Article Date: 4/1/2009

Selling Yourself in a Bad Economy
Street Smarts

Selling Yourself in a Bad Economy

If you want to find a job in this sluggish economy, develop skills that will help you stand out and get noticed.

By Dan Beck, OD
Leland, N.C.

EVERYONE knows the economy stinks. The job climate hasn't been this bad in decades and most companies are down-sizing, not hiring. It's possible that offers from your internship or residency programs are off the table.

So what's a new optometry school grad supposed to do in order to land a good job these days? The answer hasn't really changed: be able to generate more income than what you're being paid. What has changed is the degree of difficulty in achieving this feat. Many doctors no longer are content with hiring associates that only do what they were hired to do. They're looking for fresh blood with unique skills and abilities that will help develop new sources of income for their practices.

Looking back over the past year, I discovered employees in my practice who have impressive skills that would dramatically boost their hiring potential if they had to look for employment elsewhere.

EMR Experience

Most optometric practices, out of desire or necessity, already have implemented electronic medical records (EMR) or are in the process of doing so. Many insurance companies encourage the use of EMR systems and even reward providers for filing claims electronically. A potential hire may not be familiar with a specific type of EMR software, but experience with any paperless system gives him a leg up on the competition.

Retinal Imaging Interpretation

Nearly all modern-day optometric practices have access to diagnostic imaging equipment, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), retinal tomography or other devices for examining the retina. While having a basic understanding of test results is expected, having in-depth knowledge and experience with specific devices will put you ahead of the pack. For example, a new doctor who can interpret a scan, offer insights and recommend treatments or a referral will be highly valuable in any practice.


Most ODs are hacks when it comes to gonioscopy. After almost 15 years in practice, I never enjoyed performing the procedure until recently. As with anything else, I forced myself to do it, and I became proficient. Now, I enjoy looking at a patient's medical record and noticing that he's due for a gonioscopy exam. Even though the reimbursement amount is small, every little bit helps. More importantly, yearly gonioscopy exams are the standard of care for glaucoma management. So if a hiring doctor knows you can perform gonioscopy well, that knowledge may give you an edge.

Calls After Hours

Many practices expect new associates to take calls after hours, but some don't offer after-hours answering services. Your willingness to handle calls after hours almost guarantees you a position in a large number of practices. Generally speaking, most practices don't get a large volume of calls after hours, and many of the calls that trickle in can wait until the next day. But your willingness to accept this responsibility can make you a more desirable job candidate.

Market Yourself

Let's face it. The job market is tight. The competition has never been greater. But if you impress a potential employer by marketing yourself and highlighting key skills that will help grow the practice or take it to another level, there's no doubt you'll find a suitable position. nOD

Selling himself to anyone who will listen, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of Pennsylvania College of Optometry. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2009