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Your dental hygiene resume is blowin’ in the wind

June 25, 2013
Times are changing – but when it comes to the job search, the old school methods are the most reliable

By Irene Esteves
June 26, 2013

Times are changing – but when it comes to the job search, the old school methods are the most reliable.

After surviving the rigorous dental hygiene programs and passing the boards, we are left with a simple question: What’s next? While some are fortunate and already have a job upon exiting their dental hygiene programs, most will find themselves joining a number of hygienists in the search for finding their place within the workforce. Acquiring a job and, more importantly, acquiring a job that best fits you will take time, energy, persistence, and hard work – plus a dose of courage. As a new hygienist, there a number of sources and approaches to which we should investigate.

Get out there
Firstly, get out there and do the leg work! Take an active role in making it known that you are in an area and available to work. Passing out resumes to local dental offices can connect you to work within your community. Also, simply having a business card that you can give to family members and friends, all who probably have a dentist, can serve as a link for you.

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Next, there are a number of dental hygiene temp agencies that can help place hygienists into offices that are in need of extra help or temporary replacements. Engaging in temp positions is great for starting hygienists who may have flexibility in their work hours and who also need to continue to maintain their skills and learn about characteristics of different offices, which may include varying technology, patient populations, staff chemistry, treatment approaches, etc. All of these are vital components of learning, gaining experience, and making the transition to becoming a dental hygienist in the real world.

Get online
There are also a number of job postings that we can access. These can be found by searching on popular websites such as Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, DentalPost, and MyDentalJobs, to name a few.

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Use your connections
Of course, starting close to home is a great idea. Many schools have a form of support for job placement or mailing lists for job postings. It is important to inquire to ensure being part of and knowledgeable about your school’s system in order to be well informed of job availabilities. Continuing the connection with one’s alma mater can also prove to be quite beneficial and effective in other ways as well, since professors and proud alumni tend to recommend, hire, and work with fellow graduates.

In fact, connections seem to be the main source of job placement within the industry. Within my own personal experience as well as a number of my colleagues who I approached regarding this topic, the best jobs we have found and settled into, came about through recommendations and word of mouth. In other words, the key to finding a job is to NETWORK.

So how exactly does one do this? Communication between old classmates can be vital in starting work sooner than later. It is important to continue to keep close connections, as each connection can serve as a link to the dental community and a potential job, whether it is for temporary or for permanent positions. Once again, working for one office can lead to recommendations to others, so take every opportunity.

Stay active
Also, an important part of networking is to join your professional association and be as active as possible. The national American Dental Hygiene Association, or ADHA, breaks down into state and local levels. Finding your local component, whether from the city you live or where you work, and attending their meetings can lead you to meet dental hygiene professionals who are experienced leaders within the field, as well as recent graduates who have just been in your place. These members can give the best advice and also help in connecting you with possible job opportunities that you may not find elsewhere.

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As dental hygienists, we are not limited to working in only private practice. There are a number of employment types in which a dental hygienist can participate. It may be in private practice, but hygienists can also work within public health, the corporate dental world, and as educators, researchers, writers, and administrators. Therefore, the job search can extend far and wide. Be creative – and don’t hold back!

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Born and raised in California, Irene Esteves graduated from the University of the Pacific with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and from the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Dental Hygiene and Masters in Public Health. Currently, she works in private practice, teaches as a clinical instructor at USC School of Dentistry's Periodontology Department, and as an educational consultant of TePe USA. Irene stays active within the community by volunteering at local events and through her involvement with the Los Angeles Dental Hygiene Society as VP of Continuing Education.