Five years ago, I set foot at university with a set plan, as many undergraduate students do. My goal was to complete a Bachelor of Science in four years and apply to medical school. However, after a year of general science courses, failing a class for the first time in my life, and realizing that most of my peers had the same career aspirations, I became discouraged and decided to seek out a different path. Even if I didn't see myself becoming a doctor, I still wanted to stay at university and pursue a career in the field of health sciences.
After researching my options I applied, and was accepted to, the dental sciences (dental hygiene) degree program at the University of British Columbia. This program was appealing because it was career specific and I thought it would result in guaranteed employment upon graduation. The dental hygiene profession has also changed considerably over the past 20 years (it's not just cleaning teeth!). There are many specific branches in the field I could pursue, such as research, public health, administration, education, advocacy or sales. With so many career options in such a focused degree program, I knew dental hygiene was a good option.
During my time in the program, I became familiar with the job market here in the Lower Mainland of B.C. There were many private dental hygiene schools opening up, and with their appealing fast-track 18-month diploma program, they were able to train a very large set of skilled workers who were immediately ready to join the workforce. A large number of these schools were in Ontario, and with the good job opportunities out West, and the chance to live in one of the most beautiful provinces in the country, a high portion of those graduates decided to relocate to B.C. As a result, the job market here became very saturated and very few job openings now exist. There is a very low turnover rate in this profession and it seems that no opportunities arise unless a hygienist retires, moves or goes on maternity leave.
I graduated in May 2012 and received my license to practice dental hygiene in B.C. in August. Since then I have dropped off countless resumes and cover letters to dental offices in hopes of finding some employment. Along with looking for full-time work, I have also joined a few dental temp agencies. As a temp worker, I am called into various dental clinics anywhere from a few days to a few minutes in advance. Temping is a great introduction to the profession because you learn a lot about what you like and what you don't like. At times it's stressful because every time you have to deal with new co-workers, new equipment, new patients and a new work environment. It's a great learning experience but for someone like me who likes routine, it's not ideal.
And being a new graduate in the working world is tough. If you peruse Craigslist posts, many explicitly state "NO NEW GRADS PLEASE." As if the "please" at the end softens the blow from the fact that they won't even consider a new clinician. It is really a Catch-22: many dental offices refuse to hire new graduates because of lack of experience, but how am I to gain that experience if nobody will hire me? I am currently employed at one office, although it is just once a week. The staff is aware that I am a recent grad and have been very supportive and patient. It's very common for dental hygienists to work part-time at multiple offices and I continue to seek employment to gain experience.
With such high hopes, I never expected to leave such a long trail of resumes, and feel so lost in a sea of interviews that have yet to produce significant results. Discouraged would surely be an understatement. The months leading up to my graduation, I was eagerly anticipating getting out in the world and joining the workforce. I never thought finding a job would be easy, but I truly did not believe the job market would be as saturated as it is. I hope you are able to come along for the ride, as this recent dental hygiene graduate hopes to bite back, and find success.