A letter to fresh graduates

After what seemed like a really long five years, the hostel has been vacated, goodbyes have been said, the hangover from the farewell parties has died down, and you are on your way back home. Any other graduate would probably have things figured out by now, or even landed their dream job. But here you are, still trying to figure out what to do next. Let us help you. Below is a bucket list of some tasks that must be on your agenda in the initial few months after your college. Read on.

Deal with debt

Take charge of your finances, especially debt if you have taken a student loan for your degree. Visit the bank you took your student loan from. Talk to the branch manager. Get a written statement of how much money you owe the bank, how much EMI (Equated monthly installments) you need to pay, and for how long. If you think your current financial situation allows you to pay more EMI, or if the amount seems to leave little for your monthly expenses, talk to the branch manager and get your repayment terms adjusted. If they don’t agree, check if you can change your lender by getting your loan refinanced. It is also a good idea to start repayment during the moratorium period (i.e., the time after you have completed your education and before you need to start paying your EMIs), as the interest for this period is usually “simple interest.” After the moratorium period, interest is calculated as “compound interest.”

Get a job

Whatever your plans for higher education, it pays to get a job soon after college, preferably in an established clinic under an ethical, senior doctor. The job will instill a much-needed discipline in you, and help you appreciate how running a clinic is different from practicing in an educational setup. It will also help you reflect on your future plans, and possibly refine them. During clinical practice, many students realize they want to pursue higher education in a particular specialization, or even choose other career paths (e.g., MBA). The learning in the initial years often forms a bedrock for your future endeavors.

Let go of your big city dreams

You may have imagined that you’ll work for a large super-specialty chain in a big city and have an awesome lifestyle ─ easy access to the best amenities, better quality of life, more patients, awesome nightlife, and bragging rights. Let us break the bubble for you. In most large cities, there is an oversupply of dentists, leading to cut-throat competition among clinics, below-par pay for freshers, and limited apprenticeship opportunities. Combine that with the high cost of setting up a new clinic, and higher costs of living. In comparison, smaller towns offer a much lower cost of living, ease of setting up a clinic, and higher average patient flow. Yes, the price you can charge for your services will be lesser, but it will be more than made up for by the higher number of patients that visit your clinic.

Temper your expectations

Most of the work that you’ll perform in your initial days will likely be run of the mill, menial, and boring. It will be a far cry from your college days, where you used to perform new types of cases every week. Do that with utmost sincerity and interest. The greats of any industry are the ones that have been persistent and perfected the boring tasks. Don’t be worried if the exciting stuff doesn’t come to you on day one. It will come to you, sooner than later. The boring stuff will still take 80% of the time (Pareto’s principle!). Get used to it.

Work on your people skills

As students, there is often so much focus on getting the hard skills right, that professionals almost forget the importance of people skills. In the movie industry, the songs and trailers bring the customers to the multiplex, and the story follows after that. Similarly, a patient will decide whether or not they want to get the treatment from you much before you get a chance to show your surgical prowess. Successful doctors will tell you that the secret sauce for their success is the strength of their relationships. This can either be in the form of patients that keep coming to them generation after generation, or their peers who rely on them for referrals or consultations. So, invest in your people skills.

Take care of yourself

In a commencement speech American singer-songwriter Patti Smith asked students to “Take care of your damn teeth.” She wasn’t particularly endorsing dentists but making a point that you should take care of yourself. The initial few years will be tiring and unforgiving. You’ll work long hours, and come back home tired, complaining of backache soon after. In such a time, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take a holiday once in a while. Go for long walks. Get plenty of sleep. The habits you form now will go a long way in determining your happiness and health.

Take responsibility

Your life will change drastically once you are out of college. There will be a lot more things to worry about. A lot more work to do. Your expenses will become unpredictable, as will your cash flows. In all of this, try to keep calm and start taking responsibility for little things. Show your parents you are now grown up. Buy groceries for your house, buy an ice cream for your mother, help your father clean his bike.

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