Article Date: 6/1/2008

Networking Your Way to Success
From the AOSA

Networking Your Way to Success

Learn the key to becoming a better doctor and improving your professional career.

By James F. Hill, President,
AOSA, University of Alabama at
Birmingham, School of Optometry

AS A GRADUATING STUDENT or a new practitioner about to make the transition from novice O.D. to experienced doctor, what's the one thing you can do to improve your skills and bolster your career?

The answer to this question is networking. By regularly interacting with your peers, you can increase your employment options, gain more clinical and practice management skills and build self-confidence. I'm convinced that developing these skills can be the catalyst to establishing a more satisfying and exciting career. All it takes is a little planning.

Cast a Wide Net

Most students wait until graduation approaches before they begin to line up job prospects. But one of the most beneficial things you can do as a student in your third or fourth year of optometry school is start meeting doctors in the communities where you'd like to practice.

Zack Steele, O.D., a new optometrist in Trussville, Ala., has been helping optometry students weigh their options as graduation draws near. "The most important thing you can do when looking for a job is attend state meetings where you want to practice, and talk to doctors," Dr. Steele says. "Find out which practices need doctors. Even though I may not need help in my practice, I probably know someone who does."

You also can network with future colleagues by enrolling in an externship program and attending local society meetings and national conferences where other O.D.s from around the country will be in attendance. There are ample networking opportunities, but you must be proactive and take advantage of them.

New practitioners who network with more experienced doctors at local and national meetings often receive great ideas on how to run a successful practice and improve all aspects of their career.

When you collaborate with seasoned doctors, you can receive advice on effective billing and coding practices and proper tax filing. You can learn more about marketing, staff training and how to improve patient care. The camaraderie between doctors at local and state society meetings not only helps to create a more unified environment for the optometry profession, but it raises the quality of care we offer our patients.

Self-esteem Builder

What's more, networking will enable you to develop a stronger personal identity, better communication skills and self-confidence. Good communication skills are necessary to interact with employees, sales reps and other doctors with whom you work. Self-confidence is partly innate and partly learned. By conversing and exchanging ideas with other colleagues, you'll become more proficient and educated whether you're discussing patient care, business decisions or aspects of everyday life.

The benefits of networking with colleagues and people in your community are invaluable. Good opportunities can become great opportunities when you use all of the resources available to you. Remember that the power of networking may not always be evident at the beginning. Often, you won't see the fruits of meeting new contacts until much later. However, by initiating connections early and becoming involved in your community and professional societies, you'll increase your chance of future success. So start networking today to maximize the value of the optometry degree you've worked so hard to obtain. nOD

James F. Hill is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2003 graduate of The Citadel. He became interested in optometry while driving his grandmother to and from her doctor's office, where she was being treated for age-related macular degeneration. Upon graduation, he plans to complete a residency in low vision/ocular disease and return to South Carolina to incorporate low vision into a private practice setting. You can reach him at jhill@ischool.opt.uab.edu.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2008