“Keep your eye on the ball” has its roots in baseball, but it also applies to Navy aviators as they approach an aircraft carrier for a landing. The “ball” being a glowing light that helps them line up and land safely on a pitching carrier deck. “Get your head in the game” is a similar exhortation, shouted by coaches to “wake up” drowsy players. These and many other similar sayings have the same purpose: to force an active, intelligent awareness of one’s surroundings and to keep one from being lulled into complacency. Passivity can lead to destruction and loss of your time and money. That is why I want to address the obvious disconnect when young doctors choose a job and then almost without exception, find they are disappointed and feel like they have been taken advantage of. No one likes that feeling, but from my perspective we may only be seeing one side of the story. Remember that excuses and blame-shifting do not fly in the real world of sink or swim business. You are responsible for where you go, what you do, and how you perform. You and only you are accountable for your results. This means you need to answer for your actions and results. Circumstances change. Shift happens. You have to own your performance every day regardless of the noise that might surround your performance. The bottom line is that accountability means letting your actions rise above your excuses. I have found that when we lose our excuses be find our results.
Successful employee and associate jobs should never be based on luck. There needs to be a way of identifying and prequalifying a potential job before you sign on the dotted line. From the sound of the complaints and finger pointing on Facebook, you could only assume that every new associate is an unwilling victim, and every owner is out to take advantage of their new employee doctor.
None of these things are really true, but based on the tsunami of comments, there is something broken in the process of leaving dental school and finding the right job. This will take a while, but let’s get started.
Why it depends on who is looking for a job.
The decision of where and how you pick a location for a job in dentistry is varied but most often is affected by the type of person you are. Your attitude will affect your decisions and there are few decisions as important as the location of where you choose to work. This decision is so important because once it is made, few if any dentists deviate from that location. Even if everything went bad, most dentists would not move their practice from one city to another much less one state to another. Leave your ego at the door and let’s take a deep dive into the entire process of selecting a practice to work for.
Often times, doctors pick a location because they were offered a job there. This is the “desperation doctor group”, that equates work to an opportunity, with some type of pay structure as success in the game of “find that job”. They seldom make the right choice and even though this job offers a place to land after school, it is seldom the right place, at the right time, with the right workplace culture. Many times, it looks good because that is your only choice. Kind of like it’s 1:50 AM, the bar is closing, and every unattached person looks like a 10. This seldom works out and we end up reading about it on Dental Nachos. Patience, wise search strategies, and starting early to find the perfect job should be this groups mantra.
The next group is the “Lassie come home” group. You’ve always known, even before becoming a dentist, that you wanted to come back to your hometown, work for your childhood dentist, or live and work where you grew up. Absolutely nothing wrong with this except your decision was made prior to you being an educated doctor with the intelligence to have some level of discernment as to demographics, competition, and the ratio of patients to dentists as a good or bad location. The challenge here is that this area has a lot going for you personally, not necessarily a lot going for a new dentist professionally. This creates the “halo effect” where you fail to see the truth of your situation even when the facts clearly tell you otherwise. Things change and, generally speaking, you are not the one doctor in the US that can beat the odds and regardless of the facts create a super practice where others have dared but failed. Take a realistic view and have a check list of what you will need to become successful in this or any location. We will give you this list a little later. Make sure you have the fortitude to see things clearly and make a definitive decision based on facts and that check list.
Next is the “I’ve got a great self-image, for no apparent reason” group. A great self-image without the historical results to support this view. Optimism is essential, but being realistic wins out in selecting where you might want to open, buy an office, or just take a job. Generally, this doctor lacks mastery of the fundamentals of dentistry and, like most graduates, has no training in practice management. This is the group that will write a check that their body can’t cash. They often overlook their own short comings in a world that punishes fools. Regardless of what this group thinks, they need to take council from a sage advisor, mentor, or coach. This little bit of advice may finally help this group see that maybe they are not quite as good as they thought. This is the group that ready, aims, and fires but forgets to pick up the gun first.
