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Sometimes it’s just a restless feeling, other times there’s clear warning signs, but knowing when it’s time to quit your job can be one of the toughest career decisions of all. By John Burfitt
Quitting a job can be one of the most significant moments in a dentist’s career, when the decision is made to pack up, say goodbye and move on to the next chapter. Disputes and dissatisfaction can be a part of even the best workplace, but when the bad days begin to outweigh the good ones, attention must be paid and action taken. Red flags are worth taking note of, as is evaluating the difference between what’s a professionally challenging time to be worked through, and what’s a warning sign that it’s time to leave.
“Health professionals ask, ‘When do you know it’s time to leave a job?’ on a regular basis,” James Hill, director of medical recruitment agency Prescript, says. “It could be about their career ambitions, or a lifestyle choice or they simply don’t like where they are working anymore.”
Hill says some self-reflection about what is really going on at work is essential, as is planning the next step. That could be having a discussion with your manager about any dissatisfaction with the role, or alternately, handing in your resignation.”
According to the jobs website seek.com.au, the five main reasons Australians leave their jobs is due to poor management, a lack of career progression, needing a fresh start, poor working conditions and financial reasons.
“When you find yourself increasingly noticing those things, you need to acknowledge you’re not as content as you once were, and it might be time to do something about it,” Ameena Basile of Dental Management Expertise says.
“Making a change might be just what your career needs but be sure you’re making a change for the right reasons.”
To help you decide, here are six key signs that it may be time to head towards the exit doors.
You feel a sense of dread
“If you’re getting up in the morning, dragging your feet about going to the clinic, that’s a clear indication something’s not right,” Basile says.
There could be many and varied reasons for such feelings, but when the mere thought of going to work creates a knot in the stomach and brings on thoughts of dread and anxiety, it’s time to act.
“If that’s how you feel before you’ve even arrived at work, don’t be so naive to think your colleagues and patients will not notice once you have walked through the doors,” she says. “If you’re that miserable about the job, then be professional and do something about it. Fast.”
You don’t fit in anymore
“If there’s been a shift in the culture of the workplace and you no longer feel like you belong there, that can’t be ignored,” Dr Jane Boroky, owner of Adelaide’s St Peters Dental Clinic, says. Workplace culture is about values, like how a practice functions, staffing policies, clinic conditions and the treatment of clients. All of that can shift dramatically with a change in management or when new owners move in.
“You may suddenly find there’s less flexibility in your schedule and it has become a ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ attitude, and that can be impossible to work with,” she says.
“If you feel the people you are working for aren’t interested in your wellbeing, then you might need to find a better fit elsewhere.”
You see no path ahead
Dr Boroky recalls enjoying her first-ever job where the prospect of becoming a practice partner was discussed from the beginning. Four years later, however, she was no closer to being made a partner.
“It was something dangled in front of me to keep me interested, and eventually it was time to do something else, so I left,” she recalls. She went overseas looking for new opportunities, and eventually set up the St Peters Dental Clinic in 1999.
She says dentists often feel they need a change after a few years and go looking for better or different opportunities elsewhere.
“Sometimes people want to progress, other times they just want to learn other ways of working. If you realise there’s no prospect for that in your current workplace, it makes sense to move on.”
You’re bored and/or burnt out
“Everyone knows dentistry is a stressful profession, and some people either get bored or burnt out, and need a break,” Basile says. “Recognising those warning signs is so important for overall wellbeing.”
Boredom can set in when the job and the way the practice operates becomes so routine it seems there’s no challenge left. Similarly, many dentists burn out due to the fundamental demands of the job.
“There are obvious signs, like when you know you’re not doing the job as well as you used to or you’re not getting on with the other staff and patients. It can also be when patients return as procedures weren’t done properly the first time. If you’re noticing things like this, it’s important to take time out, recharge and go somewhere else.”
“As we mature, we change and sometimes what was right for us five or 10 years ago does not work now,” Hill says. “It could be you realise the work environment you once loved does not fit with your own values anymore, and it’s you who has changed.”
Being passionate about your work creates a greater sense of purpose and fulfilment, often resulting in higher rates of productivity. If that passion wanes and eventually disappears, however, it’s usually time to look for another position.
“Life changes and one day you realise your values are no longer aligned with your workplace,” Basile adds. “Staying in an environment like that is like banging your head against a brick wall. You’re far better going in search of a new challenge.”
You want to leave the city
The disruption of COVID-19 has seen a dramatic shift in workplaces, with many city dentists now pursuing sea changes and tree changes as they migrate to the country and coast.
“I’m hearing many medical clients talking about re-evaluating what’s important in their lives,” James Hill says. “These are people who have worked hard but felt a shift take place and are now prioritising their lifestyles. They want to continue their careers but are clear about doing so out of the city.”
Hill describes it as ‘feeling misaligned within the workplace’. “I’ve been surprised by just how much reassessment is going on about what’s important, and that’s due to COVID. What’s also surprising is how once these people acknowledge it, how fast they act upon their decisions.”