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How to Ask for a Raise as an Optometrist

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11 min read
How to Ask for a Raise as an Optometrist
It’s time to tackle the big question of “how and when do I ask for a raise?” For a lot of people, asking for a raise can be a gut-wrenching experience. But there are a few things to keep in mind that can make it a little easier:
  • Find the market rate
  • Create a report showcasing your contributions
  • Consider your tactical approach
  • Know your goal, but let your boss bring up specifics
  • Be flexible
The goal of this article is to ultimately give you the confidence and tools to coolly and comfortably ask for the raise that you deserve. Let’s explore what each of these steps might look like to give you the best possible position!

Find the market rate

The first step is to determine what the market rate is for optometry salaries in your area. You can do this with the CovalentCareers optometrist salary calculator; another easy option would be to put your qualifiers into Glassdoor's Salary Index. Another way is to search your local job listings to see what other people are willing to pay for your expertise. PCLI’s Market Space website is a great way to see job opportunities available in your area, and you can even post your personal CV if you are looking for a job. If you find that you are compensated fairly for your area, your specialties, and your years of experience, it may not be the right time to ask for a raise.
If you feel like you are not being adequately compensated based on your contributions to the practice, it is a good time to ask for a raise. The easiest time to set your salary, benefits, and bonuses is with your first employment contract. However, if you did not get the salary that you wanted and know that you are worth more, do not wait for your “annual review” to ask for a raise.
You need to show your boss why you deserve more money. A great way to justify a salary increase is to show your boss how you are going to make them more money.

Create a report showcasing your contributions

When you are getting ready to ask for a raise, make sure to practice what you are going to say and what you are going to ask for. Have a good idea of what you want and understand the basics of negotiating (more on this later). If you come to the table asking for more money you better have your reasons. Saying “I have worked for a year and deserve a raise” is not going to get you very far. You need to show your boss why you deserve more money. A great way to justify a salary increase is to show your boss how you are going to make them more money. For example, I fit scleral and specialty contact lenses, which is something my supervising optometrist chose not to do. I bring in about $13,000 of revenue per year just by fitting scleral lenses. Bring a report showing them that extra money you make for the practice and they will be more likely to grant your wish for a raise.
If your practice sells items such as Omega-3s, artificial tears, lid cleansers, Latisse, etc., you can use your selling power to show that your sales volume is growing, or even better yet, higher than your boss’s. For example, I also enjoy dry eye management and take the time to discuss the needed treatments with my patients. I was able to use my EHR to create a report to show that I more than doubled the sale of dry eye treatments and products in one year. Other specialties that could add to your value include pediatrics, vision therapy, low vision, cosmetic optometry, dry eye disease, and glaucoma management.
There are other contributions you may make beyond job expectations that can be used when negotiating. This could include things like external marketing, internal marketing, patient education documents, social media and SEO, staff education and advancement, and office efficiency enhancements. As a new grad optometrist, you have the valuable knowledge of seeing many different practices and how they operate. This knowledge could be leveraged to improve patient care and office flow at your new job. Your fourth-year rotations are the perfect time to start preparing for your job when you graduate. You should be making notes on things you like and dislike about each of your rotations and collect patient education and staff education materials from each site.
If you work for a practice that actively tracks and monitors their practice metrics, gather data to see how you are performing relative to other optometrists in the practice (side note: bravo for working for a smart practice that tracks metrics, as this is essential for success). As a practicing OD, you have a strong influence on metrics such as revenue per patient, contact lens fitting percentage, daily disposable contact lens percentage, and exams per hour, and these can be used to prove your worth. If you're still looking for ways to demonstrate value and get your raise, we have some insights from a peer in Physical Therapy.

