First Year. First Impression.

Congratulations, dental graduate! Welcome to the world of dental associateship and your first days in the office. You’ve reached one goal, and are on the road toward your dreams. But your first job represents more than just a steady paycheck after years of hard work in dental school. It is a critical juncture in your development as a dentist. If you’re lucky, you’ll build a strong philosophy of work and success that will set the tone for the rest of your career.

Follow these important steps to making the most of your first year in practice, and keep your eyes on the prize: living the life you’ve always wanted as a dental professional.

Professionalism Counts.

When your first year is complete what do you envision? Do you see yourself as a leader within the employer/doctor team, or do you see yourself as an employee, one of the gang? How you launch and position yourself within the office environment is a key consideration. Since your first associateship may eventually become a new partnership, put your best foot forward from Day One.

Earn the trust and confidence of the owner and the dental staff by being a consummate professional. One way to ensure a smooth transition is to meet the staff before your first day on the job. Personally introduce yourself to the team and share your credentials, background, hometown and family information that will offer a connection with your new teammates from the beginning of the relationship. By proactively establishing rapport, your are providing the staff with some insight into who you are, so they can speak authentically about meeting you, and pass along their positive impressions to patients.

Like a family, a dental office relies on healthy relationships between team members to ensure harmony and success. Like any successful business, a profitable dental office also balances efficiency and productivity with high quality service that ensures patient satisfaction. To meet these needs, strike a balance between being a leader and an employee. Avoid unconsciously undermining the employer’s human resource structure by becoming “buddy-buddy” with team members and taking problems or conflicts into your own hands.

Should personnel concerns be handled by the office manager? The owner dentist? Whatever the situation, heed the boundaries of engagement and respect the office structure for resolving problems. Don’t show your stress when things aren’t running as smoothly as you would like. Instead, maintain composure and seek a mutually beneficial outcome with the individual or challenge before you. This is the only way to avoid getting in the middle of sticky situations between other employees and the owner doctor. Remember that you needn’t be a counselor or advocate for the dental team to be a respected professional.

While actions speak louder than words, the way you dress and behave also affects your professionalism rating. Wear appropriate professional attire to the office, and be sure to stay on task, remaining productively engaged in work-related activities as much as possible. One common complaint about younger associates is that they spend more time online and at the computer than more experienced counterparts. Employers look unfavorably at checking email, blogging, shopping and playing spider solitaire on company time. You know this, of course, but it’s easy to get sidetracked when the computer is within arm’s reach and your schedule is free. Make it a rule to stay off the computer during office hours unless it is a work related task. Instead, find productive and meaningful activities to promote your professional and practice growth. Being viewed as a motivated, hard-working and enthusiastic associate will reap rewards during your first year, and beyond.

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