There comes a time for many professionals when a shift occurs in their career: when you realize you are no longer a "newbie," but instead have insight to offer to your peers. It is a big step in advancing in your career when you have the opportunity to teach someone else!
If you feel you're ready to transition from mentee to mentor, you may not know where to begin. Here are some tips to help you make the leap.
If you are not already a member, join the American Dental Hygienists' Association. The ADHA is the voice of dental hygienists nationally and is key to the growth and improvement of our profession. You can be involved as little or as much as you like. To really get involved in the community, participate in volunteer opportunities, such as a local dental clinic or a national program like Give Kids A Smile.
Next, to connect with dental hygienists across the country, join an online dental hygiene community, like the Colgate Oral Health Advisornetwork. Here you can receive free continuing education and product samples, network with your peers and grow professionally.
One of the first qualities a mentee will look for in a mentor is knowledge. A young learner will need your real-world know-how and also your knowledge to get a better feel for the dental hygiene profession.
Continuing education courses are key to advancing your knowledge and refreshing what you already know of the fundamentals. When you are signing up for classes, pick ones that grab your attention. Check out topics about recent technologies and techniques. If you are passionate about learning more, go back to school! If you want to further your career beyond the clinical setting make sure you have the knowledge, and as necessary the degrees, to support this. One option to start with is a degree completion program. The ADHA has a list of degree completion programs available across the country.
Another way to continue your education and stay up to date on the latest innovations is to subscribe to dental hygiene journals, such as Access Magazine, RDH Magazine or Dimensions of Dental Health.
There isn't one set formula on how to become a mentor. Everyone has her own strengths that will make her successful as a mentor. One of the keys to a successful mentoring relationship is making yourself available to someone who wants to learn. Here are some ideas on where you may begin to find a mentee and lay the foundation for a lasting partnership.
- Be a role model. Is there someone in your life who has expressed interest in pursuing dental hygiene as a career? For example, maybe a relative, a young member of your local ADHA chapter, or a patient has asked you about becoming a dental hygienist. This relationship could blossom into a mentoring opportunity. Answer questions, share stories of when you were new to your career, and maybe even offer to have her shadow you for a few hours.
- Lend a helping hand. Is there a new dental hygienist in your office? You may notice she is struggling to keep up with the schedule or other office procedures. Take the time to show her the ropes, lend an ear for any frustrations she may voice, and simply make yourself available. Be willing to learn from her as well. As a new graduate or a younger dental hygienist, she may be able to teach you.
- Branch out. Community is important as this is where you meet people within the profession. If you hide behind the walls of your dental office, you are not likely to meet another dental hygienist who is looking for a mentor. Attend CE courses and conventions and participate in dental hygiene communities, such as COHA, to meet potential mentees. You may not meet someone right away, so continue networking to find someone who will appreciate your expertise.
- Commit to life-long learning. When you further your education, you will likely find that more opportunities come your way. You may end up in education, corporate, public health or research. Working in a role outside of a clinical setting will afford you chances to meet many other dental professionals. It is highly likely that working in one of these settings will guide you to someone who would benefit from learning from you.
- Be active in the dental hygiene community and continue your education to become a knowledgeable mentor.
- Lend a helping hand and branch out to find a mentee within and outside your current circle.
- Make yourself available to your mentee.
Becoming a mentor will benefit your mentee and you, too. You will find that you will both grow professionally because of your mentor relationship.