Consider your tactical approach

When you ask for a salary review, it is critical to do so tactfully and respectfully. You do not want to come across as greedy or ungrateful. Using tactical empathy is a winning technique for being successful in your negotiation. I strongly encourage you to read Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss before you begin your preparation. Chris Voss is a lead FBI negotiator who will teach you the tricks of tactical empathy as well as other negotiating tactics.
It may be prudent to start the negotiation with things that you love about working for the practice and things you admire about the owner. Your goal is to get them to say “that’s right.” For example, you may say something like “It seems like it's important to you that we improve patient flow in order to be more efficient and schedule more patients.” Pause and let them think, agree, and say “that’s right.” Then you present how you are going to accomplish that for them and the practice. The example above also illustrates labeling, another important tactic in negotiating. The goal of labeling is to validate emotions by acknowledging them. Create a list of labels or “It seems like…” sentences prior to the start of your negotiations.
During the negotiation, use mirroring to elicit the other party to elaborate and reveal more information in order to show their needs and position. Mirroring is as simple as repeating the last few words of the other party’s sentence. For example, your boss may say something to the effect of “I need to look at the practices’ numbers. I know that we have had some expenses increase recently.” You would reply with a question: “increased expenses?” Pause, and let the other party elaborate. The more you know about the other party, their needs, and the needs of the practice, the better you can negotiate your position.
Use calibrated questions during the negotiation to reveal value to you and your counterpart. These questions can help you to discover potential deal killers while driving the conversation in a direction you want. Calibrated questions are open-ended questions that help come to a collaborative answer to your problem. Never start a question with ‘Why’ because it's accusatory in nature. Start with ‘How’ or ‘What’ instead. A great example of a calibrated question would be “How can I help make this better for us?” while “What can I do to add value to the practice in order to earn increased compensation?” would be a smart question to ask at your first job interview.

Know your goal but let your boss bring up specifics

When it comes to the specific wage, do not freely give a dollar amount. Your goal is to get your counterpart to give you the first number and then negotiate for more. Allow the optometrist or owner to review their numbers and see what he or she is able to pay you to keep the business healthy (if the business goes under then you will make zero money from them). If the owner asks you for your desired salary and you can’t get them to offer a number first, have a range ready to give them. This range should include your desired salary in the lower half of the range.
This leaves room for negotiating and still winning while setting a high anchor. If it comes to a final single number or a counter offer number, use a random or odd number. This makes it appear as if you have spent a lot of time and thought into calculating the number. For example, if you give a range of daily per diem of $425-475 and they come back with an offer of $425 per day, counter with $465 rather than accepting outright or countering with an easy, even number such as $450.

Be flexible

Remember that when negotiating, base salary is not the only way you can enhance your position. There are many things that you can ask for that give you more value:
  • production bonuses
  • licensing expenses
  • AOA fees
  • continuing education reimbursements
  • professional clothing allowances
  • sick leave and vacation days
  • insurances (short-term disability, long-term disability, life, malpractice, health, dental, etc.)
  • partnership (If you're interested in becoming a partial owner, NewGradOptometry has a guide to optometry practice partnership!)
I believe the easiest one to negotiate is a production bonus. This is a win-win scenario where if you make the business more money, then you also make more money. You are happy and your boss is happy.

How to ask for a raise: by preparing

Remember that you are a valuable asset to your practice and deserve to get paid for your contributions and experience. Careful preparation and knowing your goal before asking for the raise is crucial. Make sure to build rapport with your boss and get them to say “that’s right.” Use tactical empathy to relate to the owner and labeling and mirroring to understand the owner's needs and emotions while revealing information. Try to get the owner to communicate the first offer and negotiate further from there. Lastly, remember to include non-salary items in your negotiation. Good luck. You got this!
Kellen Robertson, OD
About Kellen Robertson, OD

Dr. Kellen Robertson graduated from Pacific University in May of 2016. He works at Eyes for Life in Spokane, WA where he is starting and branding a dry eye clinic from scratch. His interests include ocular surface disease and other anterior segment conditions as well as scleral lenses. Private practice and business management are two things he is passionate about.

Kellen Robertson, OD
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