Wake up. Make coffee. Watch lectures. Study. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Sound familiar?
It’s easy to get caught in our daily routine as optometry students, and it’s even easier to forget that there is a world outside of optometry school especially when we get thrown in an online remote learning environment. Moreover, when we fixate so heavily on the goal of doing well in that class or mastering that clinical skill, we often forget one key ingredient in career advancement: networking.
Networking can help you better understand the evolving profession, come up with new ideas and perspectives, and set you up for lifelong success. It can help you evaluate where you are, where you are going, and where you want to be. Furthermore, it can help you realize how much potential you really have under your belt. So why are we afraid to do so?
Connecting with optometrists and other like-minded individuals early on in your career may seem like a daunting task, especially when you don’t know where to start. Nonetheless, pushing your own boundaries and taking risks allows you to learn more about yourself, gain knowledge and expertise in the field, and acquire skills you would not have had otherwise. Optometrists and other professionals you meet also can play pivotal roles in shaping your future and open doors that you never knew existed.
If you don’t know where to start, start small. Spark up a conversation. Grab a cup of coffee with that person and connect over passions within or outside the field of optometry. Don’t be afraid to meet people and put yourself out there. Remember, they’re interested in optometry, too! Understand that networking is about creating relationships—not just adding names and phone numbers to your contact list. It involves connecting with others on a deeper level and continuing to grow the relationship over time. Know that networking does not come naturally for all people, so it may be a skill that you need to work on throughout your career.
Still not sure where to start? Here are five ways to get you connected to others in the optometry community:
- Reach out to your professors. Believe it or not, your professors want to see you succeed! Don’t be afraid to seek out a mentor—you may be pleasantly surprised to find that many, if not all of them, are kind people who enjoy getting to know their students. You will, after all, be their colleague one day.
- Get involved in various optometry clubs and organizations. This is an excellent way to start meeting other optometry students with similar interests and work directly with faculty. AOSA, NOSA and CAOS are great places to start. You also can become a student member of professional associations for FREE including the AAO, COVD and NORA among others.
- Attend conferences. Enjoy the benefits of being an optometry student by registering for conferences and annual meetings at student rates! If you are interested in a certain field of optometry, you are guaranteed to be surrounded by experts who would love to share their ideas and expertise. For those who are thinking of practicing in a different state, this also is a chance for you to connect with doctors from that area.
- Connect with doctors and future doctors on Instagram. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so why not use it to your advantage? You’ll discover that the Instagram optometry community is a tight-knit community of optometrists helping optometrists and optometry students helping optometry students. Here, you can find study inspiration, experience the day-to-day life of an optometry resident, and even explore unique clinical cases.
- Other avenues. Networking also will happen when you’re simply out and about living your life. Be open to the idea that someone you least expect can change your perspective, introduce you to new opportunities and, ultimately, help you become the optometrist you desire to be. Don’t limit yourself and remember that you are right where you are supposed to be.