Powerful connections forged through association membership

Relationship building is an essential skill for any professional, but especially for dentists. Sharing ideas, addressing common concerns and celebrating successes only serve to strengthen the profession. In addition, making professional connections can help dentists expand their opportunities and propel their practices forward.

One of the best ways to connect with colleagues is through professional associations. Professional associations are the conduit for effective, robust networking opportunities. Whether dedicated social events, professional development, leadership roles or volunteering, active involvement is the fast-track to connecting with colleagues.

Although email, social media and other forms of digital communication have changed the way people interact, there’s still no substitute for face-to-face networking. In a 2016 study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 95 percent of respondents said that face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships. 

CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry is the definitive venue for dental professionals looking to network. Attendees can get to know one another during classes, in the exhibit hall and at after-hours special events, such as CDA’s private party or alumni group mixers. There’s even a special networking event for student dentists, which features roundtable discussions on topics facing those entering the profession.

CDA Cares, a biannual event to provide oral health services to communities in need, is also rich in networking opportunities. The event brings together thousands of volunteers who donate their time and expertise to help others. Serving others is not only a great way to give back to the community, it’s a great way to connect with like-minded individuals in the dental profession — connections that can often lead to long-term business relationships.

Taking on leadership roles within an association or nonprofit is another beneficial way to meet those who are vested in the future of the profession. Volunteer leaders have the opportunity to build relationships with the best and brightest in dentistry, all while honing their leadership skills and growing their knowledge of the profession. CDA’s Leadership Discovery Pilot Program is designed to bring aspiring leaders up to speed on the association and the opportunities for involvement. Application information is available at cda.org/leadership.

While networking opportunities at the state level are plentiful, many new members enter organized dentistry at the local level. Most components hold regular networking events that allow members to get to know one another and establish professional connections in their communities. For example, the San Diego County Dental Society hosts shred-a-thons, holiday parties and an annual Oktoberfest.

“Networking events are extremely important. Many members acknowledge this aspect of membership as one of the key reasons they joined the San Diego County Dental Society,” says Lourdes Valdez, SDCDS membership coordinator.
SDCDS also hosts events designed especially for new dentists. Many have just graduated from dental school and are looking to break into the profession and land their first job, Valdez said.

“I have spoken to people who meet at these events and connect with dentists looking for associates and end up getting a job from this connection,” she said. “Others build connections beyond dentistry and form great friendships. Networking is important because it lets us create a support system of dentists for dentists.”

The San Mateo County Dental Society holds several events a year at various locations that allow members to connect with one another. Ice-breaker activities encourage attendees to interact with people they may not otherwise talk to, and experienced dentists share their stories and answer questions from new dentists.

“I think that it is great for new members to hang out with each other,” said Pacifica dentist John M. Acosta, DDS. “This will give them a chance to mingle with colleagues who are in the same boat with them. Dentistry is definitely a journey that has different phases through life and this will introduce them to others who are at the initial stages. Hopefully, they will continue these relationships as they age in the society.”

But it’s not enough to simply attend a networking event. To forge valuable connections with others, dentists need to nurture their new relationships. According to Entrepreneur magazine, effective networking requires participants to go beyond their comfort zone by following these guidelines:

  • Set out to meet a certain number of people at each event.
  • Don’t limit yourself by sitting by people you already know.
  • Get active. Don’t just warm a chair. Walk around the room, introduce yourself and offer to help out if needed.
  • Write down a list of expectations and goals for each event. For example, “meet a periodontist in my neighborhood” or “learn how other dentists market their practices.”

By taking a proactive approach to connecting with colleagues within a professional association and beyond, both new and seasoned dentists can build strong relationships. These professional relationships can help grow a practice, strengthen skills and further enrich the journey through a career in dentistry.

To learn more about the many networking, leadership and volunteer opportunities available to members, visit cda.org/membership.

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