Dentistry is a highly technical field requiring extensive training to hone clinical techniques and skills, yet it is often not these technical skills that determine who get the best jobs after dental school. Generally, the “soft skills” are what will make or break your chances of landing an ideal associate position. To separate yourself from other associate candidates, it is important to recognize what these skills are and why they matter.
What are “Soft Skills?” Soft skills, or people skills, are what inspire trust from patients. They make someone an effective communicator and a productive part of a team. There are many soft skills needed to be an effective dentist, but here are the leading soft skills requested by the practice owners for whom we consult.
Patients will take it for granted that the “Dr.” in front of your name means that you are qualified to drill a tooth or seat a crown. They do not become long-term patients because your margins are perfect. They come back to you because you are a pleasant person who understands your patient’s apprehension and takes the time to answer his or her questions. When interviewing a potential associate, a practice owner will look for these characteristics to determine the quality of your communication skills:
- Clear articulation: Can you convey ideas so that others easily understand?
- Expressiveness: Do you use voice inflection and descriptive language to avoid sounding “dry?”
- Empathy: Do you inspire trust by accurately reading the emotions of others and respond appropriately?
- Confidence: Do you exude self-assurance in your abilities?
Positive Attitude: Are you generally optimistic or are you overly critical? Will it be fun to work with you?
Willingness to learn: Are you accepting of feedback and helpful criticism or do you become defensive?
Flexibility: Can you adapt to changing circumstances and new challenges?
Work ethic: Will you exceed the minimum expectations? Will you go above and beyond for your patients when necessary?
Motivation: Will you continuously strive for improvement? Do you set challenging personal and professional goals? Will you be satisfied if you fail to achieve those goals?
Even the freshest new dental school graduate is a doctor and so has earned the respect of the dental practice staff and the larger community. With this respect comes the demand of maintaining a professional demeanor. Beyond that, you are a highly compensated professional with a public profile. You are a pillar of the community who will be a leader in the office. Can a practice owner trust you to maintain this esteem? Here is what he or she will look for:
Time Management: Can you be trusted to be ready to see patients as soon as the practice opens?
Team Player: Will you be cooperative and respectful when working toward greater group goals?
Leadership: Will you lead the office staff by example? Will you avoid petty squabbles? Will you have the courage to address problems and work towards solutions?
Problem Solving: Will you apply your training in a creative manner to drive innovation and improvement?
Work under pressure: Can you be trusted to maintain decorum under deadlines and through difficulties?
The more of these skills you display, the more comfortable a practice owner will be in choosing you for his or her practice. Remember – it is not what a practice can do for you, it is what you can do for a practice.