The Class of 2019: Career tips for upcoming dental graduates (part 2)

16 August 2019

* The Class of 2019: Career tips for upcoming dental graduates continues today. Read Part 1 or for the full article and a range of other great features, go to News Bulletin online

The 2019 Dental Graduate Handbook
Over recent years, the ADA has taken the lead in helping direct new dentists with the annual Dental Graduate Handbook, which has become a vital information resource covering all the ways to make the transition from university, through to landing a first career role and settling into the workplace. []

The Handbook covers such stages as registration with the Dental Board of Australia, obtaining the correct insurances and licenses, superannuation, applying for grants, and effective methods of networking.

The detailed sections on 'Securing A Job' and 'The First Year' directly address the ways to lay down secure foundations for the future, creating a resume, negotiating interviews and how to secure the best roles. It further details the realities of the first year on the job, settling into workplace culture, establishing a routine, as well as protocols in practice, managing patient expectations and practitioner wellbeing.

"This handbook has been developed to assist in your transition to professional life by touching on the many aspects of your career you will need to address now and into the future," Dr Bonanno said.

Right on target
This time last year, Dr Amanda Lin was in the final stage of her studies at the University of Queensland. Twelve months on, Dr Lin works with the Hunter New England Health District in Newcastle, as well as in two private clinics.

She says it was the two-pronged approach of starting early in discussions with fellow students who had graduated the year before as well as getting in early with applications that made the difference with landing her first job.

"An important part of the process was having your thoughts collected about where you want to go, how you’re going to go about that and how will you present yourself to the job market," Dr Lin says.

It is a busy time with completing study, but making some time about what you want to pinpoint for the period ahead and familiarising yourself with where the jobs are can make the world of difference."

Dr Lin says it was the ADA’s Jobs Board that proved to be one of the best resources to discover what opportunities were being offered. "I downloaded the ADA app and that was really helpful, but what was also helpful was connecting with people who had been there before and knew exactly what the process of making the transition was like. Some of those conversations were so enlightening."

A marathon, not a sprint
Dr Jessica Tam graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2017 and recalls she was so busy completing her studies in those final months, she left her job-seeking until all her university work had been completed.

"I actually started slightly later and went into a bit of a panic as many people around me were securing employment," she says.

“But by the time I was putting applications in, I had the chance to think about what I really wanted and how I was going to set myself apart from everyone else. The biggest thing I learned from that time was that there is no race to get a job first. What was far more important was to get the right job.”

Within weeks of graduation, Dr Tam had started working part-time in private practice, and a few months on landed her dream scenario of three days a week in a public health clinic and two days a week in private practice.

"For me, that’s the perfect balance as I am getting clinical experience in the public clinic, and in the private clinic, a lot more cosmetic work. As a new grad, I wanted to be really broad in what I was doing to consolidate and further develop what I’d learned in uni."

Her advice to the Class of 2019 is to remember one adage – "Dentistry is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t think you need to be able to do everything in those first early months. Spend time getting your foundation right and the speed will eventually come. There’s a lifetime of learning ahead."

The value of being uncompromising
It’s this very point that Dr Alex Holden admits he often has to stress to his students. "What’s important is to be
realistic about what you can take on, as I have seen too many young dentists dive straight into working six or seven days a week," he says, adding that graduates should always consider all the options before taking the first offer just for the sake of landing a job.

"You need to be uncompromising," he says. "If you know you would be unhappy working in a certain environment, then don’t. Understanding your own values and what you need at this point of your learning is really important. An honest conversation with your potential employer before you sign a contract might save all parties a world of hassle."

Asking the hard questions
Eighteen months since leaving the University of Melbourne, Dr Kaya Kapusta now works four days a week in one clinic, one day in another and also back at university doing demonstration work.

She says the most important lesson she learned through those early days was to never be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice.

"It took me a while to realise it’s actually okay to say, 'I’m not sure' and to ask someone about finding a solution," Dr Kapusta says. "None of the other dentists expects you to know everything right away, as you’ve only just graduated. It’s far better to go exploring other alternatives than to bite off more than you can chew before you know what you are doing."

She admits her other two lessons from that time sound almost contradictory, but she found they were the right way to proceed for her. "Don’t just apply for anything because everyone else is applying for these jobs, but that doesn’t mean they are also the right fit for you" she says. She then adds, "But also be open to new opportunities as something you may never have considered could actually prove to be a good fit. It could be a cool CPD event or a study club or a networking event, and it could be just what you need at that time."

Exploring the Dental Graduate Handbook

The following are some of the key points from the 2019 Dental Graduate Handbook.

Employment arrangements within the profession
Employment options within dentistry have changed considerably in recent years. Currently, around 80 per cent of dentists work in the private sector, another 5 per cent work in government positions and the remaining 15 per cent are employed by organisations like universities, or as locum dentists.

Increasingly, dentists are being engaged as casual employees or as self-employed independent contractors, while some practices are moving towards offering services and facilities agreements.

For new graduates, the ADA recommends seeking an engagement as a full-time salaried employee to enable you to develop your professional skills under the supervision of an experienced practitioner.

Your first year
This time is an opportunity to observe, listen and ask questions as you hone your skills. Be sure to engage in discussions respectfully, and be prepared to start out doing basic procedures while your skills and confidence develop. Take this opportunity to become proficient at these most basic tasks, as these form the foundation for everything to come. 

This is a valuable time to learn what does and doesn’t work for you in patient interactions. By providing pain-free, quality, albeit basic, work for patients in this initial stage you are establishing an important trust between you and the patient, and building your reputation.