Advice for recent graduates

Your first position as a dental practitioner after qualifying is an exciting and challenging time; as you start to consolidate your knowledge and learn to practise independently as a dental practitioner.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed as you make the move from student to graduate employee. If you have concerns about coping in your new profession and would like to chat to someone, call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 377 700.
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If you’re finding the first few years in the workplace tough, you’re not alone. Many recent graduates find this period to be the toughest of their career. The environment can be fast-paced and the focus is on looking after patients and/or clients, which can lead to you feeling isolated when you have been used to having other students around to connect with.

The good news is that it will get easier as you gain experience and become confident. In the meantime, make sure you look after your health and wellbeing.

Here are some strategies for managing your graduate year:

  • connect with other graduates about your experiences – most people will tell you that they find it tough
  • exercise regularly and make sure that you are focusing on your health
  • get enough sleep
  • keep learning – knowledge can help build confidence
  • choose healthy food
  • practise mindfulness or mediation and build in relaxation time
  • limit alcohol and caffeine, and
  • drink plenty of water.
Get organised
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Being organised can alleviate stress and reduce overwhelming emotions.

Set up a routine and try to stick to it.

To organise your life around work:

  • plan and prepare meals on your days off, and
  • make a weekly schedule and put it on the fridge – plot bedtime, getting laundry done and time for yourself.

To get organised at work:

  • keep a daily planner of tasks that need to be completed
  • prioritise tasks
  • schedule in breaks
  • keep backup food at work – don’t skip meals
  • set alarms on your phone to track time and complete tasks, and
  • focus on one task at a time.
Advice from other recent graduates
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Try these strategies that have helped other graduates:

  • ask for help if you are unsure
  • don’t feel ashamed to reach out for support – you’re not alone
  • tell someone if you’re not okay
  • admit when you don’t understand something (it is okay!)
  • work at your own pace – it is ok to be slower than your colleagues and peers
  • ask questions and figure out how to find the answers – policies, procedure, guidelines, manuals, your manager and journals
  • be respectful of your peers – assertive communication will help you find your feet, and
  • speak up and stand up for yourself – don’t let yourself be exploited.
Find a mentor
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A mentor can help get you through your first few years after university. They can be someone to talk to about your work experiences or to give you guidance on your career.

Discuss with your employer what opportunities for mentorship are available within your organisation. Will your manager make time to debrief with you regularly?

You could approach your university lecturers to ask if they will mentor you or if they can put you in contact with someone who can. Don’t be afraid to ask – if your university lecturers have said they are willing to provide support after you graduate, they mean it.

Another avenue for a mentorship is via a professional association. Many have their own mentorship program that connects recent graduates with experienced dental practitioners.

Look after yourself
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Self-care helps you achieve a work-life balance and prevents you from getting burnt out.

Everyone has their own idea about what self-care strategies may work for them.

Find what works for you:

  • acknowledge and express your feelings and emotions
  • do things mindfully – eat, walk, observe
  • find an exercise that you enjoy, such as the gym, yoga or team sports
  • try positive self-talk
  • educate yourself – knowledge is power
  • get a massage or go to the spa
  • listen to your body – don’t ignore if you need to rest
  • meditate – use an app if you’d like some guidance to start • have a break from technology
  • sit and be still outdoors, and
  • connect and socialise with people you like.
How to handle making an error at work
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Every dental practitioner has made errors at some point in their career. The way you manage your errors can make a big difference to the outcome for the patient. Speaking up as soon as you think you have made an error can reduce the impact of these incidents.

Know your limits and ask for help whenever you need it. Find the right person in your organisation or workplace to ask for help and remember, you have graduated recently and are still consolidating your university knowledge and applying it to your new job.

Managing challenging behaviours in the work place
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The stressful nature of the dental practitioner work environment can sometimes result in difficult behaviours that may lead to workplace conflict.

You can reduce the risk of conflict by approaching any challenging behaviours at work with a positive attitude and by being assertive.

Strategies for dealing with challenging behaviours are:

  • be respectful when approaching people whose behaviour is challenging
  • be assertive and honest – ask the person if they are okay (they probably are not)
  • talk to your manager or team leader
  • contact Dental Practitioner Support or your workplace’s employee assistance program if this behaviour is affecting you
  • do not use personal attacks, instead describe how the behaviour makes you feel
  • don’t raise your voice or use closed body language – this may escalate conflict
  • get advice from a neutral person or your educator
  • journal and reflect on how this behaviour affects you
  • practise self-awareness about your own behaviour, and
  • seek support if things seem to be getting out of hand or need to be escalated.
What can I do next?
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Read some of our articles about staying healthy and your wellbeing:

Our service provides free and confidential support to dental practitioners and students Australia-wide. If you would like to speak to someone call us 24/7 on 1800 377 700. If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact – take a look through accessing support.

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