General Overview

Dentists (DDS and DMD) are healthcare professionals who examine the head, neck, and oral cavity to identify and diagnose conditions that influence oral and systemic health. Dentists diagnose and treat diseases, restore or replace damaged teeth, perform corrective surgery, reduce pain and discomfort, and provide instruction on oral health. Most dentists (~90%) deliver oral health care through private practice; approximately 10% of dentists deliver care in other clinical settings, teach in dental education, conduct research, and/or work in public policy. Some dentists (~20%) specialize in fields like endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics or dental public health.

After reading about the dentistry profession, you may want to have a conversation with a professional, who has first-hand experience in the career field. This is called an informational interview. Informational interviewing is a great way to gain a perspective from someone in a career field and ask for their advice to prepare for the career field. The purpose is to seek information, not a job.

Prepare for the Informational Interview

Before spending time trying to find a professional with whom to conduct an informational interview, spend time developing questions to ascertain what you want to learn during the informational interview. You don't want to realize that you don't have meaningful questions to ask the professional after you've made contact and scheduled a meeting. Meaningful questions are ones that you cannot find the answer to by reading about the profession on or the Occupational Outlook Handbook (e.g. What is a typical salary range for this position?). Prepare open-ended questions that encourage dialogue.

Sample Questions
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work?
  • What did you not expect about the profession that you have found to be true?
  • How do you balance your career with other commitments and interests (e.g. family, community engagements)?
  • What does work/life balance look like in this profession? How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
  • What experiences contributed to your success in this career? What would you have done differently?
  • What doyou recommend that someone do during their undergraduate career to prepare for this profession?
  • Can you suggest anyone else that I contact for an additional perspective about the profession?
Connect with a Healthcare Professional

First, utilize your personal connections! People that you already know can connect you with others that are in your career field of interest. This is called networking.

 With networking, you'll often hear the phrase, "It's all about who you know." But that's not all it's about - it's about who you know, and what they know about what you want.  Therefore, communicate with your network (e.g. family, friends, co-workers, classmates) that you are interested in a specific healthcare profession and want to connect with a licensed professional in that profession. Then, ask if they know of anyone in that profession or another healthcare profession that may help you connect with a person in your profession of interest. If your network doesn't know your interested in a specific profession, they won't know to help you connect with someone!

 Second, you can identify healthcare professionals in your field of interest with whom you have no connection. By searching for local places where these professionals work, such as private practices, outpatient centers, or hospitals, you can email or call the main email/number of the organization. People are usually very willing to talk with you about their career field, path, and experiences, so don't be intimidated to put yourself out there.

Make Contact!

After identifying a liscenced healthcare professional or healthcare facility, call or email to connect. You want to include the following information in your initial contact:

  • Your first and last name
  • How you obtained the name of the liscenced healthcare professional's or healthcare facility
  • A brief, professional summary about yourself (2-3 sentences max)
  • The reason you are contacting the individual (e.g. informational interview, observation hours)
  • What you hope to gain from the experience
  • Your phone number and email address. If you are calling, be sure to leave a voice message saying your name and number slowly.
Conduct the Interview and Follow Up

Present your best professional image - dress business casual, arrive a few minutes early, come prepared with your questions. You are the person that initiated this informational interview, so you will need to lead the conversation. You want the person you interview to do most of the talking, but be prepared for the person to ask you questions, such as why you are considering the field. Let the conversation flow naturally while being conizant of the time so that you wrap-up within the agreed upon timeframe.

Maintain Your Network 

Send a thank you note after the informational interview. This note should be sent within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for their time and sharing their experiences and perspective.

Keep in touch with th person, especially if you choose to pursue the profession. Let him/her know if you followed their advice and how things are going as a result. Also keep him/her abreast of your academic, leadership, service, and other healthcare experiences. This connection could become an important part of your network.

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