What is your advice for someone working their way to become an Optician?
Make sure you love what you’re learning. Working is so much easier when you enjoy what you’re doing. When I was first put in a position in an eye clinic, I had no medical work history and I was overwhelmed. The negative self talk was flooding my mind but I pushed past it and studied harder for the ABO than any other test I’ve ever taken.
Why should anyone get certified/licensed?
Understanding the fundamentals of optics should be required for any optician. We are the last line of defense before a patient receives their glasses. Any optical errors in the lens could fall on you. If you’re unable to detect those defects or errors you are unable to do your job. Having the credential is a way to vouch for your education on the subject and give yourself some power in the matter. You don’t want to be in a position where a patient asks you an optical related question about their lenses and you are a deer in headlights.
In your experience, what is the best way to prepare for an Opticianry test?
My favorite resource while studying for the ABO test was uuniversity.com, they have a lot of free education to help you navigate the beginning steps of opticianry. They even teach about insurance and that itself is a whole other monster. Andrew Bruce runs a series called “Acing the ABO” and it was a huge benefit to take that class. It’s an intensive workshop that will really help you understand and prep for the ABO. The class itself was live so you can ask questions and bounce ideas off other people taking it with you over zoom if you don’t understand something. Of course we all learn differently and I am more of a hands on learner but the online resources such as Laramy-K on Youtube, can really help you understand the basic concepts.
What do you remember as being a prominent part of the test or that you were surprised to see on the test?
I remember being surprised to see how heavy the questions were for the ANSI standards. Make sure you have those locked down in your brain before taking the test. I was most afraid of the prism questions, however, as I was taking the test I realized that the answers to those questions came easier to me because it was a multiple choice and by process of elimination, usually the right answer was obvious. Also it was super helpful to wear a pair of glasses to the test so when you are getting those prism questions and adjustment questions it makes more sense to use the glasses you are wearing to help answer the question correctly.
How do you decide if an additional credential should be earned?
If you’re wanting to progress your education and professionalism past the basic ABO there are other credentials you can attain. I don’t think anyone should ever stop learning but that doesn’t mean you need to keep pushing your credentials unless its something you’re passionate about doing. It could definitely benefit you when it comes to getting pay raises and making yourself an indispensable optician – which are tough to come by and definitely sought out all over the country.
What was the point when you decided to attain your license/certification?
No one forced me to get it, I actually got it months before becoming a full time optician while I was still an optical tech. I am just the type of person who always wants to keep growing and learning. That was the right move for me at the time, which ended up benefiting me in the long run when the optician we had decided to move on and there was a position to fill.
What do you feel is your strongest skill as an Optician?
Genuine care for other human beings. I know lots of good technical opticians that don’t have the empathy I think it takes to be a great optician. It’s what keeps patients coming back. You have to build trust with a patient and every patent is different. Reading the room and understanding what the patients need is the most important skill I have as an optician.
What role have you held that best helped you to be the Optician you are today?
I was a the only Optician at a boutique eyewear, double doctor practice that was also a dry eye/ vision therapy/ pediatric eye clinic. We had a huge range of clients but most were high end. It was a different experience for me since I’ve always been a thrifty shopper but it taught me a lot about adapting to my clientele and giving others what they want no matter what your own personal beliefs are. If someone says “I want a fun frame”, you don’t hand them a black Clubmaster Ray-Ban even if it’s an easy sell. I take pride in letting patients try on frames that get them out of their comfort zone. 90% of the time the patient ends up buying the first frame I had them try on because I listened to what they wanted and I know what is going to look good on them.
What is your advice to someone who lacks sales skills or confidence?
Do anything in your power to push past the negative self talk. The more you submerge yourself into something the more it will start to make sense to you. Even as I was taking my ABO test there were some things that I didn’t fully understand but I had them memorized. It takes years to fully understand some of the concepts of opticianry and even then there are many thing to learn in this ever-evolving territory. Another little bit of advice I can give you is find someone to look up to in the field. It might not be someone in your office, but reaching out to someone on social media can be a great way to build your support system.
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’m an eyewear rep now but I still offer my optician skills as a freelance optician in PDX and surrounding areas. My optician skills are the most helpful skill I have with my current job as an eyewear rep for Catch London with the House of Tom Davies. Eyewear reps build relationships with opticians and frame buyers and when I was an optician I was the frame buyer as well. I can relate to the staff at the eye clinics that I service. I can read the room when they are too busy for me and I never hold an expectation from them. Communication is key and if you do not know what the office you are working for needs, you are unable to provide them with a beneficial service. I try to offer them help in anyway that I can because I know how hard it is to work in eyecare, especially in smaller eye clinics with a smaller staff where everyone is wearing multiple hats, if not all of them, at times.
Realize that you are in the best field in the world (In my opinion) I feel like the optical industry has so much to offer and if you are unhappy being in an office all day there are so many other opportunities for you in the optical field. I recommend joining your local opticians association as well as the Optical Women’s Association, which is nationwide. This has opened so many doors for me and given me inspiration and knowledge to progress my career in optical.
Responses in this interview provided by Jesse Anderson, ABOC
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