Navigating the workplace

Starting a new job can be a daunting time. After five years of being wrapped in the protective cocoon of dental school, you’re suddenly thrust into the cold, hard and big wide world of employment – and it can be difficult to navigate.

From having to get to grips with new systems, people and those extra responsibilities to making sure you know whose turn it is to buy the staffroom biscuits and how secret Santa works, it can be a minefield for a graduate on the first rung of their career ladder.

Swapping the camaraderie you share with fellow students within a faculty’s department for a new social set-up of a professional dental team can be difficult.

You’re the new boy or new girl and how quickly you settle will depend on a variety of factors, including how welcome you’re made to feel by the dental team, the approach of your vocational trainer (VT) and your own confidence levels.

Thankfully, there are some simple rules to remember when approaching your first year of work.

Build a rapport

Follow them and it will take no time at all to feel at home in your new practice.

• Don’t forget about the whole of the dental team. This is one of the most important aspects of starting at a new practice. When you start vocational training it’s easy to focus solely on getting on with your trainer and neglect the rest of the dental. The truth is, they’re just as important to get to know as your trainer as you’ll be working with them closely in the 12 months you’re there. Obviously your nurse is a key part of your working day, so the quicker you can get to know them – and build up a rapport – the better.

• Do attend any practice social events. Although these events may not be first on your social to-do list, they’re very important for team bonding and it’s usually noted who doesn’t make the effort. Away from the practice, you can get to know your new colleagues better and it can offer a pleasant opportunity to talk about topics other than work.

• Don’t think you know it all. Remember: you’ll have been a qualified dentist for all of five minutes while some of your dental team will have been working in the profession for years. Value this experience, and if you don’t know something, ask.

Nuggets of advice

Also, if somebody else in the practice offers you advice, be it a fellow dentist, your trainer or a nurse, make sure you listen carefully and take it on board. You may not decide to act on it in the end, but these little nuggets of advice may make you a better clinician in the long term.

• Do remember the little things. In truth, it’s the small actions at work that make all the difference. Whether you work in an office, on a building site or in a dental practice, taking note of how your colleagues take their coffee, offering to restock the printer with paper, and volunteering for that mid-afternoon snack run will help ensure things run smoothly. Of course, all of these ‘little things’ are just about being considerate to your colleagues, but when everybody shares them it make for a more pleasant working environment.

• Don’t keep your mouth shut. While it’s important that you try to get on with colleagues, if you are having problems with a particular person or the way the practice works, voice your concerns to your trainer. Initially, give the situation a few weeks or months – depending on how bad it is – to improve and then if you are still encountering the same problems arrange a meeting with your trainer.

Conciliatory way

You may find it easier to do this away from the practice but wherever you decide to meet, make sure you that have written down the points you want to make and approach the meeting in a conciliatory way. Your trainer may genuinely be unaware of what is happening, so you have to be prepared that they could need some time to consider how they will resolve the

situation. In most cases, trainers want their VT to enjoy their time at the practice, so will try to adjust things immediately to significantly improve the working environment.

So good luck and enjoy the new workplace! For most students it’ll only take a few weeks to settle – and guaranteed that in no time the pattern of daily student life at dental school will very quickly just seem like a distant memory!

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