Pursue every opportunity to grow into the best version of yourself

I started my career as a lab technician with the skills to know what to do, but not why. In my nine years at Aspen Dental, I've been able to learn the ins and outs of my profession from fantastic mentors who took the time to make sure I was the most knowledgeable technician I could be. I learned not just what to do, but how to do it and why it matters.

As technicians, we have so much opportunity for growth. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you take advantage of those opportunities to develop into the best version of yourself.

Treat every person as a potential mentor

There is not only one way to get from point A to point B. Every lab technician I've ever met has been an amalgamation of every lab technician they've ever met; we all pull tips, tricks and techniques from our colleagues and cobble them together into our own unique philosophies. As a result, we can all learn from each other — but only if we approach each new person as a potential learning opportunity.

I've always had a competitive nature, and if I find someone who is better than me at something, my first instinct is to try to learn from them. Everybody, no matter their background, has a unique perspective that can help you improve your own skills. At Aspen, where the culture of mentorship is so strong, your ability to grow and learn is unlimited if you're willing to take advantage of it.

The more people you take on as mentors, the greater your ability to grow. Remember, if you're not looking for opportunities everywhere, then you're missing them.

Embrace clinicians and other staff of all backgrounds

I've had the good fortune of working with many doctors, especially newer clinicians who didn't get much hands-on denture experience while in school. Many of these doctors are hesitant to prescribe dentures, even in situations where dentures are the best option. By being able to converse with them and explain the ins and outs of dentures, I can help educate those doctors, which ultimately leads to the best possible outcomes for the patients.

This relationship isn't one-sided, though. Working with so many doctors and clinicians from other backgrounds has taught me many different ways to approach denture troubleshooting. With dentures, there's no one way to do things correctly, and different doctors have a variety of techniques. By opening up that reciprocal relationship, we can learn from each other, which highlights the importance and value of lab technicians in a dental office.

Seek out growth and development

It can be easy to get too comfortable with the status quo and the way we've always done things, but if we stay where we are, we're doing both ourselves and our patients a disservice. Whether we're constantly seeking out new mentors or raising our hands for new training courses, it's important that we keep learning. If we don't stay ahead, we'll be the ones following behind everybody else.

Personally, I need to feel like I'm continuing to grow and develop in order to be happy in my career. I love working with patients and helping them achieve their best smiles, but sometimes, it's easy to fall into autopilot mode — which is something I do my best to avoid. By embracing those growth and development opportunities, I can ensure my work stays exciting. Plus, all of that personal growth invariably leads to professional growth. The best way to stay motivated in our careers is to be able to see our own progress, and with new training, techniques and technologies perpetually coming down the pipeline, companies like Aspen Dental keep the environment fresh and exciting.

Make each year better than your last

All of this advice boils down to my personal ethos: Make each year better than your last. By treating every person I meet as a potential mentor, embracing clinicians and staff of all backgrounds, and seeking out new learning and development opportunities, I've been able to improve year over year. 

As you're improving, make sure you also keep your professional relationships reciprocal — just as you were mentored, make yourself available to those who would like to be your mentees. By collaborating and working together, we can all grow into the best versions of ourselves and ultimately provide the highest-quality care to our patients.


Jesse Peeden is the manager of lab optimization at Aspen Dental. With over 15 years of experience in the dental field, Jesse brings subject matter expertise, technical skill and enthusiasm to everything he does. In his role as manager of lab optimization, he works to improve and streamline lab operations across the country.

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