A Proof of Performance portfolio highlights your skills
by Angie Stone, RDH, BS
"I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I'd love you to love me.
I'll shine up my old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt.
I'll get home early from work if you say that you love me."
Many readers may recognize these lyrics from the Cheap Trick hit, "I Want You to Want Me," released in 1977. Written by Rick Nielsen, it was a message to his father. This old familiar tune peaked at No. 7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. So what exactly does this have to do with dental hygiene? Well, a lot if you're job searching!
When attempting to land a new job, hygienists go through the same process as people in other professions. First, they locate businesses that are hiring, and second, they send in a resume and/or application and wait for an invitation to interview. If that invitation comes, the potential employee arrives singing to him or herself, "I Want You to Want Me," especially if hygiene jobs are difficult to come by. The employer conducts interview after interview with the applicants. The questions are the same for each applicant, and for the most part so are the responses. All the applicants are pleasant, competent, and appear as if they could fill the position satisfactorily.
So how does an employer decide who to hire? Sometimes applicants are so similar during the interviews that it comes down to who lives closest, who is asking for the least money, who will fit into the office scrubs, etc. Seems silly, doesn't it?
But the truth remains that often not a single person stands out above the rest. How can an employer make a good decision based on an application and a five-minute interview? How can they want you unless you shine above the rest?
So the question becomes, what can an applicant do to shine above the rest? The answer is simple – a Proof of Performance (POP) portfolio.
It can set you apart
Portfolios have been used in the art industry for decades. Artists compile their works and show them to galleries, hoping the galleries will like what they see and commission them to do work for them. The portfolio is proof of the artist's caliber of work.
Portfolios have recently become popular in many other professions. Community colleges have started encouraging everyone from computer professionals to office administrative staff, customer service professionals and more to look at the benefits of a portfolio. Although a resume tells about a candidate's experience, a portfolio really gives employers a much better understanding of someone's capabilities. Portfolios make the candidate more credible to the employer.
Some dental hygiene schools now require students to assemble portfolios prior to graduation. Portfolios allow students to reflect on what they've learned in school and how they have grown personally and professionally. Being able to share this information with potential employers gives them more of an insight to an applicant beyond simply asking questions and having the applicant respond.
A portfolio should include proof of the skills the applicant has acquired that are needed for a position. For example, if the applicant is trying to land a clinical hygiene position, the portfolio may include things such as a letter of recommendation from a previous employer, thank you notes the clinician received from patients, copies of work evaluations, and more. These items are proof that the clinician was well-liked and provided excellent customer service. The applicant may include pre- and post-periodontal therapy photos, or a pre- and post-treatment periodontal charting of a difficult case to visually demonstrate clinical skills. Licenses and credentials may also be included in the portfolio. Copies of continuing education certificates prove an interest in continued learning. ADHA membership certificates indicate a vested interest in dental hygiene. A picture of the applicant participating in charity or volunteer events provides insight as to what kind of person the employee is.
These documents should be assembled in a presentation folder with a cover letter explaining that the portfolio has been assembled to allow the employer to get a feel for the employee and his or her capabilities. The portfolio can be mailed to the employer with the application and resume or taken to the interview.
A general portfolio should be compiled by all dental hygienists and be an ongoing project. This type of portfolio contains all the work done by the hygienist. All things related to dental hygiene work, volunteering, education, continuing education, articles written, courses given, awards, thank you cards, work evaluations, etc., should be compiled in a central location such as a three-ring binder. When looking for employment, pieces of the general portfolio can be taken out, copied, and placed into a smaller portfolio aimed at a specific position.
Not only will a well thought out portfolio assist a potential employer in hiring the correct individual, but the process of developing a portfolio offers an opportunity for the job seeker to assess major accomplishments and achievements. The process develops self-confidence. It also makes employees aware of what skills and strengths they have, which can help them make better choices about what jobs to apply for. Applying for a job that is well suited to the candidate and providing a POP portfolio will certainly make an employer want you!
Angie Stone, RDH, BS, has been employed as dental assistant, front desk personnel, and dental hygienist at one time or another during her career in the dental profession. In the last few years, her endeavors have taken her outside the clinical setting. She has been seen across the country speaking through her company HyLife, LLC, educating at trade shows, teaching in dental assisting/dental hygiene programs and consulting in offices. She received international experience speaking in Greece in October 2009 and her articles have been published in a variety of dental hygiene publications. She has attended CareerFusion four times. Angie can be reached at [email protected] or through her website: hylifellc.com.
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