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Home UK > Your Career > Job Hunter. What it’s really like looking for your first dental job

Job Hunter. What it’s really like looking for your first dental job

in Careers

Job Hunter. What it’s really like looking for your first dental job

When you leave dental school, you think that the world is your oyster and that you will never ever have to worry about work.

That’s why you became a dentist, isn’t it? The job security; the thought that you’d always have a solid and dependable career behind you no matter what. Well the reality is that although we are very fortunate in our vocation to have a considerably higher job security than most, getting that job can be much harder than you think, particularly if you are looking in one of the bigger cities.

After VT (or DF1), some of you may be lucky to keep your positions or be offered associate dental jobs in the same or nearby practices. If this is you, then well done and you might want to find another article to read!

Approximately 5-600 DF2 jobs were taken up by young dentists in the last year or so and one of these individuals was me. I picked a primarily OMFS year and knew of several who did a variety of others including restorative, paediatric and DPH. I’d always heard many different stories about how people got jobs and the ups and downs that went with it and the following seemed to be the most ‘used’ methods of approaching job hunting:

  • Signing up with dental job agencies
  • Applying via BDJ jobs
  • Calling up practices

Now having come from a hospital based background, which was university (we didn’t really have outreach at the time) I was very used to the formal process that was applying for DF1 and subsequently DF2 so going out on a whim and taking the whole process into my own hands felt very alien and was slightly unnerving.

Tip 1: Don’t wait too long before you apply! Starting looking around early before your current contract is up. Explain to those you apply to, when you need work from, if they want you, they’ll offer you something.

Tip 2: If you’re worried about getting the right job, then look for locum work as a start. Sign up to an agency and even be prepared to travel away from home for a bit to get work. If you’ve been out of restorative work then this can be a good way to get your skills up-to-scratch again and earn some decent cash in the meantime.

So there I was with a whole stack of BDJ’s, a ton of windows open on the laptop all full of job advertisements – where to begin?

Tip 3: Apply everywhere and anywhere! Don’t be afraid to apply to lots of different dental practices, because chances are not all of them will get back to you.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. This was a really hard idea for me to get over and I kind of blame the email culture we’ve all grown into. Fortunately someone very close to me managed to talk me out of my closed in view of this and I started calling up practices. I have also since heard that practices expect this, and it is a valid and professional way to find out. As the expression goes ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get!’

Now the thing I hadn’t been prepared for was the amount of competition that exists. It’s worth bearing in mind that there are close to a thousand dentists qualifying every year and more coming from Europe: the place where this impacts the most is in the larger cities such as London. I was told by one agency that for most locum jobs that came up in London there could be up to 2-300 applications. This shouldn’t put you off applying as you may well be what a practice is looking for. Even if you get an interview, the experience of the interview process is invaluable.

If you do get asked to send a CV, it’s worth having sorted this out in advance rather than in the 10 minutes after you are asked for one.

Tip 5: Get a few people you trust to read it through. Ask your friends, previous consultants/bosses or anyone you think can improve it to give you a hand.

Tip 6: A personal statement is a must: don’t copy some generic statement, but try to make it relevant to who you are and what you believe in.

So you’ve sent off the CV and lo-and-behold your inbox/voicemail reports to you that you have been asked to come for an interview. Hoorah! Wonderful news, but… it’s not over yet, so don’t rush out to buy a Porsche immediately.

Tip 7: Do all the stuff your Mum always told you to do: iron your shirt, comb your hair etc. that first impression counts.

Tip 8: Have a look at the practice website, and make sure you know why you want to be there and work at that practice: in your haste to send out several million CVs you may forget which practice is which.

Make sure you have some questions to ask them too: don’t be afraid to bring up finance and what is expected of you; Do question things that will matter to you like what materials are available, hours you would be expected to work, ask to see their books to check how booked up they are, whether they have a hygienist, what facilities are available. Don’t forget, at the end of the day you are not an employee, you will be self-employed, and no one who works for themselves should be happy if they can’t perform to the best of their abilities. If you know anyone who is an associate ask them what they would have wanted to know before starting a job, and take some time to think about what you really want to know. No question is a stupid one (well, some are…) and you’ll feel worse for not having asked.

Now even if you have been offered that job, there are still a few areas left to negotiate and there is still wiggle room should you feel this isn’t for you.

Tip 9: As soon as you are sent a contract, make sure you read it through, ALL OF IT! It may seem dull but you don’t want to be caught out. Check things like exclusion zones, retention fees UDA values and hidden things that could cause an immense headache. Once you’ve done this send it in to the BDA, that’s one of the reasons you pay the membership fees… They will have someone look over it for you and will make sure that both you and your principal are covered equally. Whatever you do, don’t take a job without a contract.

Tip 10: Now when you left DF1 training you would have been given a performer number. Make sure well in advance you are aware what PCT this was with and what will happen when you get to 12 months, as for many people it means the number expires. Once this has happened you cannot claim UDAs on the NHS and the process can take months to get rectified: some practices will not even consider you for interview if you don’t have one, and there have been instances where peoples’ jobs have been cut short and lost at the last minute when performer numbers have expired. For locum work the number will not be transferred either so don’t expect it to just follow you around for work. The number is easily transferred between PCTs so save yourself any problems. This goes back to my earlier point of start looking for jobs early particularly if you have spent an extra year in hospital.

So hopefully you’ve managed to dig through all the ads and called the practices you were interested in, secured an interview and passed through it swimmingly and now the practice and PCT can’t wait for you to start claiming UDAs, you can begin to breathe again and hopefully start to settle into the job you’ve been after for so long.

Tip 11: Stay flexible and adaptable. The process can be long and drawn-out and at times it can be quite disheartening going through the ins and outs over and over again. It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the development of yourself and every step is a lesson that can only teach you how you should or shouldn’t do it, which can only be useful in the long-run.

Now although I may have sounded a bit down-beat in areas, I’m not trying to upset or scare anyone and my examples are simply a case of one man’s luck. All I’d like to do is highlight some of the experiences that I’ve seen crop up not just with myself but friends of mine too.

Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for you, there are so many options out there, you will only be limited by how deep you feel like digging.

Sami Stagnell


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