It’s never too early to plan for your future. Whether you’re a first-year dental student who is just getting used to the dental school experience or a fourth year seeking associateship opportunities, looking ahead is a must to ensure your success. Dental school is the stepping stone launching you into the next chapter of your life and your career. Gaining experience during clinic and taking advantage of opportunities at school (through live events, shadowing faculty, and volunteering for outreach programs) will help you on your journey.
Knowing that your potential employer dentist will look at how well you approached your time in dental school, it’s important to take every advantage you can during those four years. Take time and do research on what your dental school has to offer. Are there extracurricular activities available? Any study clubs or groups that might be worthwhile to join? What about programs or organizations that might give you a leg up on other students who will be competing for residency programs, jobs, and other opportunities after graduation?
In a recent THE NEXTDDS webinar entitled “7 Simple Strategies for Successful Associateship,” Dr. Bianca Velayo, (practice owner in Henderson, NV, and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, ’15) described ways she differentiated herself from classmates by creating a valuable dental school experience.
Connect with as many people as possible. Between your peers, faculty, and the people you meet at various school events, network and make sure that they remember your name. Keep in mind, your peers will soon become practitioners themselves and may reach out to you or vice versa once you are both in that position. The more you build your reputation while you are in school, the better off you’ll be once you start to seek employment. Every interaction that you have may be the difference between a new job or picking up a valuable hire down the line.
Get involved in student organizations such as Alpha Omega, the SNDA, HDA, or your local ASDA chapter. You might think it is just student government, but ASDA is a national organization that is affiliated with the ADA. Whether you decide to pursue a position as a vice president, a social chair, or a lunch and learn coordinator, you should make an effort to get involved in your local ASDA chapter. The events presented by these organizations offer more learning and networking opportunities at a national level as you begin to branch out in your career. Attend as many as possible to discover some of your options after school.
Every case you complete in school will take you one step closer to mastering the clinical skills necessary in dentistry, while also building rapport and learning to communicate with your patients. Therefore, add to your repertoire by going beyond your core curriculum. If you’re a D4 and have completed all these requirements, don’t coast towards graduation. Dr. Velayo recommends that you make sure to do an extra denture or endodontic case, and/or assist more experienced students, such as residents, in other cases when possible. According to Velayo, it builds clinical experience, and provides valuable patient care too. Another way to develop your knowledge is to schedule a shadow day with a local dentist and follow his or her schedule accordingly.
How will you differentiate yourself from the pack? Don’t wait for your final year of dental school in order to make the changes that will open up your future. Your dental school has resources available to further your education and make sure you are on the right path towards being a professional. Leverage these assets and you’ll be better adapted for the post-graduation job search and employment opportunities ahead.