January 15, 2015 | POSTED BY | Finance & Business, News, Post-Optometry School
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Fresh out of school, I was chomping at the bit to jump-start my exciting new career as an eye doctor and earn some cash – it’s payback time, baby! But with school loans coming due and no work experience, I was at the beginning of a long trek with no clue which way to go.

I just want to be comfortable and happy, but how do I get there?

Scouring the big job sites (simply hired, indeed, etc.) was my idea of preparing to make a career decision. There were a ton of options out there, but questions still lingered. “Commercial or private? Bustling city or boonies? Part-time or full-time,”  Sylvester Nguyen writes. Employee position, commercial lease, or start a practice?  Primary or specialty care?

Time to regroup. I could go for a full time position, but that’s a big commitment. How can I decide what I want until I get some experience?

The answer for me was doing relief work.

I started “filling in” for O.D.s around town, covering their practice when they needed time off. Working as an independent contractor offers a new grad several things.  It’s nice to make a quick $400 in one day right out of school. The pay is good, it’s quick to get hired, and the work is usually comfortable. But most practices don’t post fill in jobs on the big name websites.  So how do you find them?

Some schools, associations and societies have a classified section with local fill in opportunities. I found most of my work on Fill in Eye Doc, an online service that matches you with local fill in jobs based on your availability and pay preferences. As part of their service I get an email when a new job is posted, making it a convenient way to fill my work schedule.

The biggest advantage of per diem jobs for me was learning first-hand what it’s like in different practice settings. Within a couple months I had worked in corporate, clinic, and private practice, and the uncertainty was starting to melt away.

I began to realize what I did NOT want, which was a huge relief.  

I also made lots of professional contacts, acquired invaluable clinical experience, and learned what employers are really looking for. Of course, doing fill in work may not be the answer to all your questions.

There may not be many fill in jobs offered in your area, and unless you have a consistent source of opportunities, it probably won’t be a long term solution. Even so, it sure comes in handy when starting out, between jobs, or semi-retired. Also, for employers looking for a new associate, it’s a way to “test out” doctors before offering a more permanent position.

Like everything, working fill in jobs has it’s time and place. In addition to providing quick cash, work experience without commitment, and a flexible schedule, it can help you find out which practice setting is right (or not right) for you.