Take Your Career to the Next Level with These Three Easy Steps

by Melissa K. Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA

Speak with any dental practice owner, and it will take a little while to hear about their challenges with post-Covid staffing. A shortage of dental assistants had been the major challenge just before the pandemic, and since then, the challenge has broadened to include dental hygienists. This staffing challenge has had a negative impact on the patient as dental hygiene schedules are even now still backed up and overloaded. However, this staffing challenge has positively affected dental hygienists as it has set the stage for them to be in significant demand. So, what does this mean for you?

Ever so often, there comes a time in a dental hygienist’s career when we take the time to ask ourselves, “What’s next?” What do I want to do with my career? Where do I want to be in 10 years? Two years? And even, what do I want to be when I grow up? (Never stop asking yourself that question.) Because hygienists are in demand, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your career and set yourself up for success in your next step – no matter if that step is tomorrow or six years from now, and no matter if that step keeps you in the op, takes you out of the op, or anywhere between.

It’s never been a better time to be a dental hygienist, nor a better time to take your career to the next level! So read on for a few quick and easy steps you can take to get your professional self ready for the next phase in your career.

The power of having a professional photo

A photo speaks a thousand words, especially in a world where reels and social media can instantly pull us in and keep us wanting more. The same rings true with how you project yourself as a licensed healthcare professional. One of the most important things you can do is get a quality professional photo that pulls the viewer in a while simultaneously projecting the feelings you want to convey. A single good picture will help build instant trust and fast-track your way to your next career goal!

Remember that I’m choosing my words carefully and recommending you get a professional photo, not necessarily a professional headshot. Instead of a serious picture of you in a suit and collar, consider using an image that shows you as the expert you are. Want to stay in the op? Take a picture of you in scrubs in an operatory setting – bonus points for staging a patient and capturing yourself engaging in patient education. Want to be a speaker? Use a photo of yourself on a stage with a microphone. Want to be a manager? Hire a photographer to take your photo leading a staged meeting in the boardroom. The secret: Take 1000 photos and choose one that projects who you are and who you want to be. Then use that photo in your resume, email signature block, and on your professional social accounts.

The significance of increasing your professional social media presence

Speaking of social media, this year, it’s time to separate your personal and professional social media accounts to ramp up your virtual game. Being “Facebook famous” is still very much a thing in the dental profession, so creating a reputable virtual image is one of the most important things you can do to advance your career. The key is this: What will potential employers find when they enter your name in the Google search bar? Hopefully, they’ll see your professional self instead of that not-so-good 10-year-old photo of you holding a beverage at that one bachelorette party you’ve long forgotten about.

Begin with your LinkedIn profile as your foundation and utilize every tool LinkedIn provides: perfect your bio, add all volunteer opportunities, and don’t downplay your work experience and strengths. Once complete, copy and paste all the information (with your new professional photo) into a professional Facebook page. Start blasting your new profiles to your friends, and while you’re at it, be sure to set your personal Facebook profile to private, as potential employers will certainly check that out. For the hardcore among us, if you’re looking to become any public figure (author, speaker, key opinion leader, educator, sales rep), then it’s also vital to begin building an Instagram account which is where you can let the fun and more informal side of your professional self reside.

Engage in social conversations, become the expert you know you are, and build your social network by friending your second and third-degree connections. Don’t forget to hesitate before you tap the post or reply to ask yourself one question – Will this help or hurt the professional image I want to convey?”

The magic of cultivating a professional in-person network

Now that you have a single engaging photo to capture instant attention and that you’ve built up a reputable virtual image, it’s time to get out there and utilize the magic of in-person networking! Attend regional and national conferences, study clubs and courses – volunteer at local clinical and non-clinical events. Certainly don’t limit yourself to just dental events. We’re licensed healthcare professionals, so think outside the box and attend events hosted by your state health department, medical schools, and more. In addition, management and business courses held by your local small business associations will help you understand the business side of dentistry. They will help you feel confident as you pursue your next step.

This next part is vital: Remember to do everything in your power to match your professional in-person image with your professional virtual image. Update your professional photo annually, tinker with your LinkedIn profile weekly, and practice aligning your expert virtual voice with your in-person voice.

Now that hygienists are low in supply and high in demand, it’s never been a better time to do what you can to take your career to the next level, whether in the op, out of the op, or anywhere in between! Follow these simple steps today, and you’ll begin to see your career grow in ways you never thought possible!

About the Author

Melissa K. Turner, affectionately known as @thetoothgirl, is a fresh force of change and is on a powerful mission to transform the future of dentistry for both patients and practitioners. An award-winning hygienist, key opinion influencer, and speaker, Melissa represents a new generation in dentistry through a focus on inclusion, practitioner well-being, and innovative technology. She is a 2022 Sunstar Award of Distinction recipient and a top dental content creator nationwide. Turner’s newest brand is the 2022 launch of the I, Woman podcast – a podcast for women founders, executives and entrepreneurs that discusses what it takes to unleash your inner roar in the boardroom, the bedroom, and beyond! Turner is the creator of the I Heart Dentistry Network, a community focused on supporting under-recognized groups of dental professionals and is cofounder of The Denobi Awards Gala, an annual red-carpet awards program honouring outstanding individuals and unsung heroes who move the dental industry forward. You can reach Melissa at www.melissakturner.com