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When things don’t go to plan - dig deep!

in Newly qualified

When things don’t go to plan - dig deep!

Toyin studied at The University of Manchester and qualified in July 2014. She has written this article for both dental students and qualified dentists; to encourage them in difficult situations. She has used her own experience as an example of how to overcome challenges. It is a non-clinical article, but she feels it covers important issues which are often overlooked in this profession.


Background story

And so it begins… I’m walking down the street in my graduation robe, clutch bag and six-inch heels. I call the picture below ‘Woman on a Mission’. In the literal sense, I really was on a mission and that was to collect my certificate of graduation. However, at the time, I did not realise that collecting my graduation certificate was just the starting point of a much deeper and insightful journey.

My family and friends had travelled from London to Manchester to celebrate the epic achievement of my graduation. They were clearly very proud of me. They knew just how much it had taken for me to get to this point. However, what was even more meaningful was the fact that, even though my future appeared grey and uncertain at that point, they were full of hope and excitement. The hope and belief they had in me then, irrespective of what the future had in-store, is what triggered the realisation that I have what it takes to achieve whatever I put my mind to.

So you may be wondering what exactly made the future so grey and uncertain for me. Basically, I had not been successful in the DF1 interviews and was not allocated a DF1 job in September 2014. To me, this meant the interviewers thought I was not good enough, smart enough or worth taxpayers’ money - despite the thousands of pounds that had been invested in attaining my degree! 

But this certainly did not mean I was incompetent. I knew that I had what it takes in the world of Dentistry; because I had earned my BDS. As long as I had my BDS, I would prove to everyone else what I already knew; that I was good enough, smart enough and worth  every penny of that £30k starting salary!

Okay, so enough about my story. How does this benefit those reading this article? My aim is to get every reader to realise that at some point things will go wrong for you. It’s not a matter of if, but when, because that’s life! What matters most is not what you go through, but how you deal with it and the lessons you learn along the way.

What to do when things go wrong
There are two ways to deal with a difficult situation:

  1. Acknowledge the situation
    • Dwell on it
    • Struggle through
    • Not learn anything from it


  1. Acknowledge the situation
    • Understand why it happened
    • Dig deep and overcome that situation
    • See it as an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson

The phrase ‘dig deep’ simply means to use whatever you have to achieve a particular outcome. This could be through using physical, mental or financial resources. What I want you to consider is if you had no money or were physically handicapped, what resources could you use to achieve a particular outcome or to get you out of a sticky situation? I believe that the things we should rely on more than our pockets or physical capabilities are inside of us; these are our mental resources i.e. natural strengths.

I do not believe I am aware of all my strengths yet, but I have no doubt that I will discover them with more life experience. Two key strengths that I am confident I possess are ‘drive’ and ‘tenacity’. I have been able to draw on these strengths in the past and more recently to overcome the recent DF1 job allocation hurdle.

Being ‘driven’ means there is something inherently inside of me that makes we want to achieve - I was literally born to be successful. ‘Tenacity’ means that I am unable to give up when life becomes difficult. I must always find a way to turn a NO into a YES! I have actually realised that not everyone is driven, ambitious or tenacious. We all have different strengths in us that will make us successful in life; we just have to be aware of them.

So what now?
My challenge therefore, to every person reading this article is to take a moment of self-reflection. Consider where you are today and how you got there. There are certain strengths inside of you that have enabled you to achieve certain goals thus far. It is these same strengths that you will need to draw upon in the future when things do not go according to plan.

If I apply this to myself, I can say that my drive and tenacious nature forced me to find a solution to not having a DF1 job. My solution was to move back to London from Manchester, work as a Locum Hygienist and reapply for the DF1 interviews. There were so many reasons not to work as a self-employed Hygienist fresh out of Dental School, but I certainly have no regrets in rising to the challenge. I have benefited from what I like to think of as a bespoke introduction into the real world of Dentistry; which I must say is entirely different to what most undergraduates envisage it to be.

To go a step further, I want every reader to realise that strengths are not only to be considered or applied at particular times in our lives. Our strengths are to be strengthened (no pun intended).  How is that possible you ask? The simplest explanation is to acquire knowledge in that strength and seek ways to further improve and develop it. This means reading books relating to particular strengths and learning from more experienced people who share your strengths. We live in an age where Social Media is increasingly prevalent and I say we should also use this to our advantage. ‘YouTube’, ‘Facebook’ and even ‘Instagram’ can be used to develop strengths; you just have to be focused and specific when exploring them. I believe that developing these strengths will make us all better Dentists.

So remember, when things go wrong, dig deep within. The solution to the problems you will face in life is within you, you just need to discover it!


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