When I recently moved to Houston, I had expected that finding a dental hygiene job would be easy. After all, I had practiced in all aspects of dentistry from pediatrics to periodontics for many years. It wasn’t easy! I interviewed and interviewed but couldn’t find the right fit. After an interview where the doctor spent the entire encounter on Facebook, I decided I needed to go back to the drawing board − networking!
I had built my career in a little town, and I didn’t appreciate the importance of the relationships with my local peers. I knew every doctor in the area, and my reputation preceded me.
In Houston, I was a small fish in a big pond! I quickly realized the importance of having a professional network in order to establish a reputation for myself.
I can’t express the importance of professionalism! Everyone we meet could be a potential employer, co-worker, or patient. Starting over in a new place meant I had to rebuild my brand and expand my network, which wasn’t easy to do. I joined LinkedIn and social media groups geared at meeting new professionals in the area. Expanding your network is an important part of any career.
As I started developing these relationships, doors started opening for me.
Dental hygiene associations − Join your professional organization and attend meetings. You will meet people simply by getting involved. The ADHA and local chapters are a great place to start. This also allows us as hygienists to be involved in dental politics on a state level. Lobbying for new bills or fighting bills that affect how we care for our patients is our responsibility as professionals. Being a member also allows you a plethora of educational advantages. Getting to meet new like-minded professionals in the process is just an added bonus!
Social media − Join the social media hype. I have been sought out on LinkedIn for many positions. I didn’t understand the importance of LinkedIn when I initially joined. It is a living resume. Applying for jobs is as simple as clicking a button. Many recruiters are actively looking for people to fill positions they have open, often before a job is even posted.
Facebook groups are a great way to connect with peers. Texas has several for just dental hygienists, but I stumbled upon a dental network for the entire Houston area. Doctors, recruiters, managers, and peers are posting jobs and looking for temporary help to fill positions all the time. With this type of group, individuals can ask questions about billing, codes, changes that we could miss, as well as potential volunteer and continuing education opportunities in the area. I have learned a great deal of information by being a member of this group.
Volunteering − As a dental professional, we are unique individuals, and it is so important to give back to the community where we live. By volunteering, you are taking the time to educate the public, and you’re building valuable relationships in the process. I was able to cultivate a myriad of beneficial relationships and connections this way.
Volunteering can also help give life back to a career that maybe isn’t as rewarding as it was when you first started. As many of us know, our careers can become repetitive in nature, and it is easy to fall into the psychological stress our jobs place on us. Going out into the public and seeing the need for our professional education can help revive a career.
Professionalism − When building and adding to your network, our professionalism is going to play a part in the relationships we build. Professionals need to hold themselves and peers to a high standard. We should anticipate that we are being observed and, dare I say, judged all of the time by these potential stakeholders. Always be on guard, and always present yourself in the best way. This means we need to be professional in all we do. It is important to look at our own personal standards and values from time to time; there is always room for growth.
It takes time to build a new network. Being persistent is important. Communication is so important. In our lives, we get so wrapped up in technology that it is easy to neglect our face-to-face interactions. When meeting new people take the time to get to know them, exchange numbers or email addresses, and follow up. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share information. I have met some very interesting and wonderful people since I started my journey in Houston.