Q&A: Finding the ideal first job

One of the most important career moments for a new dentist is finding that first job.
From location and practice philosophy to contracts and pathways-to-ownership, joining the ideal dental practice can be a daunting task.
Photo of Betsy Krekling
Ms. Krekling
The New Dentist News spoke with ADA Practice Transitions Advisor Betsy Krekling about what dental students and new dentists can do to ensure a successful search, and ways ADA Practice Transitions can help.

The service, which is backed by the ADA and focused on helping dentists make the process of joining or leaving a practice predictable and successful, matches dentists with practice owners by considering aspects such as philosophy of care, personality traits, location and desired practice characteristics. It expanded to all 50 states this month.

NDN: When should someone start looking for their first job?
Ms. Krekling: The sooner, the better. I applaud candidates who join ADA Practice Transitions with ample time to identify the best possible match. Students should start looking no later than their third year of dental school. If they start that process with ADAPT, students will be able to take full advantage of all the benefits we have to offer, such as a library of resources to help them better understand what they want and how to achieve it. Plus, ADAPT is completely free, so there shouldn’t be any reason not to start right away.
NDN: What should new dentists or dental students do before beginning their job search?
Ms. Krekling: Before beginning your search, it’s important to understand all career options before committing to any specifics — especially location. ADAPT has a short, yet comprehensive e-book that helps you think through your options that I encourage all incoming doctors to read in its entirety prior to settling on search criteria.

NDN: What’s your biggest piece of advice for new dentists seeking the perfect match?
Ms. Krekling: In my experience, I am able to match candidates much easier if they have flexible location parameters. All too often, a new dentist’s main challenge is finding an ideal match because they’ve recently purchased a house and would prefer a short commute. My biggest piece of advice for new dentists is to flip the narrative and set sights on purchasing or joining an ideal dental practice first, followed by purchasing a house. The outcome is consistently more successful in the long term and allows me to focus on finding the right practice based on philosophy of care without being as limited by location.   

NDN: What's the best path for someone who wants to own their own practice some day?

Ms. Krekling: There are many different ways to purchase a dental practice but one of the most tried and true is the associate-to-owner path. It provides mentorship opportunities while building hand skills, speed, and confidence – not to mention a smooth transition for both patients and staff. ADAPT has a large pool of practice owners that welcome the opportunity to mentor incoming docs to ensure excellent continuation of care. There’s one story in particular that comes to mind – let me share the video with you.
Image of ADA Practice Transitions graphicNDN: What should a new dentist know before signing that first contract?
Ms. Krekling: We have seen incoming dentists navigate the contracting process more smoothly when they utilize our resources – especially the Associate Contracting Toolkit that we give ADAPT members. It’s incredibly comprehensive (in a good way!) and will assist in the ever-important contract negotiation stage of a transition. It covers everything from compensation methods to malpractice insurance to restrictive covenants. If matched docs can come to an agreement on this document, they will save a lot of time going back and forth – thus, saving money in attorney fees. Dentists who aren’t yet ADAPT members can download the free Contracts e-book to start thinking about what that contract should include.
NDN: What other advice do you have for new dentists?
Ms. Krekling: In my experience, the most lucrative practices are the ones safely tucked in smaller communities. Some require a bit of updating, but the potential for growth is consistently tremendous – therefore, I’d encourage all new dentists to consider life outside the big city. These types of low overhead practices complete with healthy work-life balance is a recipe for a happy life where student loans are paid off in a fraction of the time than with practices found in larger markets. This doctor did it that way and you can too.