November 6, 2019
by Kelsey O'Hagan-Wong
Searching for your first associateship position is a difficult task because all graduating students are applying for the limited pool of jobs at the same time.
In Ontario there are a few sites that are helpful for scouting out job posts- Indeed, Oral Health Group and the dental school websites (job posting section). If you are subscribed to dental magazines like the Ontario Dentist or Oral Health magazine, you can also find job positions in the classifieds section. These are the “generic” ways of finding jobs.
A second (and I think more predictable) way to find associateship positions would be to ask dental reps in your area or ask fellow colleagues if you know if any offices are hiring associates. I highly recommend going the conferences in your area and joining the local dental society. In my case the local dental rep from Patterson Dental was the one who found me two of my three current associateships . The dental reps visit the offices in your area frequently, know which offices are busy and have nice staff and often times will know when offices are hiring. During my first year, I also wanted to explore teaching and applied to my local dental hygiene/ dental assisting college to be a clinical instructor and lecturer. Working in the clinics was a positive experience and the wage was over 80$/hr. Is you are a clinical instructor for the dental hygiene students your role is essentially doing hygiene checks.
When you are first coming out of dental school, many of the students will have the same level of experience clinically; therefore much of your information on your CV that will make you stand out will be personal experience (internship/externships, volunteer work, publications, shadowing other DDS). Also make sure the formatting of your CV is professional. Because I was very bad at formatting my CV and wanted something quick, professional, and clean and didn’t want the headache- I uploaded my CV to www.upwork.com and hired a freelancer to format it for me for only $5. Using Upwork you are able to post an ad- “dental professional seeking someone to format CV”; within minutes freelancers will contact you and show you examples of CVs they have format in the past and you can select and modify the style that you prefer. Below is a photo of the before/after.
In your first interviews, the inevitable question will come up of “What are you comfortable/not comfortable doing?” All new grads will come out of dental school with more or less the same experience- you may have done a handful of crowns, a couple molar endos and a hundred restorative surfaces.. not much experience.
However if you have even a single photo of a well done endo or crown that you did throughout dental school it will definitely help your case. Esthetic cases are nice to showcase however even having a photo of a pre and post radiograph with a class 2 filling helpful to show an interviewer. It is a good habit to take clinical photos for your records and also for your learning.
Just like anything, interviewing is a skill. The more interviews you do, the better you will become at them. Try to do as many interviews you can (within your budget if travelling). If you are seeking jobs far away, offer to interview over the phone or videochat. Although it can be a stressful process, it will improve your communication skills and confidence in the long term.
During your interview, ask to see the patient schedule (and the old associates schedule if possible). This will give you an idea of how many patients you will see in day and what types of procedures that you will be doing. As a general rule, if you are doing hygiene checks and recommend treatment, front staff will try to book patients with the same dentist. I have heard of some offices of the other dentists “poaching” certain procedures like crowns, endos, exo from the associates- see if this is the case.
During the final months of your 4th year, all of your classmates will be bragging about the associateship positions that have landed in awesome clinics. Some classmates will have even bought practices at this point. Do not feel pressured into rushing into an associate position- a poor associateship position right off that bat will actually cause you to regress, develop poor clinical habits and break you down mentally.
Before going in to an associateship interview, you should have an idea of what you want to gain from an associateship. Usually it is clinical experience in general dentistry- you want to be able to master your class 2 restorations, to feel confident with your surgical extractions and your molar endos, and crown/bridge. Try to find an office that will give you the opportunity to work with patients who require this type of treatment. In my first associateship position that I rushed into, the patients were mostly low income emergency patients, often times requiring extraction. While this was a great opportunity for honing my extraction skills early on; staying in this practice would have meant I would receive little to no training in crown/bridge or endo.
I am fortunate that in my current associateship positions the primary dentist is semi-retired and is only doing treatment planning and Invisalign- thus giving me ample opportunity to do simple/complex restorative, endo and extractions.
Also it is not custom to sign a contract right away, I would recommend working for 3 months to get a feel for the office before signing anything.
When I graduated dental school, it seemed like everyone was under the impression that working full time in only one office is the ideal working situation. While in the long term this may be true, I think that there is a huge advantage to working in multiple offices when you first start out. By working in multiple offices, you will have the opportunity to try different dental equipment/products, dental software, patient populations, and team management styles. Every office will have certain strengths and weaknesses which you can learn from for when you decide to open your own office.
About the Author
Kelsey O’Hagan-Wong graduated from the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program from the University of Toronto in 2018 and is currently practising general dentistry in Windsor, Ontario. She is also the founder of Dental Code Lookup, a mobile app designed to help users quickly search all Canadian dental procedure codes (for more info: www.dentalcodelookup.ca)
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