Choosing a Mentor

Finding a mentor should be one of your first steps after dental school to find personal fulfillment in dentistry.
Finding your mentor starts with finding yourself.

Think about walking into your first “real job” out of college. What emotions were you experiencing? What was going through your head? “I’m adult enough to have a job? How did I get here? What if I mess up? Should I call my mom?” It’s normal. Navigating your career, really at any stage in life, can be overwhelming. But what if you had a secret weapon to help guide through it? That powerful tool is your mentor. You may be thinking to yourself, “But, I don’t have a mentor.” Well, you’re in luck. It’s never too late to seek out a mentor or to be a mentor to someone else! 

Understanding your mentoring needs 
Before choosing a mentor, it’s important that you do some self-reflecting. Determine why you want a mentor. What do you hope to gain from the relationship? What are your future career and personal goals? The answers to these questions, and others, will help you identify a mentor that is right for you. Know that having a mentor should be a two-way street. As a good mentee, you have to be open and honest to feedback, as well as follow through on the advice that your mentor gives you. It’s also your responsibility to own the relationship. Schedule get-togethers with your mentor, and bring questions and discussion topics. Don’t be afraid to share your ups, downs and especially your progress. Possibly look for ways to reciprocate the help your mentor has offered – share an article he/she would enjoy, offer to pay for coffee, send a hand-written note. Being a good mentee is just as important as finding a good mentor. 

Choosing a mentor who’s right for you
Now that you understand your mentoring needs, and are committed to being a good mentee, it’s time to choose a mentor. Who you choose can and will have a great impact on your life. Having a mentor allows you to have an expanded viewpoint of your career. Ideally, your mentor will share a similar professional outlook and has maybe even achieved goals you wish to achieve. Choose someone who is invested in your growth and will give you honest, yet positive, feedback and guidance. Your mentor should challenge you and push you to think deeply. The best mentors are those who get satisfaction out of seeing others succeed. It may be possible for one person to serve as your mentors, but sometimes it’s good to have more than one. If you do choose to have more than one, think of them as your own personal advisory board. Do you have a mentor or mentors in mind? Take some time now to jot down their names and why they would be a good mentor for you. 

A mentor is a resource for life. As your mentor helps you develop personally and professionally, maybe start considering taking on a mentor role yourself. When you give, you receive. 

Rick Workman, DMD

Founder, Former CEO and Active Chairman, Heartland Dental

Rick Workman, DMD, graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in 1980. After starting his own practice, he set out to create a world-class dental support organization that would relieve the management burden for dentists by offering them an array of non-clinical administrative support. Today, Heartland Dental is the largest dental support organization in the country. In addition to being the founder of Heartland Dental, he is also the past president of the Association of Dental Support Organizations. To read more about Dr. Rick Workman, click here