Keeping in touch with classmates from dental hygiene school takes a bit of effort. Your friends may be scattered all over the country, and you all have busy schedules. Professional networking is similar in that you have to put in the time to get the most out of the experience. RDH Magazine explains, "The key to my career expansion has hinged on one thing: strong professional relationships."
With this piece of advice in mind, what are some tips for networking events you can employ to advance your career?
Try Something New
If you have attended the same dental conference for years on end, look for a change of scenery. If a trip out of town is not an option for you, consider attending local evening mixers, study groups with other local dental hygienists in continuing education classes, or meet-and-greets that you have avoided in the past. The best tip for networking events begins with putting yourself out there and trying something new.
Find an Empty Seat
Whether you are a social butterfly or someone who sticks to the familiar, networking requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. A great way to do this is to find an empty seat at a table with people you do not know. If you show up with just a few minutes to spare, there is a good chance that will be all that is left! As an icebreaker, ask others at the table where they are from, where they went to school or if it is their first time attending this particular event.
Due to the nature of the dental hygiene profession, most dental hygienists can carry on a conversation with patients. That skill makes for great practice when it comes to small talk with people you do not know.
Order Business Cards
Dental hygienists may not see the need to have personalized business cards, or they may only carry a card made for their practice as a whole. Unfortunately, not having your personal contact information may make it difficult for your peers to get in contact with you. If you are not comfortable handing out your home address, design cards that only include your phone number and/or email address. Be sure to include your title, along with any catch phrases that may grab attention, such as "Going on vacation? I'm happy to temp!" Personal connections are one of the best ways to score a new dental hygiene job and open new doors in your field.
Once you have met your fellow dental hygienists in person, the next step should revolve around connecting with your peers online. Actively posting and sharing on professional sites like LinkedIn or joining social media groups revolving around dental hygiene is a good place to start.
Carpool to Seminars
Networking events should not end after the first lunch-and-learn. Aim to attend events regularly, or at least two or three each year. When you make your travel arrangements, reach out to the connections you have already made to see if you can carpool or share a taxi. Sharing a long ride to the event gives you the opportunity for some more one-on-one time.
Whether you are naturally outgoing or a bit on the shy side, having a network of peers can benefit you for years. This is especially true if you need someone to temp while you are on vacation or are looking to get hired at a new dental practice. When it comes to job security, tips on how to network may be some of the best pearls of wisdom that you ever get. The more often you practice meeting new people, the more comfortable you will become.
- Attend a conference or event that you have not in the past, and don't be afraid to meet new people!
- Carry personalized business cards so that your peers can easily contact you.
- Connect with colleagues online and stay in touch for future conferences or lunch-and-learns.
Why It's Valuable
Networking events can help keep you in the loop and help you advance your dental hygiene career. Whether you are looking to learn something new, connect with your peers, or are searching for a new opportunity, events are a great way to open new doors.