Life after dentistry: How to get started

If you are seriously thinking about making the move out of dentistry, don’t miss this next post.  In the past I’ve shared some tips about how to break free emotionally, and today Rick from Rick’s Rome is back to share some great practical tips about how to get the process started.  I know many of you loved reading his inspirational journey to find happiness, so here’s part 2 of his guest post on life after dentistry!

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What about some practical advice for people looking to change?  Well, every situation is different but there are a few things that you can do proactively to prepare for a life after dentistry.

First, you should inventory your finances.  Even if you’re very good with this sort of thing, I would suggest the counsel of a professional who has not only experience, but also a detached objectivity.  Be as brutally honest with him or her as possible…and with yourself.   You will have to make some sacrifices.  The good news is, many of these so-called “sacrifices” will actually make you feel less burdened.  I have found that a simpler life is a happier life.

Related to this, evaluate any equity that you have in your practice and again, consult a professional to help you figure out an exit strategy.  If there is a sale involved, this person will earn a commission. However, a detailed consultation should be free of charge.

Buy tail coverage for your malpractice insurance.  It’s not terribly expensive and it’s worth the peace of mind.

Start acquiring other skills related to the life you want to have after dentistry.  This might involve taking some classes or at least gathering information.  The path to a career in dentistry is pretty straight forward, but not so for most other careers these days.  Know what you’re getting into.  In the rush to simply “make a change,” you could easily convince yourself of a bad idea.  You don’t want to go from one job that you hate into something else that you like even less…only without the big paycheck.

Along these lines, one idea is to start a blog like Lolabees and I have.  It doesn’t matter what your next career move will be, the odds are you’re going to need to do a fair amount of self-promoting, and these days one of the best ways to do so is with an online presence.  Buy a domain name containing your first and last name, if it’s available.  Then start writing and posting once a week or so…it doesn’t really matter what you write about at first, as long as it’s something that you’re passionate about.  Then as you start to find your way towards a new career, your blog can become more focused.  In many ways, it will become your business card, portfolio, and C.V. for the world to see.

Warning: you will have many detractors along the way who will give you unsolicited opinions as to why you shouldn’t do it.  Not surprisingly, most of them will be other dentists (they’re just jealous).  But if you’ve been following this blog with great interest, then it’s safe to say that your mind is already made up.  Don’t let the haters deter you.  Listen to the voice inside you—it knows what’s best.

Wow, I could go on and on with this, but I’ll stop here and leave you with one last thought.  If you’re unhappy with your job, start taking steps to make a change NOW.  Of course, you probably can’t just walk away tomorrow…nor should you.  You’ll want to do it right and that takes a little time to plan.  But the good news is that once you start the process, you’ll immediately feel better.  Make a checklist and start working your way through it.  Keep your eye on the prize (happiness, in case dentistry has caused you to forget that).  I’m sure you worked very hard to make it through dental school.  Apply the same amount of effort to finding your happiness.  It’s out there, but you have to go get—it won’t come to you!

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Rick Zullo is an American writer, teacher, and relentless Italophile.  He was born in Chicago, raised in Florida, but always dreamt of Italy.  After a 17-year career in dentistry, he left the United States to live in Rome where he met his wife.  He is now writing a series of eBooks, as well as a blog (rickzullo.com) which strives to decipher Italian culture for the English-speaking world.  You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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13 thoughts on “Life after dentistry: How to get started

  1. Absolutely love reading these posts – really like an outside family that support you in an ‘online’ way to having the courage to take steps and break free . Oh and I read up on Italy too ! Thank you

  2. Great stuff, it seriously reads as a good plan, I have also noticed that for most people, getting out is not a thing about money or not knowing what to do, its a social thing and even an ego thing about being a dentist, so even If dentistry all of a sudden become a cheap thing that doesnt make you money or give you status, and having a bakery make more money, they would still be dentist even if they hate it.

  3. Thank you for your posts. I’ve just discovered your blog and am so inspired by your journey. I’ve been wanting to leave dentistry for a couple of years now and just knowing g that someone else has done it and is happier makes me want to go for it even more! I’m looking forward to your next posts! Zeena, London

    1. Hi Zeena! I’m so glad you’ve found the blog. You are not alone!! It’s great that we can get this community of dentists together who can support the pursuit of living a happy life (whether that’s in the world of dentistry, or not.) Thanks for your comments, and I look forward to hearing more from you. Let us know if you get to make any changes any time soon. (I love visiting London, btw. Great city, and in recent years I’ve made a few good pals there!)

  4. Just thought I would share my next phase plans in light of all this mention of overseas travel. Don’t forget that this country offers many adventures. I am retiring from Dentistry (finally) and will be moving around North America in my Class A Motorhome. The adventure starts May 1st! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

      1. Dying to go anywhere, but first will be through Cali wine country. After that, sloiwly making our way East till get to home base in MS.

        1. That sounds perfect! You might need to wash away years of horror with some delicious red wine! 😉 I’m so happy for you. You will love it.

  5. Im so glad I found this blog, I have been in dentistry for 3 1/2 years now and I am at breaking point already. I don’t think I enjoyed it from day one but it has got progressively worse with me changing from post to post in the hope that I will achieve a different outcome…enjoying dentistry, and it hasn’t happened. I feel so guilty for my nurse and receptionist because I’m so unpleasant to be around at work. My moods at its lowest when I start the day because I’m dreading whats lying ahead of me each day. Sorry to be a bit of a moan about the whole thing!
    Ive started to make moves towards a new career though and my evening class is the highlight of my week at the moment, I am a bit worried about going for jobs though because my CV looks so odd, goodness knows what potential employers must think when they look at my cv history compared to what I am applying for :s

    1. Hi Alex,
      I try to reply to everyone, but sometimes I miss something, and, well, I reply 5 months later! Glad you found the blog. I felt that way at 3 yrs also, but I kept finding a way… for 7 more years! Good luck with your other career option. If you ever happen to read this comment, let us know what you plan to do instead of dentistry!

  6. I’m so happy to stumble upon this site! I didn’t know there were actually dentists out there who successfully left dentistry! I am one unhappy dentist! But the student debt is too high for me to leave, not for another 10 years according to my calculations. I’m counting down the days!

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