pros and cons of being an employee vs. an owner
- How to visualize your ideal path — and be flexible when life happens
- Involving your family in your career decisions (see our related blog post)
ADA members can watch the webinar replay at no charge. You can also read Dr. Hall’s transition tale, Building a Career that Balances Business with Dentistry.
The audience asked so many great questions that our panelists were unable to answer all of them live. However, Dr. Makary offered to answer them in this blog post. Read on for her answers:
Were you worried about starting your current director role and handling all of the responsibilities and unknowns? Did you take any classes or courses to prepare?
Absolutely! I remember questioning myself and our previous director whether I could fulfill that role. It felt like I was switching jobs but we have a great team and I relied on that a lot. I also stayed in touch with our previous director who continues to mentor me to this day. I did not take any classes to prepare but I had a few weeks during which the job duties got transferred over to me.
I took a lot of notes on who to reach out to for questions. I also learned about a few supporting organizations that connect FQHC employees together like the National Network for Oral Health Access.
One key thing that applies to the field of dentistry, and the FQHC world is no different, is that networking is very important to learning. The Florida Dental Association and the North East Dental District Association has been very helpful in connecting me with other organizations and providing me with answers when needed. They actually reach out periodically to check on our organization’s progress, which is very appreciated whether you are new or experienced within this role.
If I’m not in the right situation for me, how do I take the first step to finding the right fit instead of finding another stressful position?
The first step is to recognize whether your current position is a good fit for you or not and it sounds like you have gone through that assessment already. If you are not in the right place, don’t feel discouraged. There is a lot to be learned from those opportunities about what you like and do not like.
One of the things you can do is to start asking yourself about your short- and long-term goals. Are you looking for experience in the short term to get to your next goal? Are you experienced enough and ready for the next step in your career? What do you not like about your current situation?
Once you identify your goals, you are ready to search for the right job. If you want to be an associate, make sure you are connected to the community you want to work in. Join local study clubs. This is a great way to get introduced to specialists and other general dentists. Familiarize yourself with local supply company reps as they know the offices in the area. Local chapters of the ADA will offer you a great deal of additional resources and most will have a classified ads section in their newsletters. If you want to own a practice, it might be time to start talking to a practice transition professional about your options.
Where can I find support groups/mentors for career transitions?
This is a great question! Drawing on the collective experience of support groups and mentors is very important in all stages of your dental career. There is so much to learn and you can’t find it all in books!
I found a lot of support through the ADA, the Florida Dental Association, and the North East Dental District Association. When you participate in regular meetings and events like Dentists’ Day on the Hill, you see so many familiar faces and you strike up so many conversations. You get to develop relationships with professionals in different stages of their careers that you might not have encountered otherwise. Local study clubs offer similar opportunities. Wherever you go, there are always dentists willing to share their contact information and willing to share advice. You just have to ask!
How would you advise looking at options and seeking experiences as just a stepping stone? Knowing for example that it isn’t the right fit, but that you need employment and the ‘right fit’ isn’t available right now. How do you not get down on feeling like there might not be a ‘right fit’?
I am glad you are asking this question because experience can come from so many different opportunities. The first step is to evaluate your personal and professional goals. What are you looking for? What are your timelines? If you are searching for a job opportunity that will serve a “stepping stone,” that is perfectly fine! There is no need to feel bad or get down about that opportunity. Adjust your expectations!
We all know that the corporate model is becoming more popular in certain areas but smaller groups are starting to turn to new graduates and dentists with 1-2 years of clinical experience for associateships. Sure, these opportunities may not align with every practice philosophy out there but, if you have evaluated your goals honestly and know what your next step is, they could be great alternatives to getting the experience you need for your next step.
Public health is another great option for getting more experience and serving populations in need. They also have the added benefit of potential loan repayment (you can search for FQHCs here). The “stepping stone” model works great as long as you have clearly outlined your goals and are willing to keep your expectations flexible enough during this important time in your career.
Ready to take the next step in your career? ADA Practice Transitions is now available in all 50 states! Create your free profile now to get started.