Making a Career Shift: From Comfort to the Unknown

Joseph Cavaretta


Taking the leap and diving into a new career can be an exhilarating experience for anyone, but how do you navigate the process? How do you know when it is time to move to another position? For me, it was four factors: recognizing my priorities were changing, following my gut, taking a long look at the risk and reward, and asking myself “why?”

I had spent 17 years growing and developing in my career at one of the largest dental supply and equipment companies before moving on to Dental Whale, a company truly in its infancy. Deciding to leave is never an easy decision, and, like most people, I had an internal struggle when a new opportunity was presented to me. 

I was a part of a family at my previous company that helped me grow into the professional I am today. Through my former company I found mentors and lifelong friends, along with learning the tools to help me succeed. Looking inward, and asking myself four specific questions, helped me learn it was time to move to the next stage of my career. 

These are the four questions I believe all dental industry professionals must ask themselves when deciding if it is time to move on and try something new in life. 

Does This Career Path Align with My Priorities?  

Is your current position allowing you to prioritize what you want? If it’s family, will this new opportunity allow you to better integrate them into your day-to-day life? As much as I loved the work family I was leaving, my real family is always my highest priority. Life happens and it does not stop for work.

After a tragic loss in my family and a hospice stay that went from three days to three weeks, I sat with my loved ones and had time to reflect. After dedicating so long to a place I loved to work at, it was time to refocus and recenter my life around my kids. Sometimes you need to take a new position that allows you to work remotely, which helps work-life integration.

What Are the Risks and Rewards?  

Make a pros and cons list. Talk to your friends and family. Weigh everything before pulling the trigger. By deciding to move on to a new career, you will be leaving a place of comfort and starting completely over. That might not be worth the risk, and that’s okay. 

I was at a place in my life where I was able to take the risk and hope that the transition went well. And if this new opportunity did not work out for me, I thought, I knew I was going to be okay with struggling for a while. This was a risk that ultimately rewarded me. You must assess if you can take that leap. 

What Does My Gut Say?

This goes hand in hand with measuring the risks and rewards. You will know better than anyone else what is best for you. It is common to not want to leave your place of comfort because you have built relationships there, and you do not want to let down those around you. However, putting yourself first and knowing what is best for you is crucial and will ultimately guide your decision-making process.

Why Am I Looking?

If it is just for the money, reevaluate because that should never be the deciding factor. There is likely a deeper “why” that you will need to figure out. Will it allow you to enjoy an earlier retirement to spend time doing things you enjoy outside of work? Does it give you the chance to create something and watch your work grow into something bigger than yourself? These are all reasons to move on to new opportunities and explore what is out there.

Moving on to something new is exciting and daring, but also nervewracking. When deciding to take the leap or not, reflect and review where your life has taken you. Is this something that will benefit you and give you perks in other aspects of your life? For me, after using these four guidelines, I knew transitioning over to the Dental Whale family was exactly what I needed in my life. 

Mr. Cavaretta is the president of Dental Whale Services. He spent 17 years at Henry Schein, working his way up to vice president of sales for the eastern area. He has been affiliated with the New York State Federation of Professional Health Educators and Eta Sigma Gamma, National Professional Health Science Honorary. He also sat on the Oral Health of America Board from 2007 to 2009, and he currently sits on the advisory board for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

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