You’ve been accepted into dental hygiene school, been through countless lecture hours, learned how to scale teeth on patients during hundreds of hours in clinic, and have taken, it seems like, thousands of quizzes and tests. You passed your eight-hour written National Dental Hygiene examination, and then filled out the application to take your clinical examination. You found the right patient for the clinical exam and passed with flying colors!
Whew! I’m tired just thinking of all of that, but you’re not done yet. You may now be waiting to find out if you’ve earned your license in your state, and it’s nerve-wracking. You’ve mailed or delivered several of your new resumes to offices in the area, and you’re waiting to get those interviews to find that perfect first job as a dental hygienist. You feel like you’ve already been through so much to get here and like you’ve paid your dues. It’s your time and you are ready. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.
This month we will go over a few items that they did not teach you in school, and that is finding and getting that first job. This month we’ll discuss your important resume, and next month we’ll discuss the interview questions. Most dental hygiene curriculums might have one or two hours of class time devoted to making a resume and interviewing skills, but that seems insufficient because of their importance. You go through so much to get to your career, and now it’s important to know what you’re doing and how to answer those interview questions.
There are so many websites out there now that can help you with your resume, so that part is pretty self-explanatory. You always want to put your best self forward on your resume and give the most important information in a short, concise format. One page is the norm these days, and you can place items in chronological order by time, or create a functional resume that lists categories of characteristics or skills.
Other articles by Whisenhunt
- Things they didn't teach me in school
- Ordering supplies: Examine the inventory for the hygiene operatory
- What to do when a patient complains of a sore tooth
The main idea in your resume is that the dentist or office manager can see what your experience is and what character traits may fit their office. See the table below to find information that can be included in your resume. It’s up to you to decide what’s best to include that will make your resume stand out, and for you to appear presentable as a good candidate. It’s always important to be honest with yourself and to put down what your character traits are that you want to expand upon during an interview. The staff may ask you about something that you want to discuss further, or about a good story you may have to tell (of course it needs to relate to the job).
As you can see from the table, there are many things you can choose to put on your resume, but it needs to be neat, organized, and easy to read. Pick out your best qualities to list because you have to sell yourself on paper. You want the office to look at your resume and think you may fit in with their team. Some websites recommend putting a professional picture in the top corner, but that’s up to you. It takes up valuable space and some think it’s not needed, and then again, others may think that it’s different and that you look professional. There are many decisions to make when building your resume. Always keep it current, and if you don’t get any interview offers, you may want to change it up and add different information to make you stand out.
I wish you the best and I want you to realize that this profession is worth working hard for. Part of your hard work will start now that you’re out of school and looking for your first job. The job for you is out there; you may have to search for a while to find it, and you may even have to do some fill-in or part-time work for a while, but that will provide you with more experience and make you more flexible. This will also allow you to see what’s out there and what you want or don’t want in a permanent position. So whatever happens, the experience will be something you can build on. You have to start somewhere. Happy scaling! RDH
Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD, is the Department Chair of Dental Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Whisenhunt has taught since 1987 in the dental hygiene and dental assisting curricula. She has a love for students and served as the state student advisor for nine years and has won the student Advisor of the Year award from ADHA in the past. Her teaching interests are in oral cancer, ethics, infection control, emergencies and orofacial anatomy. Dr. Whisenhunt also has a small continuing education business where she provides CE courses for dental practices and local associations. She can be reached at [email protected].
- Kimbough VJ, Lautar CJ. Ethics, Jurisprudence, and Practice Management in Dental Hygiene. 3rd ed. Peason, (2012).
- Finkbeiner BL, Finkbeiner CA. (2011) Practice Management for the Dental Team, 7th Ed. Mosby