Beth Monnin, RDH, MSEd, clinic coordinator and assistant professor in the Department of Dental Hygiene at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, and a member of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene’s Peer Review Panel, discusses what really matters when finding your dream job.
As students find themselves on the brink of graduation and board exams, the prospect of a job is at the forefront of their minds. Two of the questions faculty are most often asked are “Do I take the first job offer?” and “How much pay should I accept?” When my students ask me these questions, I recommend taking that first job offer because it’s a great start to your career, and most important, it does not have to be permanent. You can always change jobs later, and this office may be the job of your dreams.
However, there is one important question new grads—and experienced hygienists—should ask themselves from time to time: “Does my job bring me joy?”
Seeking presumably brighter and better things in any career takes some soul searching, forward thinking, and risk taking. Everyone enters dental hygiene school with different hopes and aspirations. Some students are hoping to secure a well-paying job in the clinical field, in which they plan on remaining, either full time or part time, for the longevity of their career. Others plan on continuing their education in hopes of obtaining a position outside of the clinical realm, such as education, research, or marketing. I know many dental hygienists who have been happily employed in clinical dental hygiene for well over 20 years. One of my good friends has been at the same dental office since 1995 because she loves it and it’s her dream job.
I accepted my first job offer and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I was so happy to “get paid to clean teeth” and earn a great salary that I continued to work in that office for more than 2 years. I really liked the dentist and the staff but what I expected and what I received did not create joy. I sought employment elsewhere and again found a job I liked but didn’t love. This new office made me a bit happier (I stayed for 2 years) but I was not content. Then I asked myself if clinical dental hygiene really brought me joy and the answer was no.
I found that I did not enjoy the day-to-day routine of clinical dental hygiene. Although I truly enjoyed my patients and providing them care, I wanted more out of my career. I wanted a career in education, so I returned to college.
Why in the world would anyone wish to be an educator if your pay decreases? You may need extra degrees, which equals more debt. But as an educator, your summers are somewhat free and you have health benefits. Was leaving a stress-free, well-paying clinical dental hygiene job that was close to my house worth accepting a job in education that had a longer commute? The short answer is yes.
Is money really an important part of our jobs or is it the joy that we feel while doing our jobs?
That answer comes from within. Deep inside the recesses of my dental hygiene soul was an educator waiting to be born. This educator in me finds joy in teaching other people how to be competent, entry-level dental hygienists.
Some people enter college with the desire to become a college professor, others decide along the way, and still, others do so after practicing in their chosen field for a few years and deciding it is not for them (which is often the case). The desire to enhance the lives of others is part of being in the healthcare field. The desire to enrich minds and shape the future of others is part of being an educator. I get to do both in my role as a dental hygiene educator.
I used to joke that I would teach for free because I love it so much, but of course, I need to pay bills just like everyone else. I chose a job in education because I love the adventure and I find great joy in teaching others. I learn daily from my colleagues and my students. My students help me be a better teacher and they make me smile to see their love in learning.
You can find joy in any job if you make it the job you want. It is okay to decline that first job offer, but if you do take it, know that it is okay to leave it quickly to seek better things—even if it is lower pay. Happiness and career satisfaction are there for you as long as you know what brings you joy.