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CREATING A LONG-TERM CAREER PLAN

Getting what you want from your career in optometry means first figuring out what that is. Do you want to join a group practice? Is a retail setting something youíd consider? Or maybe youíd choose to open your own practice, as our editors did. While considering your professional path, determining your personal goals is just as important. In this issue, Dr. Kerksick discusses the importance of mapping out your future in optometry, and embracing whatever detours you may encounter.






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While I was a student in optometry school, I remember the anticipation of being finished with school. During my fourth year, I became very driven and focused to follow my dream: to open my own practice cold. Thatís exactly what I did. I tell my story to so many students and they all ask the same question, ďHow did you do that, Dr. Kerksick?Ē The answer is simple; I formulated a long-term plan marking what I wanted to do professionally along with a goal/timeline of when I wanted to reach these milestones.

 

First, Define Your Goals

To me, there are several things that you must consider when formulating your long-term plan. I asked myself many times what I wanted out of life. What is my definition of a good quality of life? All of these questions are very important when making your professional decisions. For me, private practice just made sense. I love the relationship-building part of optometry. I am a people person and enjoy getting to know my patients on a personal level. I also love the business aspect of optometric care. I have embraced the challenges that accompany ownership of a private practice such as the constant attention it requires. I mention this because not everyone wants this type of lifestyle. There are many optometrists who want a practice modality that offers more flexibility and thatís OK. Itís just important to know your definition of ďa good quality of lifeĒ before formulating your long term plan.

When formulating your long-term plan, have a long-term goal. This long-term goal is different for everyone. For instance, one of my long-term goals is to add a partner within the next four years. Presently, Iím in the process of initiating all of the steps necessary to make that happen. The one thing that Iíve learned since being out school is that your long-term plan should never end. I celebrate my successes and achievements as they occur, but my long-term plan is and always will be a work in progress.


Focus, But Welcome Opportunities

Lastly, Iíd like to mention that itís important to be flexible with your long-term plan.  Welcome change that brings to the table new opportunities and challenges. Reflecting back on my four years since graduation, Iím amazed at how narrow-minded I was about my career. Iíve been successful and have achieved many of the long-term goals that I had made for myself during my fourth year of optometry school. However, Iím truly in awe at how many additional milestones Iíve hit that I never even considered as a student. Iíve been blessed with so many incredible opportunities that Iíve been able to take advantage of secondary to my profession. Iíve had the opportunity to experience travel all over the world as a public speaker for the optometric industry, as well as teaching students, participating in contact lens research projects, and writing articles such as the one that youíre reading.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself traveling, speaking, teaching, or writing. My vision was much more limited four years ago. Even though Iím certain that it was my specific focus that has brought me so much success in my private practice, Iím glad that I was able to loosen up a bit and try my hand at new experiences and challenges within the profession of optometry. If I could offer one piece of advice to the new graduates, Iíd say that even though a long-term plan is crucial to personal and professional success, remain open-minded in this great profession of ours. You never know what opportunities await you.

We Want to Hear From You! new O.D.s, whatís on your mind? Please send us your comments, questions and column ideas. Weíll include them in upcoming editions of the newsletter. Please e-mail us at response@newod.com

Starting Strategies

The best way to strategically manage your time in the exam room is plant your professional recommendation. This is a great way to keep exam flow moving and create trust with your patient. One of the biggest mistakes that new practitioners make is that they ask the patient what they want to try. For example, I suggest that you recommend a particular contact lens to a patient rather than ask the patient which lens they want to try. Most patients have no idea about what option is the best choice for them. They rely on us for our professional recommendation. Donít be afraid to be assertive and cast your professional recommendations to your patients. Ė Kelly Kerksick, O.D.

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