Are you tired of clinical dental hygiene or think you might transition to something else at some point in your career?
I am finding that many hygienists don’t want to leave dentistry altogether. They simply want to transition to education- or sales-oriented jobs within dentistry.
[Side note: A dental manufacturer the other day contacted me about several part-time sales positions he is potentially seeking to hire for in many different territories across the US – if you are interested, please contact me.]
That’s great – a move like that can serve as a nice break from the physical strain of clinical work or even help extend your ability to do clinical work longer by supplementing your income. And hygienists are successfully doing it all the time.
So here are a few tips to help you do that.
By itself, a clinical dental hygiene resume is actually pretty adequate for those who want to move into a sales rep or educator role. Corporate and education employers within the dental industry will often pluck a great candidate from the clinical world with little experience other than what they have as a clinician.
There are two ways in which I help clients transition their existing resume in preparation for a change in career path. The first is in some of the wording. For example, instead of talking about your love for clinical dental hygiene, focus more on your love for dentistry as a whole.
This is most prominent in your About Me or Objective statement area, but also trickles into descriptions of your skill sets. It may not be as necessary for non-clinical employers to know how great you are at taking radiographs, for example. Instead, maybe focus more on your ability to educate and influence patients or to work with people of different personality types and situations.
The second way, is to take any previous experience that is directly related to the field you are wanting to get into and add it to the Skills and Experience section, which is located on a functional style resume just below the About Me section.
But rather than mix this information with your clinical experience, create two subsections. If you want to transition into education, for example, create one subsection called Clinical Skills and Experience and another one called Dentistry Education Skills and Experience. Then proceed to list and describe (in bullet form) all of areas in which you are strongest in each of those areas.
I call this style of resume a “Split Resume” because it divides your career experiences up uniformly so that an employer can clearly see you have a background in both areas.
If you don’t have a background in sales or education to go with your clinical experience, then obviously your main focus should be to transition the wording of your resume as was mentioned above. But don’t be discouraged because there are obvious elements of teaching and sales in traditional clinical work – you just need to accentuate them more.
Set Your Sights and Strengthen Your Background
As I mentioned in other recent articles, it’s important that you take a long-distance view of your career and where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 or more years. Even if you feel you are far from wanting to transition at this stage, that’s okay.
The decisions you make today (now) will either make it easier or harder for you to transition down the road. If you are taking steps to get more education now (even if only a class or two here and there) you’ll be more lined up when you are ready to make the move to work at a university in the lab or even as program director for a hygiene school. Same goes for sales or anything else you want to transition to.
A friend of mine, Trisha O’Hehir, MS RDH, created a wonderful online school called O’Hehir University in which hygienists can receive advanced degrees (Bachelors and Masters) largely from home. As far as sales and other career paths, there are lots of ways in which it get additional experience and training in your local community.
Just devote a little extra time gaining experience or education, document it, and then when it comes time to move on you’ll be ready or at least a lot further along. Too often, professionals wait until there is a crisis to do make these efforts and that makes transition so much harder and sometimes impossible or too late.
Make and Keep Contacts
I can’t say enough about networking. Remember, the most effective form of networking is about service to your fellow professionals – doing small things to help them so that they are on your team and eager to help you when you need it. Ask them how you can help them find jobs, patients, others to network with, and other opportunities to benefit them, then go about doing it.
Again, your skills as a clinician are directly related to skills in other fields. Your network knows that. But more important is the relationship you have with built with them. They know you, they trust you – you have invested in their success. That earns you their help when you are ready for it.
Ideally, you will have a vast network of dozens of professionals who are in different stages and even different paths of dentistry. For example, several hygienists, dentists, front office personnel, assistants, hygiene educators, and hygiene sales reps (and probably more I am not mentioning). If you are lacking in one or two of these areas, then work on it. There are lots of small ways to insert yourself professionally into the lives other professionals, just set a goal and develop some methods for accomplishing it.
Transitioning away from clinical dental hygiene can be a little scary and even feel, at times, impossible. But I assure you, yours peers are doing it all the time very successfully (and sometimes with very little additional experience). Don’t feel it’s too late or that you don’t have what is needed. Believe you can do it, then take the steps mentioned above and you’ll be able to land a great job.