Becoming An Optician: Shawn Lessard, Licensed Optician

What is your advice for someone working their way to become an Optician?

Opticianry is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers that an individual can pursue today. There are few other professions which provide the same level of opportunity with as low of a barrier to entry. Most individuals have access to becoming a professional in a short period of time, and for the most part, can pursue a career while working and earning a living. My organization has helped hundreds of student to become licensed eye care professionals who now manage or own their own businesses. Most of these individuals have achieved their goals within 1-2 years with very little time and monetary investment. For these people, pursuing opticianry has been life changing!
 

Why should anyone get certified/licensed?

I truly believe that certification is the key to the future of Opticianry. Becoming certified proves a level of competency in your craft; not only the public but also to your colleagues. The only way we can ensure that our field continues to grow is to mandate that all opticians receive similar training, and are able to demonstrate the same proficiencies. Not only should we mandate certification as requirement for Opticians, we should also hold the licensing bodies accountable to ensure the examinations are challenging enough to prove a candidate is competent enough to practice. Standards elevate our field, make us more accountable for our abilities. Not to mention, professions that require certification normally will command higher wages, and more public respect. The question is not should you become certified. A better question is, should certification be mandatory and regulated….to which the answer should be yes!
 

In your experience, what is the best way to prepare for an Opticianry test?

Well, a shameless plug: ModernOptician.com. I have devoted my entire career to training, and guiding opticians from student/apprentice to professional. Our programs are designed to not only help students grasp the underlying concepts required to be a good optician, but also are designed specifically to prepare for any licensing exam they may encounter (ABO, State exams, NACOR, etc.)

Outside from modernoptician.com, I feel as though the average student doesn’t read enough these days. There are a number of excellent resources out there that can truly educate you and better prepare you for any exams you may be looking to challenge.

The #1 resource literary resource that comes to mind is “systems for ophthalmic dispensing” by Brooks & Borish. If you dedicate yourself to ready through this book and complete the exercises at the end of the chapters, you will be on the right track!
 

How do you decide if an additional credential should be earned?

Additional credentials prove proficiency in your field. In my opinion, if you have access to additional certification, you should pursue it. It will make you more knowledgeable, better at your job, and provide more value to your patient.
 

What was the point when you decided to attain your license/certification?

It was never a question. Certification was a priority since day 1.
 

What do you feel is your strongest skill as an Optician?

Empowerment and training; to help other believe in themselves, aim for bigger goals, and achieve them!
 

What role have you held that best helped you to be the Optician you are today?

I’ve tried to diversify my skill set as much as possible over the years. To the point that I have specifically taken jobs that would provide exposure to other facets of eyecare that could in turn help me become a better eye care professional and Optician.
I’ve spend a good amount of my career working in the refractive surgery field as well as in general Ophthalmology. This has given tremendous insight on how vision and ocular health work and how it is treated. This has directly impacted my abilities as an optician; especially when troubleshooting visual problems and counseling patients through visual ailments.

I strongly encourage any Optician to take advantage of any opportunities they can pursue in Ophthalmology. It will definitely help up your Opticianry game!
 

What is your advice to someone who lacks sales skills or confidence?

My opinion on this subject may be different then some of my colleagues. I think some of the best Opticians out there don’t need to be good at sales. You are a professional and an expert when it comes to visual correction. If you aren’t good at selling or simply don’t like to, don’t worry about….just be really good at the parts of the job that matter: troubleshooting, dispensing, advocating, etc.

Working for a big box store will likely not be your cup of tea, but that’s ok to! I’m sure when Optician and “salesperson” became synonymous, but you don’t have to fall into that trap if you don’t want to. Let the “sales people” sell, and let the professionals advise.
 

If you are no longer an Optician in the traditional sense on a daily basis, how did your Optician skills help you with what you’re doing now?

Resiliency. Anyone who survives optical will be able to thrive in any setting that deals with the public. Though I do love our field, I honestly believe it is the most challenging when it comes to abuse from the public. If you can come out of your daily interactions in the optical in one piece, you can take on anything!
Opticianry needs leaders! Those who want better for the field and for those working in it! There has been a decline in our profession, and it will only continue unless the exceptional among us do what it takes to elevate our standards of practice.
I meet exceptional Opticians every day, and I know there is still hope. My only wish is that some of those shining stars do what it takes to make sure we are moving onwards and upwards!
 
Responses in this interview provided by Shawn Lessard, Licensed Optician

Find Shawn online here:
Modernoptician.com
Modern Optician Courses
Modern Optician Books
Modern Optician on YouTube
Modern Optician on Facebook
Modern Optician on Instagram
 

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