Work life balance

Self-advocacy

It took me years to learn what career advocacy meant. As an immigrant, I spent the first several years in America, trying to ‘fit in’. I was quiet, often taking criticism personally, and afraid of sharing my gifts with others. I was reluctant at the thought of expanding my comfort zone.

What does advocacy mean and why should it be important to you?

Career advocacy means using tools and strategies to advance in your professional pursuits. It means learning how to put YOURSELF first.

Why should we put ourselves first?

Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash

Half of you reading this are women. The thought of putting yourself first feels foreign and selfish. Although we all came from highly respected families that treasure education, we have not had many female role models who have been creators of their own fate- such as, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, Presidents of countries or even successful small business owners.

When we do see women in these roles, we are quick to think about what their family life is like, who is taking care of the kids, and if that person were a good mom or wife. This idea was eloquently described by Indra Nooyi, past CEO of Pepsi-Cola. She received so much judgement throughout her career that she became immune to it and found tools to stay sane and concentrate on work.

The reason we need to learn how to put ourselves first is because ‘we cannot pour from an empty cup.’ If we are not living our best life, feeling truly energized and revived for our future prospects, there is no way we can bring happiness to our relationships or help others in their quest.

Prioritizing everyone else above ourselves, builds resentment and disappointment over time. This can spill over onto our relationship, work and hobbies. It can make you a person nobody want to be friends with or love!

How can dentists advocate for themselves?

First, overcome your deep-seated fears

That fear you experience every time you think of asking for a raise or negotiating a higher base pay is only natural. All of us feel it.  Overcoming it and doing it anyway, is key. There will always be 5 other job offers, for every offer that isn’t able to pay you want you want. If you’re ready to fight for your worth, you will easily find more opportunities.

Learn to go the extra mile

If you are doing what everyone else is doing, how would you be able to advocate for your worth? Some dentists choose to invest in clinical CE to increase their worth, others get professional coaches and improve their communication skills. Few try innovative ways to find a job, like sending hand-written letters to dentists in the area, networking amongst specialists or learning a second language.

Believe in the power of pivots

It is never too late to quit a job or walk away from an opportunity that does not serve you. Pivoting is important and more necessary than you may think. Re-evaluating whether your current opportunities are serving you well, once a quarter, and letting some of them go, helps create space for new and better ones. This, however, is easier said than done. We can’t walk away from everything we have signed up for, but usually a little negotiation can tip the scales in our favor. 

Create time for yourself to think, reflect, write or pursue a hobby

Working away your whole life will earn you a lot of money, but at what cost? Life’s simplest pleasures are based in everyday joys. Like, taking nature walks, sipping your favorite coffee, buying fresh flowers or reading a good book. You can create time, at a minimum, by walking up an hour earlier before work. In an ideal scenario, it would be advocating for a 3 or 4 day workweek instead of 5.

Learn not to take things personally

Putting yourself first doesn’t just mean asking for a raise. It also means protecting your energy at all times, and at all costs. We have all had the experience of an upset patient come into the operatory, that is difficult to numb or unhappy with the results of their treatment. While that failure may seem daunting and might affect our confidence, it is crucial we don’t make the failure personal and start thinking we are not good enough.

It is called the practice of dentistry for a reason; learn to put on an analytical hat to understand what changes can be made next time. Try to maintain your cool, force yourself to smile internally and work towards improving.

Did this help? Please comment and let me know!

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