Finding Your First Job after Graduating with Your Dental Technology Degree
Dental technology has always utilised a certain amount of science combined with artistry, but this ratio is changing. With newer computerised technologies being introduced, the number of graduate students is increasing because degree level education is frequently required for advanced level dental technologies.
It might seem reasonable to assume that if you qualify with an honours degree, that with only a little effort, you can immediately expect to get a good job in a dental lab. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case and this article looks at some of the difficulties faced by today’s graduates when they try to find that all-important first job and the steps you can take to stand out from the crowd.
A while ago, Marshall Hunt Recruitment had the pleasure of working with Marina, a recent graduate looking for her first full-time job. While she now has a good job in a private dental laboratory, her story illustrates the challenges faced by graduate technicians. Marina took an extremely proactive approach to finding her first job which helped tremendously, and she also developed a clear vision for the direction of her career while still at college.
There is no doubt degree-level graduates receive a well-rounded academic education but despite this Marina felt that college doesn’t prepare you for the day-to-day reality of working in a dental laboratory. Marina also commented that there wasn’t enough practical work, as she didn’t have a chance to make a partial denture until year three. Perhaps this is inevitable given the sheer scope of academic and practical work that must be covered during a degree course. However, Marina’s motivation enabled her to overcome this problem when only in her second year of college. By this time Marina had already determined that she wished to work in a private dental lab.
Volunteering to Gain Experience
To help accomplish her dream, Marina approached 10 to 15 local dental labs while looking for part-time work during her second year at university. After interviewing with two dental labs, she accepted a position volunteering as an unpaid intern for three months, after which the lab began paying Marina for the next three months. In total, Marina spent six months working part-time at this laboratory during her days off and in between studying. Initially, the idea of working unpaid may seem unappealing but Marina only needed to do this for a short while before the lab considered her skills had advanced sufficiently to be worth paying for, all while she was still at university.
The following summer, Marina again volunteered, this time at a university where the hiring manager was willing to help Marina improve her skills through working part-time for four months. Marina was able to contact the hiring manager through asking her tutor for help and advice. After this experience, she was invited to an interview for a job in the NHS. This highlights the need to make the most of the resources available to you. It is always worth approaching your tutors for advice as they almost certainly have a list of useful contacts and above all, they want you to succeed!
Developing Your CV
By taking these steps, Marina had gained valuable experience in the working world, developing her CV or resume before she had even graduated. Using your spare time at university to gain and increase your practical experience could help give you an edge when applying for your dream job. Before you begin applying for jobs, spend some time working on your CV, ensuring it highlights the time and effort spent on developing your practical skills while still at university. Even if other applicants may have acquired more experience since graduating, your attitude towards your career will prove your maturity and your willingness to develop and learn. This will count for a great deal with prospective employers, especially as the best companies will spend considerable resources in providing ongoing training and professional development for their employees. These employers will select their staff very carefully to help maximise their return on their investment.
Deciding Which Areas Most Interest You
Qualified dental technicians will generally choose to specialise in a key area. Traditionally these choices were orthodontics, crown and bridge work, prosthetics and maxillofacial prosthetics. Nowadays, there is an increasing need for technicians interested in CAD/CAM. Marina chose to do her dissertation on CAD/CAM, partly because of her interest in this field and partly due to the number of job vacancies advertised. Her practical experience in CAD/CAM was limited, with this subject only being introduced during her final year. This experience was further constrained by a lack of access to computers.
Given the lack of practical work during a degree course, it can be difficult to decide which area interests you most. Your choice may also be influenced by your wish to work in the private or public sector, as for example, maxillofacial technicians are hospital-based. While fascinating and rewarding, the number of available jobs for maxillofacial technicians is likely to be far more limited compared to a technician with an interest in dental implants or crown and bridge work. Your chosen area of specialisation could also limit where you will need to live, and it is worth looking at the jobs available in areas where you would prefer to settle down. Having an open mind is extremely helpful and Marina chose to re-locate some 100 miles, so she could accept her current role.
Although the jobs market is continually changing, keeping an eye on the openings currently available will at least give you an idea as to which labs might be hiring when the time comes, and the types of skills that are most in demand. However, you will probably have an idea of which fields interest you most and volunteering during your summer holidays can be an ideal way to gain more experience and to find out where your true passions lie.
Marina, when asked what advice she would give to graduates looking for their first job, said “Among other things, my employer said he hired me because of my effort, mature attitude, professional CV and he could see that I was a serious person looking to develop, improve as a professional. I think this helped me a lot to find the position that I’m in today.”
Getting your first job after graduation might seem a daunting prospect, but you can prepare while still at university. Marina’s positive experience is proof that a proactive attitude does pay dividends.