My Personal Advice to Optometry Students at Vision Expo

Connections, connections, connections.

That’s how I got my current OD position in San Diego, California. The practice owner who hired me, Dr. Eric White, didn’t have to read my resume, he just needed to ask around. My reputation as a friendly, connected, and entrepreneurial optometry student is what earned me my job. Dr. White doesn’t know my GPA and I don’t think he really cares. What he does care about is that I had a positive reputation in the optometric community.

matthewgellersandiegoI made about half of my connections when I was at optometry events like Vision Expo. At first I started small as a pre-optometry student: meeting individuals, expressing my goals and desires for optometry, and handing out business cards was all I needed to get started. Then, year after year, I started meeting more influential people. It wasn’t until my last Vision Expo that I realized that the “top-dogs” are always walking the exhibit halls at these meetings, I just never knew it.

Now I bet you are saying, “Well you started so of course you have connections.” My response is okay, true! BUT – how do you explain the fact that my friends who were never involved in the web site managed to pull off the same thing as me? My point is that many optometry students pull this off ALL THE TIME – it’s happening all around you. Most of these people are involved in projects, studies, and other ventures which set them apart from other students, but it’s nothing that you couldn’t achieve as well.

The reason most people don’t make an effort is because they feel socially awkward. That’s understandable, but you should push yourself out of your comfort zone. Get away from your group of friends for at least 30 minutes and get your networking game up! Leave that comfort zone and don’t be afraid to put your neck on the line to show people your dreams and aspirations in optometry. You will learn valuable lessons, meet amazing people, and take your career further than you imagined.

Do you know how many people on the team were introduced to me because they did JUST THAT? I had CEOs and directors visionexpowestemailing me all the time saying, “Matt, you’ve got to check out this student, they are very motivated to do more with their career than just being a student. Can you give them a hand?” Guess what happened? They expanded their networking circle tenfold by joining the OS team.

An optometrist once told me how many job applications from students he got on a monthly basis. He said he was very disappointed because they all looked the exact same. He would open the PDF, print it out, and sure enough, nothing special. He ended up hiring a new graduate not because he got his resume by e-mail but because he kept hearing his name come up in conversation.

I urge you to not fall into that “resume trap.” Go to Vision Expo East and West in 2014 and stand out, make a difference for yourself and for our profession.


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