You might not realize it now, but the friends you make and the faculty that you interact with on a daily basis while in dental school can become lifelong working partners once you graduate. Ever since you’ve made that first connection, you’ve been networking. Your peers might remember you when they see an associateship that’s right for you, or maybe your faculty and alumni might turn into a good mentorship opportunity. No matter how these relationships organically grow once you are out of school, it all begins with building them during those four years.
Actively pursuing networking opportunities might not be something on your priority list. It can sometimes be awkward, unappealing, and not to mention a time-consuming venture. However, it takes more than excellent clinical skills and passing your exams to advance your career. You need to make those connections in order to be vocal about your interests and career goals, and go to events (lunch-and-learns, ASDA, vendor fairs, etc.) that offer these networking or recruiting opportunities.
Your First Contact
If you are passionate about dentistry (i.e., what sets you apart?) and engage with your equally passionate peers, you’re already working on making connections. Many times, dental students think sales pitches, business cards, and hijacking conversations to get in a word are part of the game, but it’s much easier than that. Being an active listener and asking the easy questions that get you into a conversation will fare better for you. Just make sure to follow up at the end of the conversation if you missed anything you wanted to mention, or have any questions for the person to whom you’re talking.
Think of the Person, Not the Position
Being genuine and authentic in your approach to these relationships will also make connecting easier, building trust and seeing what you can do to help the other person and vice versa. Think of these connections in terms of the people involved, and not the potential positions or opportunities that may present themselves at a later date. Find the person’s desires and concerns, and see if you can be of any assistance. Give yourself to your peer before you ask in return. Overall, leave your personal agenda to the wayside, and instead be open, honest, and friendly to everyone with whom you meet.
Build Your Own Network
In addition, don’t dismiss anyone that you meet as unimportant, or that won’t be a connection once you advance in your career. You never know who’ll be valuable, or if someone else you know might need that person’s specific skills and expertise. Once you start to connect the dots with these connections, you’ll soon realize that you’ve created a nest of connections that are all available to one another. Become the center of your network: organize and host meet-ups, social outings, and other events that might bring these different people together.
Your network should be in place for when you need it, both for job searching and for moving along the career ladder. Since you never know when you might need it, it makes sense to have an active career network even while you are still in dental school. Networking can help you become a better dentist and having a viable network in place during dental school will pay its dividends. Use this network to your advantage when taking the next step in your life.