The “Poindexter” group is next. For those who don’t know who Poindexter was, he was a nerd in the Felix the Cat cartoon. Basically, he was the resident smart guy. The Poindexter group don’t all have to be Omicron Kappa Epsilon top 10%, but they include those, and the rest think of themselves as a genius in clinical dentistry, practice management, or entrepreneurial pursuits. This is the group that thinks they understand it all. They see themselves at the pinnacle of dentistry in the future. They can do anything because they are a dentist. They also tend to be the doctors after 20 years that end up working for the “C” students from dental school. Great grades rarely end up being the star in a consumer driven business, like dentistry, that rewards people skills and self-motivation. Their career is filled with doing everything right but never quite making it to the big time. Logic needs emotion to create cultures the inspire consumers and teams. Remember that dentistry is all about relationships rather than perfect crowns and fillings.
The “go along to get along” group are the invisible doctors. The nice doctors that never strive. They do well or well enough if “average” is what you consider as doing well. They are nice doctors with average clinical skills, average business skills, that married their average spouse and live in an average house in Averageville, USA. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this group. They are simply satisfied with an average result in all they do. Location to this group is super important because, normally, average dentists don’t do great unless they accidently pick the ideal location. Choosing that job or location is key to their success. Put an average dentist in a poor location or super competitive demographic and they will struggle their entire career. This group needs to know their limitations and use wise choices in selecting that job or location to maximize the upside in their practices.
The “I deserve the best dentistry has to give” group, is way too common when we compare graduates decades ago and those today. Simply put, this is the group that feels dentistry and patients owe them. They tend not to think about serving their clients. Rather, this group feels entitled to drive the nicest car up to the biggest house in the nicest neighborhood while their kids attend the most expensive private schools. Sadly, this entitlement spills over into their practices. If we were giving away high school awards, this doctor would receive the “most likely to take advantage of their patients and staff” trophy. It’s all about them. Others fall a distant second or lower. This over-riding entitlement forces these doctors to take short cuts to afford the lifestyle they feel they deserve. Number one is always themselves followed closely by the material things they can accumulate. Many times, these doctors end up being successful today, but at the expense of their family and financial future. They talk a good game in dentistry but tend to fall short on most things that should really matter.
The “Debbie Downer” group follows closely behind our last group but for a different reason. Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live, was a negative or pessimistic person who spoke only of the bad or depressing aspects of something and lessened the enthusiasm or pleasure of others. Evidently this group keeps Facebook on some sort of internet speed dial based on the number of posts I read. Truly, a group that feels that they always get the short end of the straw and approach everything as if they are going to be taken advantage of. This glass half empty victim mentality robs this group from taking advantage of opportunities. They literally miss the bus every time. Even if something goes right, they will assume that it is just a trick, and the shoe will fall any minute. This group needs to wake up and smell the roses. Spend some time doing mission work for those who are the real victims. Failing a complete turnaround, this group is destined to poor to average practices and on their “use before date”, will have two people that they had to pay to be at their grave site.
The last group, the “better-than-yesterday” group, weren’t the obvious candidates for most likely to succeed. But they will be successful because they are better today than they were yesterday. These are the doctors that understand that their dental license is just a learners permit where at graduation they are just barely not dangerous. They know they don’t know everything, and they become a sponge for education and further training. They are optimistic but not clueless. They are open to mentors and advice while testing each of these against their current situation. They weren’t the loudest in dental school, but they had an attitude of grace and were willing to learn from others. They are probably awesome with people and attract others because they are so nonjudgmental. They tend to be goal setters who have a vision, but also have the ability to adapt and change when their circumstances are altered. They never procrastinate in making decisions because they know that if they try something and it doesn’t go well, they only fail if they don’t get up and try it again. Every day is an opportunity to learn and act. This is the success group in dentistry for the future. These will be the winners in life.
I know that each of us at one time or another have the characteristics of each of these groups. When selecting a job, try to compensate for your weaknesses by using advice from other wise people. Find that mentor. Hire that CPA or attorney. Adjust to an attitude of “whatever it takes”.
I started this line of thought with some sayings, let’s finish the same way: Put on your big girl/boy panties and deal with this, or as the sign says in Gold’s Gym by the weight rack: Pick up you own weights; your mother doesn’t work here. Like it or not, none of you are experts at finding the right place to work. No one is going to make a perfect transition into a new job. But I know each of you can do better in finding the most likely spot for you to grow in the knowledge of dentistry and how to help people. If you give people enough of what they want, they will give you what you want. Stay with me because next time we will start with where and how to look.
Michael Abernathy DDS