Taking Control of the Job Hunt

Associate Job Search

And so it begins. The job hunt. Time to take the skills you have spent the past four years learning and put them to profitable use. But before you start looking for the highest associate salary, consider that the associate-owner relationship is a complex one, and a successful match depends on more than just an agreement about money. It’s also based on a shared understanding of the best approach to patient care and the needs of the practice versus the needs of the individual.  


Before you start lining up interviews with other people, perhaps the best initial step in seeking your first position in your new career is to sit down with yourself. 

What Are You Looking For?


Starting out, it’s tempting to take the first opportunity that presents itself, simply because you need to start paying the bills. However, this approach can also quickly lead to dissatisfaction as details you thought you were willing to overlook become thorns in your side, regardless of what you are being paid.  


Honestly asking yourself “what’s important to me?” before you even look at a contract can be helpful in avoiding this pitfall. After all, it’s your career to shape. Aspects to consider include: 

  • Time for family and/or personal activities. Are you willing to devote nights, weekends, and/or long commuting hours to work, or do you want to set some tighter boundaries?   
  • Mentorship. Do you want to work with someone who is willing to take the time to help and guide you? 
  • Type of dentistry or patients you’d prefer to work with (or not!). For example, do you want to work with children? Are you interested in helping low-income patients? Are you fascinated by the latest technology? Do you have a special interest you want to pursue? 
  • Your future. Do you want the option to become a partner or eventually buy the practice? 


When you’re done, you will likely have created a description of your ideal job. If you can find it, that’s fantastic. Of course, it’s much more likely that you will have to make some compromises, or at least be ready to try negotiating. So it is also important to be honest with yourself about the limits of what you’re willing to accept—and be aware that prospective employers will not know them unless you speak up. Remember, the answer to a request never made is always no. 

What Do You Have to Offer?

Likewise, you have no way of knowing exactly what prospective employers are willing to accommodate in their applicants versus their ideal posted job description. It is therefore in your best interest to invest some time in polishing your CV and interviewing skills so that you can present your credentials, your experience, and yourself quickly, clearly, and accurately. Because being the right “fit” for a practice is as much a matter of values and personality as it is of skill and background, learning to be comfortable and express yourself well in phone and face-to-face interviews can be a great asset in the job hunt. 

Where Are the Jobs?

Now that you know what you want and how to show up for it, where to start looking? Some of the items on your “ideal job” list—such as a specific city or area of the country—may help in narrowing the field to start with. If you have personal contacts in dentistry there, networking is always a great place to begin. Area reps for dental supply companies such as Henry Schein will be familiar with all the dentists in their territory and may also know which ones are hiring. The ADA CareerCenter also provides a good starting point. 


If you are casting a broader net, and navigating all the possible choices and resources feels like a lot to tackle alone while you are simultaneously making the transition out of dental school, placement and recruitment services can help. With access to private lists of job openings nationwide and networks of industry contacts, these services pride themselves on not merely finding new dentists a job, but making that perfect match between the needs of the dentist with the needs of the practice.  


Some companies, like DDSMatch, provide a highly searchable database of practices with opportunities such as associateship, partnership, and sale of practice. At the same time, dentists can create their own profile “listings” highlighting their education, experience, and desired position and location to help facilitate the best practice pairing. 


Other services, like Henry Schein Dental Recruitment Services, also provide assistance to ensure that you are fully prepared for the search, such as help with writing and refining your CV, tips on interview skills, strategies for following up, and advice on contract negotiations.  


For those seeking a position, Henry Schein Dental Recruitment Services provides exclusive opportunities and private searches, a dedicated representative, interview prep, and more. Meanwhile, dental practices seeking to hire superior talent can enjoy dynamic industry relationships, custom marketing campaigns, and a complete assessment of potential candidates. Visit their blog for more information. 


Bottom line: Be sure to choose a service that is as invested in individual dentists as it is in practices and considers you a client, not a commodity.   

What Are You Waiting For?

Even if you aren’t getting ready for imminent graduation, it never hurts to start thinking about what you want out of your career and what kind of practice you want to work in—or own. Learning résumé writing and interviewing skills doesn’t need to wait until you are ready to use them. Start now! The more prepared you are when it comes time to fill out that first application, the more confident you can be when the contract is in front of you.