I hated being a dentist, so I quit. But where can I find work now?

Posted in Careers, Mentor Minute

I hated being a dentist, so I quit. But where can I find work now?

The Globe and Mail, Oct. 22 2012

The Question:

I’ve recently moved to Canada with my husband who has a job here. I qualified as a dentist in Australia 15 years ago but have never loved it as a career, in fact, at times I was so stressed out with it I became depressed. In the end, I found a niche of dentistry that suited me but doesn’t exist where I live now.

The idea of spending months in the library to study for exams for a career I feel like I’ve managed to finally escape is just a horrible thought now.

For all the negative things I’ve just said above, I’m bright and friendly, creative and analytical and would love to go back to work again, just not doing dentistry. But what job is there out there for me? I don’t know where to start as I’ve always just looked in the job pages of our profession’s journal for work and training in the past when I’ve needed to change jobs.

Who would want a dentist to work for them and are there any careers out there for me? I would be happy to retrain or get other qualifications.

The Answer:

As I type this I am preparing for a three-hour dental appointment to replace crowns on my front teeth. I am not looking forward to it, even though my dentist is a great guy … so I feel your pain, as I am about to feel mine! The bottom line is this: Yes, there is another job out there for you. There is always something else we can be doing. I am such a firm believer that if you are committed to getting out of something you hate and into something you like, you will figure it out. Here’s how to do it:

Stand firm in change When you use words about dentistry like “I’ve finally managed to escape,” take that as your strongest indicator to NOT go sit in that library to get qualified in Canada for something you clearly do not want to do. It can be very challenging to stand firm in change, because the little voice inside our head will say things like “but that’s all you know how to do,” or “you’ll never make decent money doing something else,” or “what a waste to throw away all that training and experience.” But if your work causes you stress and depression and feels like something you must escape, don’t listen to that nasty voice. Instead stand firm in your commitment to find something new.

How do you do this? The answer lies at finding the intersection of three things:

  • What are you great at?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where can you earn a great living when you look at the intersection of your passion and what you are great at?

What are you great at?

Write a list of everything you are great at. You’ve started with your comments above: Bright, friendly, creative, analytical. Keep going. Write down everything that you excel at, that comes easily to you, that people compliment you for when you work. Ask your friends, past clients, your boss or employees, anyone who knows you well, what your talents are. You are trying to capture both your natural gifts and talents. We want to leverage our best when it comes to work, so we don’t feel like we are a square peg trying to jam into a round hole.

What are you passionate about?

What do you love? Write a list that captures everything you love in every category. From “I love selling” to “I love skiing,” from “I love great food,” to “I love working with numbers” and everything in between. Think of the skills you possess that you love, the industries you love, the magazines you love to read. Think of the hobbies you love, the sections of the newspaper you gravitate to, the subjects you love to learn more about. Think of any subject where you want to know more, learn more, and naturally just seek out information about it. For example, I used to work in advertising but never loved it. The irony is that while I was working in that business, I was never reading books on advertising and marketing – instead, I was reading books that were all in the leadership development, coaching, corporate training, personal growth categories. So my future career was sitting on my book shelf, I just didn’t recognize it at first.

Show me the money!

Bottom line is, we work to earn a living. So now you want to look at the intersection of your passions and what you are great at, and explore what careers exist. Some of our passions are better left as hobbies, because there just isn’t a decent career opportunity open for us. I may love painting, and enjoy my oil classes, but I am completely confident that I will never earn a living as an artist. But others present clear opportunities. One client I am working with at the moment is really interested in anything to do with project or event planning. He also happens to love politics. So we have been exploring what the career intersection is of project planning and politics. From being a campaign organizer to a deputy chief of staff for the government, his excitement escalated when we started to explore careers in politics, to the point where he said “I can’t believe this could be possible!”

Canada is the land of opportunity. We truly are spectacular in that way. So welcome to Canada, and we look forward to you developing a powerful and engaging career in your new country.

Katie Bennett is a coach and speaker and head of Double Black Diamond Coaching in Vancouver.

Hi Katie,

I guess I’ll begin by saying that I recently read your article in the Globe and Mail, titled “I hated being a dentist, so I quit. But where can I find work now?,” and I found it to be incredibly inspiring….I find that I am constantly caught up in worrying about not being able to find a job, or that I do not have enough work experience/ skills for a company to hire me, all while not having a clue of what I want to do.

After stumbling upon your article, I feel as though I have completely changed my outlook on my job prospects. When I sat down and began to think of what I am good at, and what I am passionate about, I realized that I do in fact have skills that I can highlight to an employer, and that I can place my worrying aside for the time being to focus on school. Thanks to you, I have been able to look at certain careers more seriously, and in particular consulting. I have to say that, more than ever, I am ready to approach the job search with a much more open mind and positive attitude. Thanks again for your wonderful article!

– Tilly Wolfram, recent Queen’s graduate, current U of T Master’s Student