Article Date: 4/1/2006

Showcase Your Skills

Whether you're looking for corporate or private practice, industry or academia, use these helpful tips to build a resumé that works for you on all levels.
By Janice M. Jurkus, O.D., M.B.A, F.A.A.O.

ABOUT THE time you're finishing your third year of optometry school, you'll start in earnest to consider your career options: Where you'll practice, what type of practice you'll join, if you'll specialize. While these questions are top of mind, you'll need to start preparing one essential tool that will help get you where you want to go. That's right, its resumé-writing time.

Follow these tips to craft a concise, compelling document that will help you get the interview and the job you want.

Tailor Your Resumé

Before your begin writing your resumé, put yourself in your future employer's shoes. The most effective resumés focus specifically on a stated job title and address the employer's requirements for the position. Ask yourself, "What is this employer looking for?" and "Why should he or she consider me for this job?" When you answer these questions, you'll have a better idea of what to include in your resumé.

The more you know about an employer and position, the more you can tailor your resumé. Resumés usually follow a chronological order, but don't be afraid to move information around to highlight the skills and experience that will convince a potential employer you deserve an interview.

Whether you're targeting a job in the corporate arena, thinking of going into a group practice or contemplating a career in academia, several core areas are essential and should appear early in your resumé. These include:

Contact information. Your name, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address are a must. If you don't have an e-mail
address outside of school, sign up for a free account at Yahoo or MSN. For a list of things you should not include in your resumé, see "Stay Away From These Resumé-Killers."

Education. List your education in reverse chronological order, with graduate degree(s) first. List the degree, the date you received it and the institution. List any honors programs as well.

Clinical experience. What did you do and what did you learn? Keep these descriptions short and don't start each sentence the same way. Each experience is different, so you should be able to express that in the descriptions.

Employment experience. When you list the jobs and corresponding responsibilities you've held — whether they're work-study positions or jobs after graduation — be sure to use action verbs such as "accomplished, directed, oversaw and provided." These terms show you've achieved tangible results.

Emphasize positions that show you've learned skills you can use in the job. Don't write more about performing tasks that a technician performs than those that require an O.D.'s skill unless you want a job as a technician.

Extracurricular activities. Optometry is grounded in volunteer service, so most potential employers will look favorably on any extracurricular services you've performed. Be sure to list memberships in professional organizations, such as the American Optometric Student Association. Educational experiences such as participation in contact lens workshops, summer research programs and classes at The Vision Care Institute show you have actively expanded your knowledge. If you're preparing your resumé for a position in the eyecare industry, list memberships in any relevant professional organizations such as the National Optometric Student Association or the American Academy of Optometry.

Now that you have the core components of your resumé, how do you arrange this information to tell a concise story about the talents you offer a potential employer? More important, what components should you include for which optometric areas? Here's a sample of different looks for different jobs.

Stay Away From These Resumé-Killers

Your resumé could be considered a calling card. It's a tool to promote yourself to prospective employers and give a brief overview of what kind of person you are and why they should interview you. But you should avoid some of the more common "red flags" on your resumé, either for legal reasons or just professionalism. Make sure you stay away from these mistakes on your resumé:

Abbreviations. Everyone may not know what you mean if you abbreviate. Spell out everything.

Have a "real" e-mail address. For instance, don't send out resumésand cover letters from ""

Industry terms or industry slang. You may think you're demonstrating insider knowledge, but using slang can show an immature streak along with a lack of professionalism.

Age, race, religion, sex, national origin. Federal laws prohibit employers from asking potential employees questions related to these issues. They don't want to know this information, and you shouldn't volunteer it.

Weaknesses. You're trying to project a positive image.

Going Into Industry or Practice?

Review your personal experience and rank the information by relevance. If you're applying for a position as an "associate in a multispecialty practice with an emphasis on contact lens fitting," for example, your resumé should contain the following information along with all core sections:

Clinical experience. Employers will want to know where you acquired your clinical experience; what your responsibilities were; if you saw many patients; and what skills you acquired from this experience. Also include contact lens-related research, such as teaching or workshops you attended. 

Going Back to School?

If your career path seems to be leading you back to academia and teaching, several crucial areas will get a prospective employer's attention after your core competencies, including:

Research experience. Include the title and a description of your study, where it was conducted, who supervised your part in it, who funded it and when you worked on it.

Publications/Presentations. If you've done research work, you'll be expected to have published the results or presented your findings at professional meetings. If you've written articles or books or contributed content to a Web site, be sure to include this information on your resumé.

Paying Dividends

Your resumé is a selling tool that outlines your skills and experiences so an employer can see, at a glance, how you can contribute to the workplace. Be sure it's a compelling read.

You should make sure that several standard features are present on your resumé. Using Microsoft resume templates will ensure consistency and automatically print your name on the top of each page. It's best to limit your resumé to two pages and use high-quality paper for printing.

Remember, your resumé is competing with hundreds of resumés that list similar education and experience. Make sure you put the best shine possible on your talents by taking stock of all you can bring to a practice. Then sit down and put those thoughts into words.

Dr. Jurkus is a professor and coordinator of the contact lens residency program at the Illinois College of Optometry.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2006