Article Date: 10/1/2004

if I had to do it over
Work Hard, Have Fun!
Don't forget -- when you're planning your career, you're also planning your life.

Starting a career can be all-consuming. We all want to get off to the best possible start. Some do that by working too many days and hours, shortening their careers. Here's my Rx for longevity.


We can practice optometry for a long time. But there is a catch: To do it, you need to think in the long term. That means avoiding burnout by making time for yourself and a well-rounded life.

To make the experience richer, build and nurture relationships in your profession and the community.

Here are a few tips:

Play golf. You can take this literally or not. Just get out with your colleagues. I've realized the power and value of networking over the years, often having learned more by chatting with colleagues in the hallway or over cocktails than I did in many meetings and classrooms. You don't need to learn everything on your own. It's OK to ask people their opinions.

Keep in touch. Make a serious effort to keep in contact with professors, classmates and colleagues -- people you either like personally or respect. E-mail and cell phones make staying in touch easy.

Say "thank you." A word, a note or an e-mail of thanks is very powerful. It can be tempting to become egocentric in our profession, but it's important to acknowledge those who help you. People may not realize how much they've taught you. Let them know.

Join up. There's a whole world out there, and getting involved with various organizations can keep you active in it. Professional groups are wonderful, as are volunteer and community associations and activities. You could join a local business or women's group. You'll expand your horizons beyond optometry.

Make time off. Don't just take time off, make it. If you work efficiently, you'll have time to get involved in other activities for networking, as well as for friendship and personal enrichment. Go to the art museum, take a cooking class, go shopping. Efficient use of your practice time will give you the freedom you need.

Travel. Personal travel is essential, but keep in mind the exciting opportunities to practice optometry abroad. At Illinois College of Optometry, we participate in Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, traveling to locations, such as Jamaica and Honduras. Three years ago, I went to Lithuania and found it thrilling and amazing.


Travel, shopping, playing golf -- I know this may not sound like the nose-to-the-grindstone start of a career. Hard work is fulfilling, and it's an important foundation for your career. But if you plan for the fulfillment you want from life as a whole -- personally and professionally -- you'll be ensuring your career's longevity, as well.

Dr. Jurkus is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry, where she is now a full professor and coordinator of the contact lens residency program. Contact her at


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2004