By Karessa Kuntz, DDS

The road less traveled ... or is it?

July 1, 2010
After having endured several jobs and relocations, dentist shares recommendations for making a career move as painless as possible

After having endured several jobs and relocations, dentist shares recommendations for making a career move as painless as possible

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: career, relocation, opportunities, employment, demographics, Dr. Karessa Kuntz.

I am nine years out of dental school, balancing a happy two-career marriage, applying for my fifth state license and looking for job No. 11. When I discuss this experience with more senior dentists, they often say it sounds crazy that I have had so many jobs and have moved around so much.

But in talking with peers my age, it is actually not that uncommon to have had several different jobs in more than one state (truthfully not too many have traveled quite as much). Given today’s two-career families, it appears times have changed. We no longer graduate, start a practice, stay there for 30 years, and then hang up our drills.

The unexpected benefit of my diverse experiences is learning how to deal with a variety of oral conditions in a variety of situations in unique populations. I have learned a great deal in a short time, and today feel competent in many aspects of dentistry I never thought I would master.

When I started my career, I was not exactly sure what route I would take. Being open to opportunities as they arise can allow for further growth and unplanned success.

As I am now searching for another practice, I think I am quite competent at finding employment. I thought my experiences may be a useful story for others.

Here are my recommendations for making a career move as painless as possible:

1. Contact the new state regarding licensing information, then compile and submit the necessary paperwork. I have found that it is helpful to follow up with state boards. These groups are busy and reminders to them seem to help the process. I mark biweekly follow-up reminder dates on my calendar until I have the license in hand.

2. Obtain city demographics. I suggest using sites such as city-data.com and combining it with dentistry-specific information from sources such as the ADA and Dental Economics®. To help determine where you want to relocate, be sure to pay special attention to population sizes, family incomes, zip code data, and fee schedules.

3. Check dental Web sites and magazine classified ads you are familiar with to inquire about any positions/practices available. Dental brokers often list their practices here. Most brokers are helpful since they have a large “inventory” of practices. By the nature of their business, they have established networks to scout upcoming practices for sale. A broker is compensated for closing a deal between a buyer and seller (typically by the seller). As such, a buying dentist should question optimistic future earning projections, and should be prudent in signing an exclusivity agreement or paying an upfront fee. If you are looking independently and through a broker, inform the broker you are searching independently.

4. Contact any colleagues you have in the new city. Also reach out to organizations you actively participate in (alumni associations, AGD, AAWD, etc.) and find out who is in your new city. Send them an e-mail. Focus your e-mail specifically. Do not send a mass e-mail but a message to a colleague who likely has been through a similar search and may be able to help. I received replies from half of the e-mails I sent. This is a great reminder how dentists help each other. Many did not have a position or know of one available but they were welcoming, encouraging, and gave great advice in relocating to their respective areas. In a recent experience, of the seven dentists who responded, three were actually selling their practices or getting close to it. So it pays to ask.

5. Surf the Web. As mentioned, reach out to dentists in the area where you hope to live. I sent several e-mails to dentists I found in the area. One responded by informing me that he would like to sell his practice.

6. Ask who the main dental supply companies are and speak with their sales representatives. These people are also good connections to have in the future. The suppliers often know the “ins and outs” of dental offices in the area. Ask them if they know anyone who is looking for someone with your background. I have been introduced to dentists this way.

7. Once you have identified some potential offices, request a tour of the offices, meet the staff, and look at the financials of your prospective workplaces. Practices working with a broker usually have great information. (As mentioned, be somewhat cautious in the assumptions made with future growth. I am comfortable looking at the existing and assuming there will be a drop initially before any growth. Past performance remains the best indicator of future performance.) Dental accountants are more than happy to independently evaluate a practice and help determine from the buyers’ view if the practice is a good investment.

Some dentists are cautious regarding staff knowledge of a transition, and this must be respected. There are ways around this. There may be a specific procedure or a system that can be shared. A planned vacation for which the selling doctor may need coverage is a great way to meet the office staff.

A quick option is to agree with the selling doctor to show up early for a lunch meeting. This allows the buying doctor to make small talk with the staff, look around the area, and perhaps even ask some specific practice-related questions. Obviously, buyer and seller need to agree with this plan.

8. Finally, it is also great to be involved with local meetings. Local chapters are welcoming and help make connections. Meeting colleagues and specialists can lead to friendships and possible opportunities.

In my recent transition, having followed the above steps and narrowed my search to a handful of practices, I now plan to observe in these practices and pick the best match.

The friends and connections I have made in my varied experiences, from pediatrics to geriatrics, have benefited me. I have learned from every practice I have been in.

I still have, and always will have, much to learn about dentistry. But because of the different positions I have had, and the many great people I have met along the way, I have grown far more than had I taken the more traditional route. From these diverse experiences, I have found specific areas and skills that enhance my enjoyment of dentistry.

Dentists are lucky. We are employable almost anywhere. I plan to stay in my next job for several years, and I have learned how to find precisely what I am looking for. I hope my experiences help you do the same in your next job search.

Karessa A. Kuntz, DDS, is a native of Michigan and went to undergraduate and dental school at the University of Michigan. She received her Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry in 2009, and has applied for the SCD Geriatric Fellowship. Reach Dr. Kuntz at (704) 502-5897 or send her an e-mail to [email protected].

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