Article Date: 10/1/2008

Organized Optometry: A Window Of Opportunities
If I Had to Do It Over

Organized Optometry: A Window Of Opportunities

Volunteering in a leadership role can help advance your career in more ways than you can imagine.

By Glenda Secor, OD,
Huntington Beach, Calif.

IF THERE WAS ONE thing I'd do differently, I'd become more active in organized optometry right from the start by volunteering for various organizations in my community. The long-term benefits are enormous, both personally and professionally. Over the years, I've been active in local, state and national associations, such as the Orange County Optometric Society (OCOS) and the California Optometric Association (COA).

Not becoming a volunteer would have prevented me from meeting many of the people who influenced my career decisions and provided me with valuable advice and counsel.

Benefits of Volunteering

The idea of becoming an unpaid volunteer while approaching graduation may seem counterproductive — or even daunting — since you'll be looking for employment in an existing practice, which may require you to relocate, or starting your own. But it's the best time to do it.

I was offered my first optometric job after pursuing leads I received at a society meeting at the OCOS. Eventually, I accepted an editor position at the OCOS and later served as president. On my way up the ladder, I learned that networking was critical to establishing a niche as an optometrist in my community. It also gave me a boost in self-confidence and presented me with new opportunities to visit successful practices where I learned how to fit complicated contact lens patients and manage complex eye diseases.

Later, I served as chair of the Section on Cornea and Contact Lenses of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and in other positions on various committees where I met incredible optometrists who eventually became my mentors.

Dr. Secor is a private practitioner in Huntington Beach, Calif. She's served as chair of the Section on Cornea and Contact Lenses of the American Academy of Optometry and is currently a council member of the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the American Optometric Association. She was named California's "Optometrist of the Year" in 2006.

A Woman Before Her Time

In the 1970s, I was one of the few female optometry school graduates. Now, 30 years later, the profession is poised for a tremendous expansion in the number of women practitioners.

Early in my career, I turned down leadership positions because I felt my children were too young, my office wasn't busy enough and I had bills to pay. But what I didn't realize at the time was that I could learn skills that would help me compete with more established optometrists. The skills I developed while volunteering were invaluable and could not have been learned in optometry school or from reading industry literature.

Practice Perks

Becoming a volunteer also has allowed me to generate referrals to build my practice. Colleagues I've met while serving on committees often have referred their patients to me when their patients have relocated to my area.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping outside your office requires you to move out of your comfort zone and become part of optometric and philanthropic organizations, such as the Lions Club International or Rotary International.

As a result of my hard work inside and outside the office, my practice has grown tremendously. If only I'd said yes more often to leadership opportunities, I would have been in a better position to help improve my profession even more. Plus, the additional experience would have helped me become better at what I do and I could have made a more profound difference in my community. nOD

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2008