Game-Planning Your Career

In Business by Dental Entrepreneur

Where will you be three years after graduation? How about five or 10 years? Many dental students have a vague idea, such as joining a practice near their hometown or working in a particular area of the country. Some probably haven’t given it a lot of thought. They’re focused on doing the best they can from now until graduation and haven’t given a lot of thought to what will happen post-graduation.

And that’s OK … for now. But I would recommend taking some time over the next few months and creating a career vision statement. This document will help you clarify what you want to accomplish in your career over the next three years. You can look further into the future than that, too. Maybe your 10-year goal is to own a large practice with multiple offices. Maybe it’s being debt-free and having a practice near the beach.

Dentistry is a rewarding career. But it takes planning and followthrough to get where you want to go. Creating a career vision statement will help you reach your goals (and destination) sooner.

Just follow these five steps to get started:

1. Brainstorm

Take 30 minutes or so and write down everything you want to accomplish in your career. There are no right or wrong answers. Just let it fly … state-of-the-art cosmetic practice … small three-person office … dental missions … giant mega-practice with offices in seven states. If there are seemingly opposing ideas, that’s fine, too. You’re just throwing stuffagainst the proverbial wall and considering possibilities. No decisions have to be made at this point. Once you’re done with your initial list, read it over. Over the next week or so, jot down any additional ideas. They will often hit you when you least expect it, such as when you’re walking to class, eating lunch or taking a shower. Use your smart phone or a notebook to list these new thoughts. After a week or so, compile all your notes into one master document. Read it over several times. Let it sink for a few weeks.

2. Revise Your List

Start by eliminating any ideas that you’re not interested in. Owning a dental practice on a sparsely populated island may have sounded good at first, but after thinking about it some more, that’s one for the discard pile. Keep pruning away until you’ve got a solid list of career objectives. Don’t expect to have all the answers at this stage. Also, realize your aspirations may change once you enter the profession.

3. Write Your Career Vision Statement

You need to write it down because it shows that you’re committed to making your vision a reality. If you don’t write it down, then it’s far less real. The act of writing shows thoughtfulness and deliberation. It means you’re serious. It’s not a vague idea that’s floating out in the ether, but a blueprint for achievement. The length of your career vision statement should be 1-3 paragraphs. Not too long, but substantial enough to be a source of constant motivation. I recommend looking forward 10 years. You can do more than that, but a decade’s worth of accomplishments will suffice f or most people.

4. Create Yearly Goals Based on the Vision Statement

Your vision is not an academic exercise – it should be a working document that serves as a guide for achieving your career goals. If your 10-year goal is to be the owner of a practice generating $1 million in production, you need to build a year-by-year outline for reaching that goal. Here’s a simplified example:

Years 1 & 2 – Work at a DSO and pay down school loans by 50 percent

Years 3 & 4 – Join a practice in the Southeast as an associate; Finish paying offloans.

Year 5 – Open own practice in Central Florida. Continue to expand clinical skills.

Years 6 & 7 – Build a great team; Equip practice with state-of-the-art technology. Generate $700,000 in annual production.

Years 8 & 9 – Grow production by 15–20% annually.

Year 10 – Break $1 million in production.

You could easily have 5–10 goals for each year. My point is that your career vision statement shouldn’t be tucked away in a drawer. It’s actually an important tool that you should constantly use to create the career you want to have.

5. Revise Your Career Vision Statement as Necessary

At the end of the year, review what you accomplished and decide if you need to update your vision. Maybe you accomplished more than you thought possible or maybe you ran into some obstacles. You might even have changed your mind about some of your long-range goals. Whatever the case, review the vision and then update it as you see fit.

Conclusion Even though it seems far away at times, graduation will be here before you know it. A great career awaits you … get a jumpstart on it by creating a career vision statement.

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Dr. Roger Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the Chairman and CEO of the largest dental practice consulting firm in North America, Levin Group, Inc., which has served more than 22,000 dentists and specialists since 1985.