Your first dental job after graduation – what you need to know

It’s a big transition from university to your first job as a dentist, but don’t panic. It’s not a race, it’s about getting everything organised for life after graduation. Here’s what you need to consider to find the right job for you.

The end of the year is approaching and so are the end of your studies at one of Australia’s many well-regarded dental schools. Whether you’re finishing your degree at The University of Sydney, The University of Adelaide, The University of Melbourne, or elsewhere, you know others are already networking or sorting their dental career options. But what if you’re still flat out finishing your degree? And working part time, and have other responsibilities? Have you left it too late before you’ve even graduated?

First take a deep breath, it’s not a race. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s more important to find the right job for you. If you have your hands full finishing your studies, focus on that. When you’re ready to think about starting your long term dental career, here’s what you need to consider.

Home or away?

Where do you want to live when you graduate? As a student, it’s about finances and the university you’re attending. Do you want to stay in the area or make a change? Do you have family that you’d like to be close to? Do you want to consider dentistry opportunities in regional areas?

Consider how you’d cope if you did move away from familiar places. For some, it’s easier to transition to your first full time job while being close to family or friends. Others are ready to move and have savings to cover the change. Before you decide, think about differences such as a lack of public transport in regional areas or having to make new friends elsewhere. Being flexible in work locations can open up opportunities, if you’re ready.

Tackling the paperwork

There are plenty of things to get started on before you start job-hunting. The Australian Dental Association has a Dental Graduate Handbook for members which covers everything you’ll need as a newly qualified dentist. Information includes howto register with the Dental Board of Australia, the necessary insurances and licenses, superannuation and how to apply for grants, as well as other helpful topics. They also have a section on resumes and interview tips to help you apply for jobs. Membership of the Australian Dental Association is free for students and for six months after graduation.

Dentist Jobs Australia have regular posts on news, employment opportunities and career advice,including interview tips. While you’researching for the right job, update your resume and think about referees who will be happy to recommend you. If you’re prepared to move for work, sort your finances to cover travel costs for possible interviews. Check you have a couple of suitable interview outfits ready as opportunities can come up quickly.

The right job for you

While most dentists work in the private sector, there are also a small number of government positions and other opportunities such as in university dental schools and locum dentistry positions. There is also a trend towards dentists being employed on contracts or in casual positions.

Permanent employment gives you a good base to begin your dental career without worrying about the next contract, but you may want to pursue opportunities with part-time or casual roles. How flexible you can be will depend on your confidence, finances and responsibilities. As the search progresses keep the necessities of your search in mind, but be open to investigating interesting leads.

Check employment bulletin boards such as Dentist Jobs Australia and other online options. Update your LinkedIn profile and make sure all your social media is professional should anyone be checking.

The importance of networking

Don’t think networking comes later. If you talk to grads already beginning their dental careers, you’re networking. Bonus points if you’re in touch with dentists and dental specialists in the field. Networking builds your contacts and gives you helpful information on places you might like to work and people who could help you find the right job. Ask newly employed dentistry grads about their work and why they chose to apply. What are they glad they did and what would they recommend you do, or don’t do?

Employment processes and possibilities have changed considerably over the past decade, so information from recent job hunters is often more helpful for specific tips. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for some advice. Tell everyone you know you’re looking for work – you never know who has a friend or relative who could help.

Once you have an interview, prepare by reading up on the particular dental practice or organisation so you’re familiar with their operation and area. Even if you don’t get the job, each interview builds your experience for the next interview. Always write to thank them for their time and ask for feedback on your interview.

When you’re the newbie

Most dental practices will provide induction information before or on your first day, and usually a key person for introductions and questions. Nobody expects you to know everything so if you can’t find the answer in materials provided, don’t be afraid to ask.

Most senior dentists pride themselves on mentoring new dentists and developing collegiality in the practice. With the rapid development of new treatments and specialist technology, dentists rely on being able to discuss cases and issues with colleagues for the best outcomes.

As the new dentist you’ll generally focus on the basic procedures, but these form the grounding for the rest of your dental career path. Build your skills and confidence, and work with each patient to develop good communication and trust. Before you know it, another young graduate will be asking your advice on getting a job.

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