Learning on the Curve

It’s always easy to write off people saying things like “you’ll learn more your first year out of dental school than the whole time during school”. I’m not going to try to prove that argument. but I will say I learned how to “do life” completely differently after graduating. It’s also a time where you’re thrown into a deep pool of things that aren’t skill related.

To be honest. I usually disregarded people that said your first job wont be your last. I disregarded the professors of the business courses when they emphasized the need for what seemed like an ideal contract. I ignored a balance between financial concerns with a Utopian view of “just find the perfect practice and the money will work itself out”.

Openness is the key to these things. Its not that each of those concerns cant be worked out if they’re not ideal. but finding an ideal situation out of school may be a little tougher than expected.

My first job was in the works starting in my third year of dental school. Planning how I would fit in to the practice way in advance. talking about partnership. discussing CE paths out of school. It seemed perfect and I took all the time to make sure it was a good fit. It’s very possible to find the perfect fit with all the right research. but I learned that it is not always the case. Disclaimer: that’s perfectly fine.

Problems for my first job arose quickly from a contract that was never completely agreed upon (I will be writing another post to follow this one about contract reviews). Once the business conflicts started coming to a head and finances became involved. the relationship with the practice owner started to sour. They did wonderful dentistry. they led me in wonderful directions for what to expect from myself. I was learning a lot and improving my skills. but the friction forming in the office led our conversation to finding a new job far sooner than I’d expected.

Again. I learned that this was perfectly fine. I took what I learned from that office but I also learned what I needed to prioritize in my next job:

1. ) I needed to make sure I was going to be able to make loan payments. There is no compromise in this. as materialistic as it sounds. Do NOT take a job if you think it can put your financial stability in danger. Income based payments help with the loan part of things. but the other expenses need to be considered as well and should all be fixed into a budget. Also. I wouldn’t talk about future purchase of practices at this time. It can be disappointing when money doesn’t pop out of the ground as I sleep and practice buy-in becomes less realistic right out of the gate.

2. ) I would make sure there was nothing in the contract that was not legally enforceable in my state (why complicate a contract with clauses that cannot be upheld in law?).

3. ) I bought a house. so I would make sure no restrictive covenant (which isn’t upheld in Georgia anyways) would not exclude me from work near my house.

4. ) I would need plenty of autonomy. This is personal. Coming out of school. I wanted help with certain things and only occasional input on others. Make sure you are in a mentorship-heavy office if you want extra supervision. but make sure there’s a structure for you to fill your own shoes if you need some space to work. I would always recommend having someone to learn from. but just know the amount of supervision can vary greatly.

Since taking my new job. I’ve been able to learn a lot from a different perspective and have refined different skills while maintaining the ones I worked on at my first office. There’s more to learn out there than I could have imagined leaving dental school: different philosophies. new procedures. different practice models. All of these things will have value on their own accord. so I’ve learned to appreciate each experience for it’s own circumstance. It wasn’t the start I imagined having out of dental school. It’s even close to being the opposite of the plan I had set up for months leading into graduation.

Taking advantage of every situation has been the key to me learning new things and refining skills from dental school. I’m not trying to be the old guy that downplays what you learn in dental school. but I can speak from experience when I say the learning curve out of school is steep. but it’s a wonderful experience to get into the profession we’ve trained for.

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