Dental mentorship programs are important to your future, and the future of the dental industry. Mentors provide the next generation of dental experts an opportunity to gather industry opinion, guidance, support and build confidence. An honest exchange with a professional colleague confidant also provides a trusted sounding board that can help you address career challenges and find solutions to help you grow.

ADA surveys have shown 80 percent of dental students “expressed a need for mentor programs” at varying levels. The desire to have an experienced professional guide your dental development is smart, and there are reasonable expectations that all associates should have when it comes to identifying a mentor.

Express Expectations

From the outset, defining a structure for the mentorship is important. An associate should discuss, in detail, with a potential mentor his or her understanding and expectations of what makes a successful mentorship. The same is true for the mentor. Defining clear expectations will ensure that a potential mentor is fully aware of the commitment they are making before agreeing to the relationship. This also gives associates an opportunity to observe the potential mentor’s reaction to your expectations for the relationship and determine if it is a good fit for your career progression.

Define Goals

Once expectations have been set and a mentor relationship has been formed, defining goals with target dates will help both parties remain dedicated to the process, regardless of life or work distractions. Define clear goals that you want to achieve with the mentorship in the first six months, the first year and beyond. Goals and a timeline will provide the structure needed to develop a strategic plan to ensure you obtain the professional milestones you are hoping to achieve. Goals can vary with every associate and mentor relationship, but generally, you want to keep them realistic and motivating for your career progression.

Concentrate on Continuing Education

Within your planning, be sure to incorporate continuing education opportunities, such as molar endodontic, cosmetics, treatment planning and more. It takes time, practice and some professional guidance to become a true expert at anything. Dental work is no exception. Observing and participating with a seasoned professional can significantly alter the learning curve in your favor. And don’t limit your continuing education opportunities to procedures. Effectively running a dental practice requires a great deal of non-procedural talent, including office management, an understanding of payroll, leadership skills and more. Don’t limit your continuing education opportunities. Learn anything and everything you can from your mentor, and you’ll be further ahead of your peers as you progress down your professional path.

Avoid Micromanaging Mentors

Mentorships are not opportunities for micromanagement. The steps above should provide an ideal structure to avoid the micromanagement trap, but associates should recognize the difference between help and hand-holding. Mentors should provide guidance and insight, but associates should always maintain ownership of their own professional journey.

Have Fun!

It’s mutually beneficial to the associate and the mentor to have a fun, fulfilling relationship. Associates should actively engage mentors. Never sit back and wait for a relationship to develop for you. And mentors should be engaging young associates in activities the duo can explore together, such as local dental society events.

Soak up the mentorship experience like a sponge. One of the most effective ways to become a leader in your industry is to listen. Influential thought leaders in the dental arena are out there, and creating a close bond with one of the industry’s top minds would be beneficial to your professional development, as well as your prospects for future business success. A mentor’s door should always be open to you. Use that opportunity to engage your mentor as much as you can to generate a positive, mutually beneficial relationship that may span your dental career.

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