Don’t expect mentoring. Go into it with goals, be humble and learn but make it easy for the mentor.

A good mentor relationship will transform your career. 

Looking to expand into a new procedure? Had a complication you weren’t expecting? Unsure of the best way to do something? Without mentors it’s easy to have your progression stalled and frustration increase in these situations. When it may be a simple reassuring conversation or a tip that takes you through that barrier to the next level.

Yet we hear all the time that good mentors are hard to find and less are putting their hands up to do it. While this may be true I don’t think this is the whole story. In my experience it’s rare for any dentist or specialist to shy away from helping those that are less experienced. But the relationship is a little one sided so it should go without saying;

The onus is on you

The mentor likely takes pleasure in helping others and enjoys sharing their knowledge. Yet it’s the mentee who really stands to gain. So why do many students and graduates expect ‘mentorship’ to land in their lap without significant effort? 

How to Optimise Your Mentor Relationship

  • Take ownership of the relationship. It’s up to you to find time that suits your mentor. If anyone will be going out of their way it will be you.
  • Ask everything you must and nothing more. Don’t waste their time. Do your research first. 
  • Be prepared. Need to ask about a radiograph? – have it ready. Asking a more complex question – have all the records on hand.
  • Unless you have no idea, discuss your thoughts and plan instead of just expecting an answer to be laid out. Also committing to a treatment plan in front of a colleague helps ensure you have thought it through properly. You may find you answer your own question! 

Having the support of a mentor or multiple mentors really is crucial to your development. So whether you find it within your practice, a colleague on social media or through the ADA Mentor program, it’s worth the effort to facilitate these relationships.

David is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW, Australia. Read more at

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