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Yes! It's possible to find that perfect dental practice

Oct. 27, 2021
Find a position you can stick with! That's the advice from this recruiter who explains why too many short-term employments do not look good on a resumé, and how to keep this from occurring.

As a recruiter hiring in this world of COVID-19, I’m accustomed to seeing resumés from applicants that list multiple short-term positions during the last two years. In these unusual times, this is to be expected. I become concerned when these multiple, short-term stints at practices predate the pandemic. The truth is, when an applicant lists many jobs that they’ve held for a year or less, a red flag pops up in my mind.

I do not automatically assume that if a person has had multiple positions lasting less than a year that they are an undesirable candidate. Everyone’s case is unique. However, I do wonder if perhaps some of these folks could benefit from coaching that’s designed to guide them toward positions that are the right fit for them, thereby preventing the early exits.

You may indeed be fantastic at what you do. But it is important to work somewhere that allows you to become the most talented professional that you can be—a place that supports your growth that you can call home for a meaningful amount of time. You need enough time on a job so that you can hone your skills and develop your resiliency and flexibility muscles.

In my experience, staying with a position has more to do with what you do before you sign on the dotted line, not after. Just as some of us love blue cheese dressing and some of us do not like it does not mean there is anything inherently wrong with blue cheese dressing. On its own, it is neutral. The same can be said for our places of employment. What some folks consider a dream job, others consider a nightmare. The key is to determine which environment is right for you.

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How to find what’s right for you

Look toward the future: How long do you want to work here? Consider life changes that may crop up that will make it necessary for you to stay at the job longer than you’d planned. Or, is this job temporary, a place to work until you enroll in school or land a different position? If that’s the case, I recommend temp work. This way you avoid having too little time at a job on your resumé. I do not recommend taking a permanent position with the goal that you will leave soon unless the employer is aware of your intentions. This matters for future references.

Know yourself: Do a personal inventory. Do you like large, bustling practices or small, intimate ones? What type of patient demographic do you prefer—children or adults? Do you like clear instruction, or do you prefer to be more autonomous? Do you want a long chain of command, or just one person to report to? Are you generally flexible or rigid? Knowing yourself will draw you to positions that you’ll be more likely to stick with.

Looks aren’t everything: Some people assume that if an office is new, modern, and upscale that it’s a worthy place to work. While having a certain aesthetic can boost mood and confidence, a practice is better assessed by the people who inhabit it. The look of an office rarely has anything meaningful to do with the people who own it, run it, and work there. The exception is cleanliness and modern equipment, which should always be factored in.

Take former employee experiences with a grain of salt: Again, I’ll use the blue cheese dressing analogy. While previous employee feedback is helpful and I recommend it, do not always assume that because someone did or did not like working in a certain practice that you will feel the same way. Personalities, preferences, and tastes can be quirky. You should gather more than two opinions about an office if possible.

Look at patient reviews: Read patient reviews online prior to accepting a position. If there is a long, robust pattern of unhappy patients, that is a red flag.

Don’t ignore your intuition: When you have an interview, try to imagine yourself coming into the practice each day, for years. Is that a pleasant thought, or does the thought depress you or make you nervous? Listen to your gut.

Keep coworker expectations realistic: You should never work with folks who make you unhappy. By the same token, do not expect your teammates to complete you. You should generally like, respect, and work productively with your teammates. You should be comfortable around them, have positive encounters, and the occasional healthy conflict. Beyond that, let go of the assumption that teammates will satisfy all your emotional needs. That is not what they or you are there to do.

Money isn’t everything: If you love most things about an office but they offer you less than your ideal salary, it may be worth taking the position anyway. Remember, things like pay can change. Practice revenue may increase. You may get a raise in the future or have growth potential. Things that don’t usually change are the location, the practice owners, and their philosophies. Starting pay is not the most important factor in deciding where to work.

Get back to basics: Do not downplay the mundane. Is the practice too far a commute every day? Is the local cost of living out of your reach? Are the hours realistic for you and your family? Can you realistically work every Saturday? Think about what is down the road, not just around the next bend.

Do some research: I often talk with applicants whose previous employment did not work out for very avoidable reasons. The hours were not as expected. The pay periods didn’t fall on the expected days. The medical insurance was not affordable or not offered with the number of hours worked. Just as you would have a house inspected before taking out a mortgage, ensure you know the details before you accept a position.

Be honest: Tell employers what you’re looking for in terms of pay, hours, growth, and benefits. In many cases, practices can be flexible on some items if you’re the right person for the position. If they cannot, it’s better to know that ahead of time.

Having too many positions in too little time is not only a resumé killer, it can inhibit your professional growth and have long-reaching personal financial security consequences. There is no substitute for proper planning. By doing a little homework, you can ensure that your next employment home is just that—home.

Andrea Kowalczyk, BS, RDH, received her associates in dental hygiene from East Florida State College in Cocoa, Florida, and her bachelors from O’Hehir University. She also holds a post-graduate certificate in dental hygiene mentoring from O’Hehir. Andrea specializes in writing and mentoring dental professionals on career-related issues. She is currently the manager of talent acquisition for D4C Dental Brands.