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It's All About Networking: Networking is a vital aspect of any successful professional career.

It has been said that there is most likely a professional association for almost everything you do--work-related and in your free time. Every industry, profession, or trade often has at least one professional association representing its membership to varying degrees. These associations perform various roles for their memberships, such as providing publicity to the media, maintaining professional and ethical standards, and establishing a vision for the future of the profession or industry, just to name a few. Professional associations typically provide information about a profession to educate the public in general and the media in particular, and through this effort, it supports the growth and health of the profession. But most of an association's work is likely to be in direct support of its members, those who are currently practicing professionals or those who are aspiring to be in the future such as students. Associations offer services that are designed to set and maintain standards for professionals and to assist members in strengthening their careers. By definition, therefore, your association can be a key source of help in finding your next job or other exciting opportunity! The bottom line is that professional associations are a great resource for networking with members of your own profession, industry, or interest.

Our profession of dental assisting is more than a job--it is a community and a culture, but most importantly a career for many. Individuals affiliated with dentistry tend to have a passion about the field and often "talk shop" with one another. Our profession serves society by sharing knowledge among members and creating incentives to combine new information and experiences. The inner workings of our association also assist our members to build networks, find opportunities, recruit leadership and organize around the issues that affect the organization and profession as a whole. In a world without change or innovation, many professions (including ours) would not be so necessary. But in a world where change and innovation are ever more intense, every occupation needs more of the institutions and culture of the longstanding traditional professions such as law or medicine.

Professional associations can be one of the best ways to get on the inside track and to obtain leads for opportunities that sometimes never make it to the outside world of an association. People who have a common bond and interest are more likely to be interested in assisting you, which is where the value and power of professional associations come into play. Every profession has leaders and followers. In a formal sense, the elected officers of a professional association are the leaders of that profession and the general membership are thought of as the followers. Because a profession is primarily about knowledge, the true leaders of a profession are the thought leaders: the individuals who blend the thinking of the profession's members and convey directions for the future. Leadership means both talking and listening, both vision and agreement, and following through with action. A leader builds a network of relationships within the profession and communicates the themes that are emerging in the thinking of the profession as a whole, guiding not only the profession, but the association to its goals.

In a knowledge-demanding world of continual innovation and change, every professional must be a leader--typically not a generally well-liked idea by those who like to follow. The skills that the leader utilizes in building a significant collection of opinion around emerging issues are the same skills that every ADAA professional needs to have and we all do--some of us just have not tapped into that energy. In the past, the leadership-averse could hide out in the background. But as institutions are turned inside out by technology, globalization, and rising public and professional expectations of every sort, the safe havens are quickly disappearing, forcing many of us outside our comfort zones. Every professional's job is now on the front lines and the skills of leadership must become central to everyone's conception of themselves as a professional.

Enter networking

According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of networking is "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions." Specifically, the term refers to exchanges which help you, as a member, to obtain information. Networking is a vital facet of any successful career and many of us do it without realizing it. Whether you're looking for a new job or want to stand out in your current position, few things are as important as making and maintaining professional contacts. Some people are put off by the term networking, but it's simply a matter of exchanging dialogue with people--either face-to-face or by some other form of technology. There are two steps to successful networking: finding people with whom to mingle and then using that time efficiently and productively to your advantage. It's obvious that those already in your chosen profession will have the best, latest, and most relevant information for you and are often eager to interact. Because one's work often defines oneself in the eyes of others in today's dental world, members of the ADAA are usually quite enthusiastic networkers. Nothing affirms their own career choice better than someone else also choosing it, and they will go a long way in guiding you through to success or reaching your goals. Proper networking etiquette includes asking if the person has any ideas, suggestions, or put you in contact with someone "in the know."

Don't network without a common interest.

Within the ADAA, many of us network at local and state meetings with colleagues from within our own states. We gather at these meetings to learn about new techniques and products, and possible employment opportunities; but for many of us it is an opportunity for social interaction and to catch up with each other's busy lives. At regional dental meetings, networking is taken to a higher level with interaction with members from all over the world exchanging information on what is happening legislatively in their areas and discussing issues relevant to the dentistry. Networking occurs between not only members and non members alike, but among various individuals who are in some way affiliated with dentistry. Such events regionally and nationally are unparalleled networking opportunities because you have exposure to leaders in your profession from all over. These leaders provide information about what others around your state or province, country, or the world are doing in your field, bring you trend updates, and new tool introductions as well as the latest information specific to our field. One of the greatest bonuses of such conferences is that they are very satisfying opportunities for getting together with other professionals who care about dental assisting as much as you do.

Networking, Technology and the ADAA.

We are well immersed in the Age of Technology. The ways we communicate with our students, peers, patients and our families and friends, change almost every day. Two decades ago, texting, Twitter, You Tube, Facebook, Linkedln and blogging were not discussed in the classroom, employee break room, teacher's lounge or boardroom--today they are everywhere and often the method of choice for communication. We all use new technology in our classrooms, dental practices, and personal lives. Collaboration globally has been simplified with a touch of the screen and sharing of information has never been easier! While these new forms of communication open vast worlds and networks, it is important to understand how these forms work to avoid potential problems. Maintaining professionalism and practicing e-professionalism is always essential. Your digital footprints can come back to haunt you if you cross the line of professionalism.

ADAA has a Facebook group allowing the exchange of ideas and discussion on topics important to dental assisting for all who are interested. It is a convenient way of reaching out to the younger generation of dental assistants through posts on the discussion wall. Members are tweeting about things on Twitter, another networking platform used by many dental professionals worldwide. ADAA also now has a YouTube channel at ADAAUSA. We encourage you to post your passion about the profession!

Making the Best Use of Your ADAA Membership

By involving yourself in as many aspects of your professional association as you can, you increase your exposure in the group and show a lot of people in your field "what you've got." You build rapport and mutual respect. ADAA fosters awareness of, interest in, and respect for our profession by providing a variety of services and tools for its members. It is a stepping stone for the dental assisting student as they begin their studies, a lifeline for the recent graduate to get the best start in a profession and encourage them to be active as members and a platform of information exchange for the seasoned members.

Through membership in your professional association, you gain access to individuals with "value-added" qualifications in dental assisting that can be an incredible source of advice, links and references. Networking is the prime source of career information and job leads, and your professional association provides a tremendous opportunity for just this type of networking.

As they say, "membership has its privileges." Spread the word and continue your networking

By Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA

Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPF-DA, CRFDA, MADAA, BA, is ADAA's 2018-2019 past president. Reach her at nkaweckyj@adaausa.org
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Author:Kaweckyj, Natalie
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Date:May 1, 2019
Words:1556
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