So, you’ve just hustled your way through optometry school, maybe completed a residency, or moved across the country and need a fresh start? No matter where you are in your journey, most ODs change jobs a couple of times during their career, so it is likely you will find yourself in the job search market.
Your potential employers already know you have the knowledge—you have the degree, the board exam scores, and the state licenses and certifications (varies by state or province). You may have the many qualities of a good optometrist: passion, confidence, communication skills, motivation, collaborative skills, honesty, punctuality, and flexibility. You may also have a residency under your belt, a board certification, awards and articles, volunteer experience or transferable skills such as public speaking, social media, or advanced technological proficiency. You may have special interests in topics such as pediatrics, cornea, contact lens, dry eye, low vision, or vision therapy, to name a few.
No matter what your unique skill sets or interests are, the key to landing a great position lies in presenting yourself effectively on paper, in person, and online.
What is your ideal position?
Before you can do that however, you have to know your ideal position would encompass.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you looking to work in a private practice, corporate, ophthalmology, research/academic setting, or industry?
- Would you prefer to be in an urban, suburban, or rural optometry setting?
- What is the ideal patient demographic you would be interested in seeing—mostly pediatrics, mostly CL wearers, lots of surgical co-management?
- What would a great workplace environment look like for you?
- What kind of support or mentorship would you expect from your employer?
- What is a good compensation package look like for you? Would it include benefits such as medical, dental, and 401K?
- What sort of optometry salary structure would you seek? For example, would you like a stable base pay or one more dependent on the highs and lows of the practice’s success?
- What would your ideal vacation time and PTO requirements be? Would you want to work part-time or full-time?
How do you find great opportunities in optometry?
Finding these opportunities usually require a deep dive into a few different resources, all available with a few strokes of the keyboard.
Three good places to find great opportunities:
1) Your social network
Update your LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot, list your previous work history, relevant accomplishments and projects, and link any articles or recognition you may have received. If you can, get your classmates, co-residents, colleagues and previous employers to write recommendations and reciprocate the favor. Reach out to your network to let them know you are looking for a new position, and reach out to people in your circle who may be working at the practice or location you are interested in.
2) State and local association job boards
Check out your state and local association job boards to find up-to-date opportunities in your target area. Reach out by email or phone to your local state association representatives ore to ask more questions and show your interest.
3) EyesOnEyecare.Com, AOA Excel and other online job boards
Check out the EyesOnEyecare.com Job Board for detailed positions and/or to connect with one of their recruiters to help bridge the gap between employer and potential employee. AOA Excel’s Career Center also offers a job board, as well as Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter.com, iHireOptometry.com, and many others are all available to sort through as many positions as you can in your area.
Research your employer and reach out!
To gain insight into who your potential employer is, how they run their clinic, what the work environment looks like, and if you would be a good fit, you can start on the web. A potential workplace’s website, social media channels, Google reviews, doctor bios, and associated web pages are all useful to understand the workplace culture, web presence, and doctor backgrounds. This also helps you to see where your background and values align with that of your potential workplace and employer, and allows you to reach out in a personal way.
Once communication has been established, keep an open line and respond within a reasonable time frame; this shows clear interest and reliability. Be succinct, professional, and clear.
Optometry resume do’s and don’ts
There is no correct or best way to do a resume for an optometry position, and a quick Google search will reveal many templates you can use. Make sure to highlight skills, experiences, and knowledge that apply or transfer to the position you are applying for. A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume short, clear and concise –ideally one to two pages if possible.
- Customize your resume for the specific position you are applying for
- Include your previous work and/or clinical experiences and in chronological order
- Include top and/or relevant accomplishments
- Include related articles, interviews, accolades
- Proofread! Ask a friend or colleague for a second look.
- Have a long, multi-page essay
- List all your experiences previous to optometry school
- Include full address (city and state/province should suffice), gender, or marital status
- Mislead your employer about your grades, experiences, or accomplishments
Cover letters are supplements
A cover letter is a short, one-page introduction of you and your motivation in applying for this specific position. The best cover letters are specific, clear in intention, and demonstrate alignment between you and the job you are applying for. Once you have researched the position and determined it to be a good fit, you have to articulate your skills and words on paper. Here are some components for a great optometry cover letter:
- Header: name, city, contact information and LinkedIn page/social media channel
- Greet the employer
- Introductory paragraph: brief background on you and why you’re interested
- Body paragraph: include schooling, training, clinical opportunities/experiences, research, and awards
- Closing paragraph: remind the reader of your enclosed resume, how to reach you, and express your gratitude for consideration
- Sign off
Research yourself and be authentic
Just like you Googled your potential employer, know that they will Google you too.
Some of us have anonymity in common names but others are not so lucky. Search your full name, and your name + optometrist or OD, and click every link, picture and tagged public content. Gain an understanding of how it would look like to a potential employer who has no other information on who you are. It is wise to delete or privatize content that you personally don’t want a potential employer to see or content that could be interpreted as offensive or inappropriate.
Be cognizant of how you present yourself online, and use it to your advantage by highlighting your authentic personality and/or your portfolio of skills and achievements.
How to ace your optometry interview
Now that you’ve got an interview, the research, resume, and cover letter preparation all give you a great foundation to ace it. Once you know your interview date and time, whether it is in person or virtual, carve out some time to prepare. Being prepared includes having a clear idea of your professional qualifications, personal experiences and potential in the position you are interviewing for.
Dress for success and have a positive attitude
Stick to business casual or as stated by the interviewer, avoid loud logos, and wear your professional pants even if it is a video interview on Zoom–just in case. Appear clean, professional and true to your personal style. Have a neat, silent background if Zooming in, and make sure you are at least five to ten minutes early whether your interview is in person or online. Be positive, make eye contact and be clear when answering questions.
Prepare for frequently asked questions
Expect—and be ready to answer—these most common interview questions:
- Why would you be an ideal candidate for this position?
- Why do you want to work at our clinic/company?
- What makes you qualified for this position?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses (with examples)?
- What are your relevant previous experiences?
- Where do you see yourself moving forward in this position?
- What are your long-term goals?
Don’t forget to ask questions
When you get the opportunity, make sure you have clear questions to ask your employer that you were unable to find answers to otherwise. Here are some questions to think about:
- What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
- Where do you see the clinic/company in a few years?
- What kind of support/mentorship can I expect as an employee?
You got the job, so let’s talk money
Salary and contract negotiation can be terrifying for anyone, especially a new grad. An open and fair negotiation process between you and your potential employer is a good indication of who they are. Don’t forget to ask for a higher salary (or the potential to increase) and/or a good benefits package that includes health/dental insurance, 401K benefits, PTO and other compensations. This negotiation process signals to the employer that you are a motivated, valuable, and worthy employee and sets up an open line of communication for future negotiations.
The early 2020s, coined as the pandemic era or the “Great Resignation,” is a time of massive global upheaval of the job market, and it does not spare optometry. It is no surprise many optometrists are retiring, with many practices closing doors, rebranding, or innovating to stay afloat in uncertain waters. In the midst of an unpredictable pandemic climate, staffing issues, and the metaverse, a 2020s era optometrist candidate needs not only the academic and clinical know-how but the adaptability and determination to weather the storm.
With many great job opportunities available, preparation, professionalism, and presentation are the keys to getting hired in your ideal position.