When you’re a brand new optometrist, fresh in your career and setting out to make a name for yourself, it’s not always easy to know where to start.
In fact, optometry students can be even more confused about career growth; between studying and board exams, students might not even know WHEN to start thinking about their careers. It can be tempting to focus on academics, letting career-building steps wait until after graduation. What’s worse, there is conflicting information out there. An uncle or parent might tell you to focus on school, while a professor strongly encourages you to start networking now.
As a veteran practice owner and growth consultant, Dr. Morris shared some important advice for the new generation of optometrists.
1. Start thinking about your optometry career early.
Dr. Morris has hired hundreds of ODs over the years. He recommends starting the job search as early as you can...even when you're still in school. “The great people start early,” he explains, adding, “The great jobs are never posted.”
But many high-quality employers do post ads, and the only way you’ll see these ads is if you give yourself time to look for them. Put yourself out there early. Dr. Brett Kestenbaum adds that you would never start looking for a house after you already sold yours. Instead, you’d start looking for new homes before you ever put yours on the market, so you could make a proactive decision about buying a new home, rather than a reactive one.
The same goes for optometry jobs. Kick off a successful optometry career well before you're actually licensed. And if you're already licensed and ready to go, start networking ASAP!
2. Know what you’re looking for in an optometry career.
This can be tough for new ODs. What should you look for? Do you want corporate or private practice? Do you want a small, family-like environment, or do you prefer being part of a larger team? Do you want to explore specialty practice? Work with a particular population? Do you want to be involved with dispensing glasses or not?
Using a values checklist can help you identify key aspects to your personality that will affect how much you enjoy certain career trajectories vs. other ones. Take the time to think about what you enjoy, value, and need to feel fulfilled.
Sometimes, even when you know yourself, it's hard to know what feels right until you’ve shopped around. This is another reason why networking early is key.
Don’t be afraid to ask employers for a quick informational interview. You can buy someone a cup of coffee or request to visit a practice, and many practice owners will be happy to oblige. Remember, we were all students once.
3. Don’t settle for less.
Dr. Morris urges you to stay true to yourself. Once you have determined what you want out of a job, do not settle for something less; that can only lead to disappointment.Now, you might not be able to make a 10-year veteran’s salary as a new grad, and you might not have the title you want, right out of optometry school, but don’t settle for less than what you want in the way of job satisfaction.