Where to Start?
The first step in any type of networking is always to utilize existing relationships. Reach out to peers and instructors to see if a mentor is hiding in plain sight. Dental hygiene is a small world. It’s entirely possible that dental hygiene instructors know of several potential mentors and could facilitate an introduction.
Another easy and welcomed option is to reach out to the school’s and/or program’s alumni. Willing and able alumni often make time for inquisitive students and graduates, make use of that lifeline. If the school does not have an established alumni program, reach out to the program heads and ask if they could suggest an alumnus who might be willing to give back.
Explore the Profession
There’s a tendency to believe that practising dental hygienists view new and future dental hygienists as competitors. While it is true that some will refuse mentorships because of this, as is the case in all competitive work environments, many more see the personal and professional benefits as well as the need for experienced professionals to help foster and grow new talent if the dental hygiene profession is to continue thriving.
The easiest and most effective way to find a mentor in the profession is to look into the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) Mentorship Program. This program is specifically designed to match inexperienced dental hygienists with experienced practitioners.
In addition to the CDHO program, there are plenty of conferences and meetings taking place throughout the year. Most of the participants in these events are happily engaged in the dental hygiene. Even though it does take courage and confidence to approach strangers at these events, keep in mind that the professionals in attendance are almost always ready and willing to network. It is an expectation.
Aside from practising dental hygienists, new dental hygienists may wish to explore other avenues to expand their network and to find a suitable mentor. Connecting with dental distributor representatives or oral care consultants is often an effective way to find a mentor, as these professionals often have excellent networks that could be drawn from. Simply ask them if they have a relationship with someone who fits and see where it leads.
The face of networking has changed dramatically over the last decade or so. Purists might claim that social media networks are not as effective or efficient as the traditional face-to-face methods, but those who completely turn their back on social media are often left out or left behind.
Both LinkedIn and Facebook business pages are built with the intention of networking. With that in mind, new dental hygienists looking for a mentor should not be shy about contacting experienced professionals through these avenues. Whether the applicant decides to be forward and honest about their interests or they decide to develop a social relationship prior to asking for a mentorship, social media is a powerful facilitator.
One of the best ways of finding willing participants online is to look around for dental hygiene discussion groups on social media. Within these groups are working professionals who are active participators in the profession, people who enjoy talking about their profession. Participation in these groups is a positive step to show potential mentors that the applicant is serious about the profession and sincere about learning from someone working in the profession.