The things I wish I knew as a young graduate

Have a big vision

It all starts with this powerful statement. Allow yourself to dream big, whether its set up your own practice or be on the global stage teaching, its possible but you have to first plant that seed. You may think only certain personality types get successes, but that certainly is slowly changing in the women I see progressing today. You can be both introverted and determined. Public speaking skills and confidence can all be learnt. If you’re unsure how to unlock your potential, look to workshops and Ted talks for inspiration, start journalling and having honest conversations with yourself. What is it that you really want to achieve? And why?

You may not get a seat at the table

My a-ha moment came to me on the underground on my way to another restorative course. It dawned on me how I really wanted to progress my career but felt so disconnected. I couldn’t see any prominent female role models. I didn’t feel part of a community that fostered kindness and support.

I was grateful for my negative work experiences because it definitely has been the drive to create this group. Sometimes we don’t get a seat to the table so we have to create the seat. We have to do something. Go against the grain. And go get it for ourselves.

Put yourself out there

Its easier to think that the dentists you see doing well have had great luck, connections and priveledge, and all of those elements undoubedly help, but you do need to put yourself out there to achieve your dream project. That takes some courage and a certain amount of fearlessness. Putting yourself out there may mean creation of your own logo and website. It may mean posting your dental images onto instagram and creating a portfolio. It may mean getting in contact with a dentist you admire and getting a mentor. Asking or applying for opportunities, such as with a big dental organistaions. You’ll go face to face with fear of failure but without taking the plunge you stay static.

Don’t get fooled by social media dentistry

Lets get it straight – only successes are shown on social media. What people don’t generally post are the mistakes, the time it took to get to place that perfect composite, the attempts prior, the accurate effort put in and the complications. It takes time to get there. Give yourself time. The NHS can be a great learning ground to get the basics. Then go out and attend as many courses you can. Further learning is invaluable, and so are the people you meet at post graduate courses. These connections are priceless because dentistry can be a very isolating place. Share your difficulties and be honest. Everyone is winging it intially, don’t be fooled by the egos!

Comparison is a losing game

Be mindful of the messages we tell ourselves by constantly comparing our dentistry and lives to others – the “i’m not good enough” rhetoric is one we all battle. It takes deliberate effort but it is possible to internalise positive statements instead. Remind yourself that your successes come and go like the rest of the world. Celebrate your acheivements more. And remember just how far you’ve come.

Do social medial differently

If you’re on social media, make a feed that is full to the brim of kindness – positive affirmations, compassionate therapists, mediatation and self care. My favourites are The school of life, Simon Sinek, Brene Brown and Vienna Pharaon.

Don’t accept bullying in the workplace

This was a hard lesson to fully learn.

And it took me two experiences to learn my lessons and become a much more resilient person.

After I graduated, during my vocational training, my principal dentist really disliked my approach to dentistry. At the stage I loved oral medicine and was really fascinated by it. So much that I made my first early diagnosis of HIV in one of her patients. When I asked for her help, she dismissed my concerns as inexperience, that the candida, lymphanopathy and ANUP were nothing to be worried about.

I had a year of disinterest, shaming and bullying from her and that was followed by the next job, where the principal would watch whilst I did a crown prep and criticise my work. He had created a work culture where it was acceptable for him to bully. He would take pictures of everyone’s work and then share them with all of us, highlighting how awful the dentistry was. It really was hell! But I thought it best to keep working as to take a break wouldn’t reflect well on my CV.

You won’t be able to change a narcisstic boss, but you certainly can leave the job. Always choose you.

You can play the field

Don’t go for the first job you land outside graduating, you can play the field. There are so many practices looking for hard working, ethical dentists. You are actually in a great position.

Ask your Local Dental Commitee

We pay a fee to the LDC but we don’t think to seek their help. They actually exist for our benefit. Make use of the great advice available at the end of a phone! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called the chairman of my LDC about my contract, or work conditions and just hashed it all out.

Working full time is mentally draining

Managing patients expectations, our bosses expectations, our own. Its tough! And it can take a toll on your mental health.

There isn’t a need to be working the traditional 5 days. Working part time I feel makes you more productive, rested, creative and sane. I wish I had dropped a day sooner.

Don’t leave going to therapy until you have a crisis

Self care and self growth are so important skills and concepts to work on. I would encourage therapy to really help you achieve your potential and work on yourself in a safe environment.

Always go with your gut

And lastly, if you have a bad vibe regarding your patient and forsee doom, that little intuitive part of you saying ‘no’, don’t do the treatment, don’t get persuaded otherwise. Stay true to that wisdom you have. Its saying no for a reason.

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