Entering the corporate world

Whether you are a recent dental hygiene graduate or a practicing dental hygienist for more than 10 years who wants a change, you might consider working for a corporation.

Whether you are a recent dental hygiene graduate or a practicing dental hygienist for more than 10 years who wants a change, you might consider working for a corporation. The corporate world has many exciting opportunities for dental hygienists.

If you are interested in pursuing a new career in a corporation, keep the following factors in mind:

• Determine which corporation is reputable, and if you currently recommend that corporation’s products to your patients

• Determine if the location of the company is in an area of the country where you want to live

• Decide which part of the company you are interested in working in, and if you don’t know, do some research

• Find out if you know a person working for that company and if he/she is in the area you are interested in moving to, or if he/she knows of another area you may find interesting

• If you do not know a person in the company, network with people from the company at an upcoming professional meeting to determine if there are any dental hygienists working in that company

• Identify what the salary and benefits are and if travel is necessary

• If you don’t know what areas are available in a company, consider visiting the company’s Web site to look for job opportunities

There are many positions that dental hygienists can obtain in corporate industry, including the following areas:

Sales - As a sales representative, district manager, or regional director who details over-the-counter and/or pharmaceutical products to professionals and manages sales representatives.

Education - As a corporate educator or a sales training educator who trains the sales representatives, district managers, and regional directors, and works with dental hygiene and dental school programs across the country.

Consumer marketing - As a marketing person who oversees the day-to-day operations of one or more products in a specific product area (oral care, cough/cold, hand lotions, soaps, pharmaceutical drugs).

Professional marketing - Works with the sales and marketing departments on oral care or medical care products and targets their messages to dental and medical professionals.

Market research - Works with marketing to conduct market research studies and focus groups to determine research outcomes from target audiences (dental professionals, medical professionals, consumers).

Product development - Develops new products or line extension products in research and development.

Research - Conducts exploratory research in-house to determine product efficacy.

Regulatory affairs - Works with the FDA and global organizations to comply with regulations for product launches, line extensions, or existing products.

Clinical affairs - Works in conducting and completing clinical research studies on specified product lines to support claims and clinical efficacy.

Consumer affairs - Addresses consumer inquiries over the phone, addresses product issues, and provides professional advice.

Professional relations - Works with U.S. groups and global affiliates in product launches and new introductions, educates dental and dental hygiene school programs about product information, and develops relationships with professional organizations.

Media advertising/relations - Works with advertising agencies to develop press releases, professional relation campaigns, product launches, new product claims, and advertising initiatives with consumers and professionals.

Other career opportunities may be created in a company, depending on what strategic goals and objectives are initiated in the oral care area.

You need to determine what the minimum educational requirement is for the position in which you are interested. From my experience in industry, the minimum requirement is usually a bachelor’s degree. Some companies allow an associate degree, however, many companies encourage employees to continue their education to obtain a bachelor’s degree. An advanced degree may also be required depending on the area of the company being pursuing, and whether or not it is a high level position.

How to select the right company

The best way to select a company is to consider if it has a good reputation, if you have used and recommended the company’s products, and if you believe the products work and provide the results indicated in product claims. You may have had interaction with one of the company’s employees (sales representative, convention representative, etc.) who visits your office and educates the staff about the products, or you may have met an employee at a professional meeting. You may have received a direct mail piece from the company, or you may have read an article by a dental hygienist from the company who may be a potential contact.

As you research different companies (such as oral care, pharmaceutical, insurance, in-office training, placement agency, etc.), consider the locations where companies are headquartered and where their branch corporate sites are located. If you are considering a clinical position, make sure you are licensed in that state. You may also want to know important company facts such as vision and mission statements, company products (oral care and other product lines), and volunteer initiatives the company is involved in. A good place to visit is the company Web site.

How it happened for me

Before I worked at the Warner-Lambert Company for 12 years, I was a research dental hygienist and clinical investigator in the research center at my alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson, Jr., College of Dental Medicine in New Jersey. I knew that Listerine mouth rinse was efficacious in reducing and controlling plaque and gingivitis through the clinical studies I had read in peer reviewed journals, and that my practice’s boss, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, was one of the clinical investigators for one of the studies. We recommended Listerine mouth rinse to our periodontal patients in the practice, and it really worked. Patients I saw every three to four months had improved oral hygiene when they used Listerine in addition to flossing and brushing.

I met the Director of Dental Affairs, Dr. Norton Ross, and the Clinical Research Associate, Christine Charles, from the Warner-Lambert Company when we did research for their company. When I completed my master’s in business administration in 1989, I interviewed for a clinical research scientist position at Warner-Lambert. I got the job, a substantial increase in salary and wonderful benefits. When I began in research, I knew I had to gain experience, and that everything else would come. It did.

If it wasn’t for my professional contacts with Dr. Ross and Ms. Charles, my career may have taken a different turn. I thank both of them for the opportunity at Warner-Lambert (now Pfizer, Inc.). In my 12 years there, I gained experience in dental clinical research and presented and published many abstracts and clinical studies. I conducted oral care sales training for the professional consumer healthcare sales force for more than eight years, was a professional territory manager for over one year, and a professional marketing manager for the oral care product lines for two years. I now own my own oral care consulting business based upon my experience as a dental hygiene professional in the corporate and clinical environments.

As you research the different types of companies, please consider the locations of the companies’ headquarters, as well as where their other corporate sites are located across the country. For a clinical position, you want to make sure you are licensed to practice in that particular state.

Other important facts about the company (vision and mission statements, company products [oral care and other product lines], and volunteer initiatives the company may be involved in) can be found on the corporate Web site.

An important part of obtaining a corporate position is making a professional contact list of people in the dental industry. Your professional contacts could be from different areas in the industry. These may include people who have visited your dental office as sales representatives, or people you met at professional meetings or conventions. It could someone you met through another professional contact or friend, a colleague in a professional organization, someone listed on the company Web site, the author of a professional article, or someone who sent you a direct mail piece. You never know who could directly impact your career.

There are many dental hygienists working in oral care companies. It’s time to consider taking the initiative and introducing yourself to these people at an upcoming convention, or writing a brief letter introducing yourself and what you could offer the company in your area of expertise.

Christine Hovliaras-Delozier, RDH, MBA, is president of Professional Savvy, LLC, an oral care consulting company located in Flanders, N.J. Chris works with various companies in professional marketing/relations efforts, professional sales, clinical research initiatives, and continuing education symposiums. Her company assists professional organizations in strategic planning, program development, and continuing education programs. Chris works with dental hygienists and student dental hygienists in developing their cover letters, resumes, curriculum vitaes, and provides career counseling. Chris is a recipient of the 2005 Pfizer/ADHA Award of Excellence in Dental Hygiene. Please visit Chris’ Website at professionalsavvychd.com. She can be reached at chris@professionalsavvychd.com and complete the “Tell Us Form” about your dental hygiene career on her Web site.

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