Published in Non-Clinical

6 Lessons From My First Year as an O.D.

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5 min read

I’m writing this article for first year ODs, the new grads! Here are some lessons I would tell a new grad based on my first year as an optometrist. Learn from my mistakes.

6 Lessons From My First Year as an O.D.
This article goes out to the Class of 2014 that just graduated. You are now a newly minted O.D. and I bet you have a myriad of emotions to sort through ranging from excitement to anticipation, and even anxiety. Unlike the first day of high school, college, or optometry school, this new phase of your life is less structured. There are no SATs, OATs, or prerequisite classes to take. There are no applications to fill out (well, with the exception of applying for licenses) and there is certainly no checklist made for you to check off. Luckily, you have to guide you through this new journey!
You will learn a tremendous amount during your first year as an O.D. Below are the top 6 lessons I encourage you to keep in mind as you approach the start of your new career.

1. Take a long vacation before residency or before working
Why? Because you have worked your tail off conquering a brutal optometry curriculum. You deserve it! You may be anxious to work for your first paycheck, but believe me, you’ll be glad you took a long vacation to re-cooperate. It will be very hard to get time off once you begin working.

2. Continue delayed gratification
Hey, you just graduated. Sure, buy something nice for yourself, but keep in mind that you have to pay off those student loans! I can't stress it enough - you MUST pay off those loans as soon as you can. I love talking to older, more seasoned doctors. Every doctor I've talked to invariably tells me that they wish someone would have told them how important it is to pay off student loans as fast as possible. Since you are no longer a student, your loans have now turned into a reality. This will give you some added motivation to pay off your loans as much as possible early on.
For some additional motivation, take a look at how interest rate is calculated:
Interest rate × current principal balance ÷ number of days in the year = daily interest
Now calculate how much more you will end up owing if you pay off the loans in say, 15 years versus 30 years!

3. Manage your expectations in your first year

Ryan Corte wrote a great article on managing expectations.
I've found that my happiest O.D. friends are the ones that managed their expectations well. Some had prior connections with a practice and knew ahead of time there’d be a job waiting – if this applies to you, great! You’re smart for thinking ahead.
Then there are the rest of us. When I first graduated, I must have worked at 10 different places. In some offices, I was a fill in for 1 day, and others I stayed for a week or two. It took a few months before I found something I was truly happy with. Do not expect to find your dream job right away and certainly don't expect to have your desired salary right off the bat. You've worked hard to get here and deserve an awesome job with a great salary, but you will have to work equally as hard until you find the perfect one. Be patient and confident!

4. DO NOT settle for a job you are unhappy with
The truth is, we all settle. It's a normal part of life. But, the one area you should never settle on is your job. If you settle on your job, you are in for one long and unhappy ride.
Remember, you spend much of your working hours at the office! An ideal job should be one that does not conflict with your core values - from the people who you work with, to your boss and policies of the office.

5. Show appreciation to your staff and colleagues
A big reason why I love my job is that I get to work with great people including our receptionists, techs, scribes, and other doctors in the office. Your job will get busy, but don't forget to smile and ask them how they are. Don't be afraid to show your appreciation from time to time! These genuine intentions will create a positive work environment that patients and colleagues will feel. As an added bonus, it's great for business too!

6. Take care of yourself, physically and emotionally

This is self-explanatory, and the fact that you've passed optometry school and your boards means that you are probably adept at this. But once you start working, it's important that you're healthy emotionally and physically to do your job well, take care of others, and make money to live the life that you want.

To all the new grads: Congrats again on a big accomplishment. I'm proud to have you all as colleagues!

Quy Nguyen, O.D.
About Quy Nguyen, O.D.

Quy Nguyen grew up in the Bay Area in California and attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Bachelors in Integrative Biology. He obtained his Doctor of Optometry from the SUNY State College of Optometry in 2013. He currently works for an ophthalmology practice in Richmond Hill, NY and at Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn. In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball, being outdoors, reading non-fiction books, traveling and volunteering.

Quy Nguyen, O.D.
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