Article Date: 2/1/2011

Landing a Job Under Challenging Market Conditions
employment

Landing a Job Under Challenging Market Conditions

I landed a job by bringing energy, focus and a healthy dose of networking to my job-hunting efforts.

Scott Gunderson, O.D., Broomfield, Colo.

As I passed through my four years of optometry school, I was convinced that at the end of it all I would be greeted by numerous fantastic job offers. After all, I was a good student with a business minor, and I spoke fluent Spanish — wouldn't practices be lining up to employ me?

Well, as it turned out, they weren't. My fellow graduates, no slouches either, found themselves in a similar predicament. Our challenge was that the job market had taken a downturn, and not many positions were being advertised.

With a wife and two kids in tow, I felt very strongly about having some job prospects lined up by the time I graduated. Initially, I followed the advice of a nationally recognized American Optometric Association representative who recommended I cast a wide net geographically, not limiting my choices to a small area of the country. It was sound advice, however, there were regions where my wife and I felt we had no connection, and the opportunities listed for the remaining areas were poor.

Though I definitely see wisdom in keeping one's options open, I found that for my particular situation, a different strategy proved more useful in landing the ideal job out of school. By narrowing my search to the areas of the country that most interested me and then focusing serious energies on discovering available opportunities in those areas, I found exactly what I was looking for. Here, I'll explain the strategies I employed in my search.

Where do you want to be?

My decision on where to look for a position involved several factors: climate, proximity to family and quality of schools, among others. Depending on one's aspirations, another point to consider may be the level of saturation in the local optometric market to determine whether starting cold could present a reasonable opportunity. That said, I would warn against strict adherence to saturation statistics when searching for associateships. If I had obeyed these figures, I never would have looked for a position in Colorado, which boasts one of the highest O.D.s-per-capita ratios in the country.

My experience has been that well-run practices will thrive and grow regardless of the competition in the area — and it's these growing practices that will be positioned to take on additional doctors to facilitate continued growth.

Develop a network

Once you select a specific state or region of the country, focus your networking efforts on asking about opportunities in that area. Studies show that the majority of jobs — possibly upwards of 80% — are never listed anywhere, but instead are found through networking. Even if the intended destination is far from your current location, a high probability exists that any given doctor will have some connection to that area through classmates or their own personal networking. Mentors, favorite professors or even new contacts made at business dinners or association meetings can be excellent sources of initial connections.

Follow-through on every contact is critical. Even if these doctors don't have a position currently available, they may very well know of a colleague who does.

Research and if needed, cold call

In my personal job hunt last year, I followed the above-listed steps, only to be led to a seeming dead-end. As a last-ditch effort to revive my moribund search, I asked my Colorado-based brother, whether he knew of any local optometrists I could call. It turned out that he did know a local O.D. from his church group. But, upon calling him I was disappointed to hear that he didn't know of any positions available in the area.

However, he did give me an excellent piece of advice: Research the practices in the area where you want to live, figure out which most interest you, and start marketing yourself to those practices.

I invested in some high-quality, watermarked cotton paper, updated my curriculum vitae (CV), with the help of my MBA-trained brother, and conducted an Internet search of practices in my preferred areas. I sent a laser-printed copy of my CV with a personalized cover letter stressing my most outstanding skills and detailing why I would be a good fit for each particular practice. I then followed up with a phone call after a week or two to make sure they received my mailing.

As it so happened, the position I ultimately accepted came to me through a combination of several steps: I had already singled out the practice through my Internet search, and soon thereafter I was directed to that practice by a contact whom I made through another contact, who was recommended by yet another contact that I had made at a corporate dinner. By failing to capitalize on any of the steps I took, I may not have found my current position.

The lesson: Figure out where you want to practice, keep beating the bushes, and something will fall out. OM

Dr. Gunderson practices at Front Range Eye Associates in Broom-field, Colo. E-mail him at drgunderson@fr-ea.com. To comment on this article, e-mail optometricmanagement@gmail.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2011