What is your advice for someone working their way to become an Optician?
Keep working towards your goal! I mentor apprenticing/new opticians who sometimes comment that they can’t believe what they didn’t know. I tell them to get ready, I’m still learning 35 years later! Opticianry is a career field that advances, changes, and challenges me…which I enjoy and find rewarding. If I ever think I know it all, I’m done.
Why should anyone get certified/licensed?
Becoming a licensed optician is an excellent starting point for a career rich with opportunities to build a personal body of knowledge based on individual experiences and lifelong learning. When I was younger, I thought it was my ultimate goal. I now realize it was just the beginning.
In your experience, what is the best way to prepare for an Opticianry test?
I read textbooks and articles, utilize workbooks, and brainstorm with others in the field. I make flashcards because I am a notetaker and better retain information I’ve written myself. Then I take practice tests until I’m confident I understand the material.
What do you remember as being a prominent part of the test or that you were surprised to see on the test?
I completed the Career Progression Program in the late 80’s and I apprenticed with an optometrist who expected excellence and prepared me well. I’ve had other mentors over the years who also invested their time and expertise in me so I could walk into a test with confidence.
What was the point when you decided to attain your license/certification?
I obtained my ABO certification in 1990 but due to personal circumstances I delayed licensing. In 2003, when both my short term and long term professional goals aligned with being licensed, waiting no longer made sense.
What do you feel is your strongest skill as an Optician?
I apprenticed with an optometrist who cautioned me that patients rarely complain without a valid reason. He taught me a systematic “word problem” approach to troubleshooting that gets to the root problem and resolution quickly. I find word problems challenging and fun so problemsolving became a strength.
What role have you held that best helped you to be the Optician you are today?
All are valuable to me. Each role has provided opportunities to grow and explore different aspects of private practice and patient care; from management, leadership, and teaching/onboarding/cross-training technicians, optical team members, and opticians.
What is your advice to someone who lacks sales skills or confidence?
Knowledge is power. Know your products and how patients will benefit and it won’t feel like selling. Confidence comes with knowledge and experience. Each day builds both. Find a mentor who will support and encourage you in your journey.
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?
My last full-time position was Director of Employee Development and Success Coaching. What a fantastic opportunity for me to see the future of opticianry in the young men and women entering the field. I am excited for them and the advancements they will surely see over their careers. Last year, I decided to work part time. I have had the opportunity to continue working on the strategic side of practice management, training, and on-boarding. I also fill-in for opticians from time to time. Opticianry is fast paced and slowing down has been an adjustment for me!
I was a seventeen year-old college student when I began working in an optometric office part-time to pay for my first pair of contact lenses. I’ve met many opticians who also “fell into” the profession by chance. If I could go back in time, I’d choose opticianry, and I’d get my license sooner. I’ve been blessed with strong mentors throughout my career, and in their honor, I’ve worked to pay it forward by mentoring and encouraging others.
Responses in this interview provided by Stacey M. Thompson, LDO, ABOC, NCLEC
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