Hey students, new grads, and colleagues: I’m honored to share my favorite part of my professional journey with you—the value of community and connection. I was fortunate to realize this value early in my career, and because of that, I’ve been intentional about building and maintaining a community throughout all seasons of my career.
The story of Alve
Meet practicing clinical hygienist, “Alve,” from average small-town USA. Alve has been practicing for eight years. He works alongside another part-time hygienist, two assistants, one dentist, and one office manager. They see patients four days per week, and everything runs smoothly. Alve feels the monotony of seeing the same patients year after year, using the same equipment and supplies, and rolling in and out of the same operatory each day. Slowly, he feels lonely and loses his passion for the dental hygiene profession he once loved. But wait! What if he had developed a network of dental professionals? Let’s rewind.
This time Alve has still been practicing for eight years in the small private practice; however, during school he was involved in the student organization, and the club advisor helped him connect to dental professionals. These connections allowed him to attend CE events with his local network, which led to meeting students from other colleges through student-focused events. These connections led to dental-related volunteer opportunities and spending time at dental conventions and seminars, which evolved into online connections and staying in touch with these people.
Upon graduation, Alve starts his leadership journey with the professional hygienist association, continues to attend the events he was involved in during school, and stays connected to his network, strengthening relationships and reconnecting each year at events. Through the events, he earns far more than his required CE, visits vendors and supply companies, and is often one of the first to try new products and technologies.
His passion is contagious, and his patients appreciate his whole-body care and customized approaches to care. As the years go by, Alve realizes that he has the skills to facilitate connections in the dental community and connect people in a way that can strengthen the profession. He rarely feels burned out. He loves his job and could not imagine doing anything else.
This can be you!
You might think this sounds great, but it could never be you. I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late to start. The benefits of building a community and professional network go far beyond the direct benefits of those connections. To start, you need to get out there. It doesn’t matter if your journey and connections started during school or if you’ve been lonely in your op for years; be brave and set out!
Learn by attending seminars, conferences, and webinars. If you’re just starting and have no colleagues to join you, meet others through the many online dental forums and groups, or just show up. We’re all there to meet new people, say hello, and make connections. Learning together will lead to growing together. Your knowledge will grow, you’ll find resources and contacts in different areas of the profession, and together, we can elevate the treatment of our patients, the education of our students, and the information we share with the public. Once you realize the connections you’ve built and the community you surround yourself with, you will support each other. How real are our connections without that support?
Creating genuine, meaningful, connections allow you to fill your cup. The key to building a strong network is to build connections that surround you with like-minded people who are supportive and genuine. Consider an abundance mindset, and never lose sight of the fact that we’re connected to support each other and help each other succeed.
Thinking of your peers as competitors has the potential to hurt others and hold you back. Coming from a place of support allows you to serve your community in a way that will come back to you in ways you never expected. Stay true to yourself, but step outside your comfort zone to really step into your new journey. Go for it! Today’s the day!