Seeking employment can be stressful, as it can lead us to wonder whether we are 'good enough' especially if we are new to practice.
This natural self doubt is compounded by the statistics published by the Graduate Careers Australia which show a drop in the percentage of graduating dentists in full time employment 4 months after graduation by over 10% to 83.3% (in comparison to 93.9% in 2011) and 6.8% of newly graduated dentists as not working at all, even on a part time basis. It is understandable that many final year students ask themselves - Are there too many dentists? Will I even get a job? Have I made a bad career decision?
In short, the answers are no – yes – no, but perhaps more helpfully, this article looks at ways we can stand out from the crowd and distinguish ourselves from our peers during the job selection process. There is a job for you, and it’s a good job and the right job, but how will you know it when you see it and what can you do to ensure you get it?
Setting yourself apart
Be honest on your CV
Your CV and covering letter are often the first contact that you will make with a practice, and therefore this is your first opportunity to impress. It is all too tempting to inflate or exaggerate your expertise and experience, but be mindful that no one expects a new graduate to be an expert (and anyone who did would be a terrible employer!) Consider joining study clubs and associations, as they are a great source of contacts and will better represent who you are and what you are interested in.
Remember, an honest representation of who you are is always best. Think; if you are only deemed employable based on an inaccurate description of your skills – this is not the right job for you!
Get good references
You may not be a well respected practitioner……yet….but you do know many people who are. Be sensible in your choices of referee, and try to choose people you wish to emanate as they will best reflect who you are. Better still, can you seek employment with a potential mentor?
We are professionals and should present ourselves accordingly; turning up late, still in your gym gear because you’ve been to circuit training, may help you get those abs, but it won’t help you get that job! A smile, good eye contact and a firm handshake (not to be interpreted as a grimace, a glare and crushing someone’s knuckles) will go a long way to making a good first impression
Be honest in your interview
See CV above - no one expects you to be an expert! An honest representation of yourself (without being self depreciating) is far more impressive than an arrogant inflation of your skill set. Good communicators make good dental practitioners (and also good assistant dentists!)
Be nice to the staff!
The staff will all give their opinion of you as a prospective co worker – whether they are asked or not. Do not ignore the front office staff in your eagerness to get to the boss. And wash up your coffee cup! Dumping it on the desk in front of your potential DA will not make you any friends!
Choosing the right practice
Like your first kiss, your first practice is a long anticipated and memorable experience; and also like your first kiss, the nature of this experience can cast a long shadow and influence your future choices! Considerations for you first practice include; regional or metro? Public or private? Part time or full time? Specialty or general? But what is the right choice?
Of course it depends, both on you as a person, and your lifestyle and career priorities and goals. We can however highlight a few areas which can influence your decision making process. Consider:
Is this the right practice for me?
• Does my future principal seem approachable – particularly if something goes wrong?
• Are there other practitioners I can bounce ideas off?
• Am I expected to make an unrealistic amount of money?
• Am I expected to perform certain treatments ‘for the good of the practice’ (think Cerec simply because there is a machine on site, or implants, simply because your principal likes doing them, or crown and bridgework for the dollars)
• Is the proposed remuneration fair?
• Do I have access to the materials and equipment that I reasonably need?
• Am I taking over an established list, or starting from scratch and which would I prefer?
• Am I ethically aligned with this practice and the practitioners within it?
• Will this practice help me develop, both professionally and personally?
• Will this practice environment or ethos put me under unnecessary pressure?
• Will I be happy here? Am I a ‘good fit’?
Am I right for this practice?
You can have the best hands of your class, the best academic marks, or both, but, if you do not have the mutual respect and trust of staff and patients alike, then you are NOT the right practitioner for that practice.
The best first practice is an environment in which you feel able to develop your skills in the direction you choose and at the same time, the practice is enriched by your presence. Strive for a mutually beneficial working relationship wherever possible, as life (and dentistry) are hard enough without being in difficult working circumstances. Let your practising environment be one in which you feel comfortable……the rest will follow!
Dr Annalene Weston (Dento-Legal Adviser)