After being out of school and working for a few months I talked to a friend who was going to become a dental assistant. What a great idea, I had wanted to be a dentist, why not try the easier rout and become an assistant. Working from 9-5 in a cushy little office spending my days handing scrapers and different instruments to a dentist. Did not sound bad at all.
I looked around and actually ended up doing an internship with my dads friend who was a hygeinist. I was in utter shock after working a full time, non paid, internship for almost 3 months. The daily life was not at all what you’d expect. The doctor was an older woman, about 50 or so, and she was an absolute B!T#H! I didn’t realize that in the work force, the boss really is an ass hole like you see on TV. I thought that was some exaggerated joke. It’s not.
I stayed optimistic working at the dental office and then working at my full time job as a sales associate pretty much 7 days a week. I thought for sure this will all pay off. Lucky enough the orthodontist next door got word of my hard work at the dental office and wanted to train and hire me on full time! Orthodontics? I had never gave it much thought. “It’s extremely easy, anyone can do it“, the tall gray haired orthodontist assured me. I lasted a total of 3 months at his office. He was just as rude and demanding as the woman I had interned for. The office was only open 3 days a week but the work itself was so annoying I had to find a different office asap.
I applied and applied and had a few interviews at some other offices but didn’t get a call back from anyone. I thought my career choice was failing me. I had applied for a beautifully, colorful, Starbucks styled office about a month ago in person and decided to apply again online. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get the job because of the amount of required experience but applied again anyways. Sure enough I got the job! It was my first real big girl job. I would be working 4 days a week with Fridays and weekends off. They were willing to train me and even give me my own chair! I was like a puppy in a shelter that had just been adopted.
“Don’t get your hopes up too high”, my dad had told me after I gave him my fantastic news. OH what did he know anyways. I saw the award winning office and the matching uniforms everyone had with bedazzled logos on the chest. If only I had listened to his unfortunate advice. I showed up to work at 8:30 am like the office manager had told me. “You’ll want to talk to Joanne, she’s going to be training you”. I walked all through the office and never found her that morning. “Was I in too deep?”, I thought nervously to myself. The orthodontist was a cute, round, old lady. “Meeting time!” I heard someone yell from the front. Meeting time?
Every morning we had meetings at 9 am. Every Tuesdays we had a meeting after lunch from 1 pm-2 pm. With all of these meetings this place had to have their shit together, right? WRONG. Oh I was so so so so wrong. The professional look of the office and everyone’s plastic like smiles drew me in, while at the same time they all knew what a hell hole this place really was. I was told at my hiring interview that I would not get my own chair before being “fully trained” which would take up to 8 months. That number surprised me but what surprised me even more was that I was given my own chair after just two weeks of being hired on. I was not trained at all.
Mornings in this office looked like a beehive of absolute chaos. People were LITERALLY running into each other. There were 8 chairs with 8 assistants. Each chair could have anywhere from five to 13 patients a day, sometimes you had to work more than one chair, sometimes you were just working wherever you were needed. In the midst of all of this chaos we were also dealing with cold sterile and getting molds of the 80 different impressions we took a day, getting trays made up before getting anywhere from a full lunch break to none at all. You never knew what the day was going to be like because you could never ever fully prepare for it. I worked here for 9 months and we tried multiple different organization systems, but nothing really changed things or made anything better. Our days were hectic, stressful, and long. I was never told exactly how long a normal day was when I was hired but that was probably because the “office manager” didn’t actually have a clue how long an average day was.
Not being a fully trained assistant, I stuck it out as long as I could. I kept telling myself it would get easier but it actually got much worse. We had meetings with the doctors telling them how stressed all of us were and how our days felt never ending. I was used as an example for how wrong the hiring process was multiple times. I didn’t sign up to work 10 hour days and then also come in on Fridays, which we were all told we would never have to work, and then feeling too exhausted on the weekends to even enjoy them, just to be back to work Monday morning. The craziest part was even after working 10 hours a day, coming in an hour before the meeting, and leaving an hour after the office closed to prepare for the next day never helped or made the next day any better. I found myself getting sick more often, I had gained close to 10 lbs, and at one point I got an excruciating cyst on one of my ovaries! The call to the office for my cyst consisted of the doctor saying something along the lines of “Oh I’m sorry to hear that, when are you coming back to work?”.
Asking for a day off was basically impossible. Upon being hired I was told there was an “employee manual” somewhere in the office if I had any questions like how to ask off and what to do when you can’t come to work. I asked almost every person where the manual was and every single person laughed at me and said something like ” oh the employee manual”. The first time I even tried to request off was not even for an entire day, just to leave an hour early. I thought I would be certain to get the hour off I had requested considering I asked over 8 weeks in advanced. I was denied within an hour of sending the email. I can also tell you after working 9 months in this orthodontic mania, I never got a single day off I asked for.
When I finally decided to quit, life in the office felt like we were all on an airplane and the pilot was yelling “mayday mayday mayday!“. All of the assistants were finally fed up, including some that had worked there for over 12 years. We had all pleaded with the doctors and managers about changing something in the office to make our daily lives just a little easier but our pleading had failed. I quit over the phone after learning they had fired one of the assistants who had worked for them for 4 years. The work itself was no longer worth my time. The stress was killing me and everyone else in the office. Quitting, even with nowhere to go next made me the most happy I had been since getting the job. I finally felt like I could breath.
So what does this have to do with the school system? Any career I chose would be a slap in the face no matter what. I could have spent 8 years going to school to become a dentist or a counselor and would have gone through a similar situation, just 8 years later. Even though my first “big girl” job turned out to be absolute shit I’m extremely grateful for the experience. I learned that I don’t want to have a normal job. I don’t like being a wage slave. I don’t like working 9-5, 4 days a week or 5 days a week. Working kills you when you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing. I felt the soul inside of me withering away day after day. I never want that again. If I could have gone to a dentist office or an orthodontist office in high school for just a day and gotten real, honest opinions about the daily life from the poor people working there, I would have never gone after the occupation in the first place.
High schools need to prepare students for the real world by letting them figure out what daily life is like in the careers they think they want. You never know how much work and stress comes with them. I have friends who are still going to school to become hygienist and nurses and they have no clue how shitty their daily life will be once they start working in the real world. High school should be meant to really figure out what you want your work life to look like. I wanted a stress free work environment,I chose the least stressful career I could think of, and was hit in the face with shock at how wrong I was about it. If we could figure this out in high school we wouldn’t be wasting our time and hope trying to figure it out through trial and error. Stop teaching kids about imaginary numbers and start teaching them the reality.
I’ve decided now that the traditional career path is not for me. I want to be creative. I want my voice to be heard and I want it to matter. Thankfully, I still have my whole life ahead of me to figure out how I’m going to do that. I’m starting out by trying my hand at writing. This blog has made me excited and hopeful again. I only have 4 followers right now but the future is finally looking bright again. So if you have kids or are feeling lost yourself on what you want to do with your life, try new things, experience new things, and figure out what you love. No matter how insane or ridiculous other people think the thing you love is, keep doing it. The more you do what you love the better you will get and you are bound to hit gold eventually. If you love to drive cars try to become a race car driver, if you love to paint, keep painting and get your work out there. Don’t be afraid of what people think about you. Some day it will all be worth it.