What is your advice for someone working their way to become an Optician?
Remain teachable, and find a mentor. We are in a field that is constantly evolving and technology keeps expanding. There are so many opticians with amazing skillsets, who are willing to guide you, “and teach you how to fish”. How lucky are we that our field includes fashion, art, science, critical thinking, and being of service to your community? A mentor can help clarify difficult questions, help you augment your skillset, expand your critical thinking, and expose you to so many different facets of such a versatile industry to help you find your niche.
Why should anyone get certified/licensed?
These tests aren’t meant to trick you, they are assessments on the skillset needed to perform your day to day tasks. I was trained by wonderful employers, I felt confident doing my work, and thought after all those years I knew everything I would have needed to know to do my job well. I was working in the industry for over 15 years before I decided to pursue my certifications and licensure. I do not recommend waiting as long as I did, I wish I started much sooner. Once I started pursuing a career as a professional optician, I realized very quickly, “I didn’t know, what I didn’t know.” There was a plethora of knowledge jumping out of the pages of great study material, everyday I learned something new, and I was excited to apply it. Pursuing certifications and licensure made me a much more confident, knowledgeable, and stronger optician.
In your experience, what is the best way to prepare for an Opticianry test?
When I was pursuing and preparing the advanced ABO certification exam, I finally found MY perfect recipe, I hope this too can help you. Again, the tests that are given are not meant to trick us, they are assessments of things we do everyday. While preparing know you have a working knowledge of the questions you will be asked. What worked for me, was going to the end of the chapter tests in the review manuals and taking them all at once. This way I can gauge which subject matter is my strongest, and which needs significant improvement.
Do not apply all your energy on areas you already have a great fundamental understanding of. For example, every time I took a practice test on visual assessments or anatomy I scored 95% or more. When I was taking tests on geometric or applied optics I was scoring a 65-70%, this clearly showed where an area of improvement was. I was applying my efforts into the right places. I know it will be hard, but do not study the day before your test. You are not going to learn more than you already have at that point. Allow yourself the opportunity to relax after all the hard work you have been putting in for weeks, and/or months. I was much more relaxed and confident the day of the test.
What do you remember as being a prominent part of the test or that you were surprised to see on the test?
With the basic ABO certification test, I was surprised in retrospect how the subject matter touched the surface of everything we will need learn. It was much easier than I expected at the time. With the state licensure exams, I was surprised how well it emulated a hands-on encounter with a person seeking my assistance in a dispensary. I felt a bit more at ease when I realized it was a test on my confidence level of assessing a problem, and offering solutions based on the persons needs. For the advanced certification test (which I encourage every optician to take), I was surprised with how the process of preparing for the exam forced me to be a better critical thinker. I am a stronger fitter and problem solver because of that experience.
How do you decide if an additional credential should be earned?
I feel it is quite necessary. Some may be apprehensive as there may not immediately be a monetary compensation in some companies because you hold advanced certifications or credentials. I argue that it is not true, it will make you a much more valuable asset to your company or organization. Your knowledge base can save on patient inconvenience, chair-time, redo’s, and so forth. To any employer or prospective employer, expanded skills set is valuable and will help you stand out to the rest. The learning never stops in this industry, why not prepare yourself with the knowledge to better receive new and innovative technology and information?
What was the point when you decided to attain your license/certification?
I felt I was stuck in a “groundhogs day” after a decade working in the field. Same everything, different faces. I was not reading continuing education articles, I wasn’t networking with other opticians, and I hadn’t learned anything new in a while, I simply wasn’t applying myself, or being encouraged to do so. So I found myself a mentor, and they challenged me everyday to better myself and evolve in my career. In the first six months, I learned more than I had in the previous 2-5 years at that time.
What do you feel is your strongest skill as an Optician?
Fitting a person, and being “multi-lingual”. By multilingual I mean interpreting a prescription, then interviewing the client/patient, and listening closely to what the person is asking of you. Everyone articulates things differently, and they may not always be able to express their needs. It is our job to be patient, sympathetic, a soundboard, and an interpreter to be able to offer the appropriate solutions in a language they understand.
What role have you held that best helped you to be the Optician you are today?
Working in a clinic/dispensary. Being exposed to different medical conditions, having a better understanding on how it affects that persons vision and quality of life. This greatly improved my troubleshooting and communication skills.
What is your advice to someone who lacks sales skills or confidence?
Remove your “sales” hat, and put on your “fitter” hat. When you engage in conversation with a person, have a clear mind, engage only with that person, and listen twice as much as you speak. Know that you are a trained professional who already has the knowledge to address the persons needs. The prescription and conversation will reveal what would be best to suggest to that person. When you have a greater understanding of what their needs are, you can rule out a large portion of products that would not be of service to that person, and simply focus on what will. When you fit someone, offer cosmetic and health reasons on why (2-3 of each) you are suggesting them, and the sales will take care of themselves.
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?
I still work as a licensed optician only now I work in a fast paced, high volume dispensary in a two door state. I am a stronger dispenser as I am exposed to a higher volume of troubleshooting scenarios and have to offer more solutions. I am a stronger problem solver because of it.
Be of service to the opticianry community, get involved with your local state association and/or society. If your state is one of the 19 states without a local state society/organization, reach out to the Opticians Association of America (www.OAA.org) and they can help you start or revive one in your local community.
Responses in this interview provided by Marisol Rodriguez, LDO, ABO-AC, NCLEC
Find Marisol online here:
Articles written by Marisol Rodriguez in 2020 Magazine