Dental students, including some Student Ambassadors for THE NEXTDDS, often describe the importance of finding and a building a relationship with a mentor. For many students seeking this guidance in their early school career, this is easier said than done. Whether it’s a faculty member, a more experienced student, or even shadowing a practicing dentist, how does one create and breed an organic mentor-mentee relationship? If you’ve expressed interest in starting one of these relationships, learn how to begin the process of finding a relevant coach and advisor.
Courtesy of Dr. Cody Mugleston, a recent THE NEXTDDS virtual training event entitled “3 Proven Ways to Find Mentors & Build Leadership Skills” discusses topics such as the importance of mentorship, how to develop leadership skills, building relationships, and pursuing clinical excellence. In his presentation, Dr. Mugleston outlines several recommendations to finding and building a mentor relationship.
How to Begin the Mentor Process
Beginning the mentor relationship is an organic process. Engage with the potential mentor dentist on treatment philosophies and to discover what he or she is most passionate about. What makes your mentor tick? What does he or she strive to do with dentistry? What’s life like outside of work; how is he or she as a person? Make sure to approach him or her first, don’t wait for a mentor to come to you. You can’t just show signs of being coachable, you have to be the catalyst of the relationship.
While you don’t have to come right out and say that you are seeking a mentor, you can instead work your way into their graces, slowly building up that relationship to a point where you are comfortable enough to begin asking those crucial training questions. You can ask questions in order to get help and questions that dig into the personality of your mentor, learning of his or her pathway into dentistry. Some examples:
To solicit help from the mentor:
- What would you do if you were me in this situation?
- What should I look to improve on? What do you see as my strengths?
- What new skills should I learn?
- How can I communicate more clearly?
- Who should I go to when following up or to help move my career forward?
To learn more about the mentor:
- What is an important leadership lesson you learned?
- How do you embrace failure/setbacks?
- How do you approach risk-taking?
- How do you spend your time both inside and outside of the office?
- How do you best plan for the future?
Once the relationship has been established, start having conversations that will engage the mentor in your development as professional. Ask your mentor to watch you work, and offer you feedback and constructive criticism. Maybe offer a meeting time outside of work to let you pick his or her brain on certain topics? Build your way into the relationship by trusting one another, establishing an open communication, and being assertive in your goals as a mentee with a similar mindset. Be “all in” on the relationship, don’t shut down recommendations from the mentor just because you are not comfortable or have done the approach before. Be a sponge and soak up as much as you can from your mentor, constantly learning to become a better dentist.
In order to grow as a dentist, dental students should seek the advice and guidance of their peers and more experienced professionals. Not only will it be a good safety net for diagnosis and treatment planning or how to best approach certain aspects of running a practice, but it can also be a rewarding exercise in networking and being able to get ahead on your professional career. Start looking for mentors now and you’ll be better prepared to handle the pressures ahead.