The Class of 2019: Career tips for upcoming dental graduates (part 1)

15 August 2019

It’s that time of year when many final year dental students find themselves overwhelmed by the major tasks ahead. Not only do the following months mark the end of one era with the completion of their university studies, but it also signals the commencement of another – entering the workforce.

Indeed it’s a time of high agenda often requiring a masterful juggling act to attend to all the important areas at
this decisive time. For some, they just want to get their studies out of the way and worry later about what is next. Others, however, approach it with an all-consuming assault of completing university with gusto at the same time as launching a career search for the perfect job.

Dr Alex Holden from the University of Sydney believes the coming months should be seen as a time of great inspiration for all the possibilities that lie ahead. As the university’s Senior Lecturer and Head of Subject Area – Dental Professional Practice, Dr Holden has over recent years assisted many graduates negotiate the transition from student to practitioner.

He says there’s one significant piece of guidance he always offers to his graduating students, something he admits he wished he realised when he graduated from the University of Sheffield in the UK almost a decade ago.

"If I was entering dental practice for the first time now, one of the key things I’d do would be to make an effort to introduce myself to specialists in the area so I could seek guidance and build up a synergistic relationship," Dr Holden says.

"A really important thing for graduates to consider is we are all colleagues, not competitors. Anyone who wants to compete is not acting in the spirit of our profession. We should all be sharing knowledge and skills and most dentists live and practice by this philosophy."

The place for collegiality
It is this spirit of collaboration that ADA President, Dr Carmelo Bonanno called for earlier this year in the ADA News Bulletin [President’s comments, February 2019] advocating for a greater sense of collegiality throughout dentistry when dealing with graduates making their first steps into the profession.

Dr Bonanno revealed when he was first starting out, he too adopted the strategy of approaching more mature, experienced dentists to assist him in guiding the way forward. "This was my very early exposure to collegiality and shaped my views on the importance of interacting as professionals," he said.

Adopting an encouraging approach towards graduates, he stated, is important as they make their first career steps out of the university classroom and into the practice workplace.

"Our personal contacts with young dentists and our member surveys tell us about the issues our younger members face, and the sources of stress in their daily lives," he explained. "The more experienced in our profession need to appreciate the different issues confronting our younger colleagues and how we can be of assistance."

Dr Bonanno stressed, this collegiality is so important, as it covers the areas graduates so often find challenging.

"Collegiality is a number of things – maintaining close bonds and relationships with our colleagues, mentoring, being available to discuss problems and personal issues resulting from the stress of running a practice, how to deal with difficult patients, experiences with technical issues, equipment, registration standards, risk management, litigation – to name a few."

ADA resources for recent graduates

"I found joining the ADA really important as I feel it keeps me connected to the wider dental world with a range of resources and services," Dr Jessica Tam says. "I feel like I am up to date and know what’s going on when dealing with the ADA."

Nationally, the ADA offers graduates a range of services including:

- Complimentary membership for the first six months after graduating, and then a significant discount on membership after that. (contact your local branch)

- ADA’s Jobs Board where available positions are advertised as well as graduates being able to post their profile for potential employers. 

- The ADA’s HR Advisory Service (1300 232 462) allows graduates to speak to an HR specialist about employment entitlements, contracts, etc.

- The CPD Portal has access to hundreds of hours of audio and video content on an array of clinical and practical topics. 

- Services like PharmaAdvice draws on the expert advice of Dr Geraldine Moses, as well as access to important information through AusDI and the Australian Medicines Handbook. (all available through Membership Services)

- Regular networking events are held where graduates can mix with peers and prospective employers, along with CPD events and Study Groups. (coordinated through ADA branches)

- The mentoring service varies from a structured program in some branches to a less formal connection service.
Contact your state branch.

- Some of the ADA state branches offer their own services, so again check in with your local branch.

* The Class of 2019: Career tips for upcoming dental graduates continues tomorrow, Friday 16 August. For the full article and a range of other great features, go to News Bulletin online