If you’re like me, you had to go out-of-state to follow your dreams to optometry school. While gaining new experiences elsewhere is valuable, in my opinion there’s nothing like home sweet home. But how can you get a step ahead in job hunting when you’re so far away from the area you want to return to? Here are a few tips to guide you to the right job while pursuing your education elsewhere!
- Get involved! Most students get involved with some sort of organization during their undergraduate career to add to their chances of getting into optometry school. However, don’t forget that getting into optometry school isn’t your final goal – getting a job is! You want to continue adding to your curriculum vitae during optometry school. If you can’t keep your grades up while being the president of an organization, don’t fret. Just find an organization you’re passionate about and be actively involved in that. The president needs someone to sit at a table and sell tickets during lunch? Volunteer an hour of your time. Lots of small time commitments add up, so get involved and help out in any way you can!
- Become a member of your state association. Most state associations offer free (or at least very reduced) membership fees for students. Being a student member gives you access to local member benefits as well as state association publications, allowing you to stay abreast on issues in your state while you are away.
- Attend your state association meeting. State association meetings are a great way to network. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself to a small group of doctors. Most will be happy to talk to you! Remember: optometry is a small profession. Even if that particular doctor isn’t looking, they may be able to introduce you to a friend who is. NOTE: I chose to advocate the state meeting in this article because the smaller setting is more comfortable to most students. However, there are certainly amazing opportunities at the national meetings! You just need to be willing to put yourself out there! I have met tons of doctors at the national meetings, and each meeting I go to continues to broaden these connections. Just make the most out of whatever meeting you decide to go to.
- Don’t underestimate the power of your school’s faculty. Many are willing to introduce you to their friends around the country when you approach them at meetings. This also includes the doctors you work for on your externships! Remember, many of your professors are well-respected in their areas of expertise, so they may actually be one of the speakers! I will be the first to say a name-drop from your professor can go a long way!
- Family is everything! Going off of the theme from above, also don’t underestimate your family’s ability to advocate for you. Even though I never asked them to, my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles would casually mention they had a daughter/granddaughter/niece to their optometrist during annual exams. I was always amazed when they would call me after the exam to say “I told Dr. Smith about you, and he/she wants you contact them!”
Meeting the doctors you talk to and seeing their practice is an important step before you make any decisions, but you can gather a lot of contacts and information before you invest in a trip to make it happen. Of course, all of these efforts are futile if you don’t follow up with the doctors you communicate with! You are your biggest advocate, so START EARLY and put yourself out there!