Jason Searle, our resident optom blogger shares his advice for building your professional contacts…
Optometry, as you may have already found out, is a large profession. There are many avenues that you can take post-qualification and tens of thousands of us dotted not only around the country, but around the world as well. For most of us, we will generally know a local optometry practice to where we grew up, our friends and colleagues that we studied alongside as well as the practice that we battled through the pre-registration year in.
You may think that is enough when it comes to optical contacts, but you’ll most likely benefit from knowing a few other like-minded professionals on top of the ones that you are already connected with. Making the right contacts can provide you with some amazing opportunities to progress your career. This blog looks at ways that you can grow your professional network and stay as linked as you can possibly be to the evolving world of optometry.
I’ll start with the area where I first started building my network – social media. When I first started my pre-reg, I started up a Twitter account that had the aim of retweeting optical news stories and to promote the profession. Just by doing this, I have connected easily with over 6000 optical professionals. These professionals may be practice owners, manufacturers, academics or even emerging optometry students. I’m not saying do exactly like I have, but you can engage sensibly with social media sites and grow your network.
Another fantastic social media site is LinkedIn. It allows you to publish your resume and highlight your professional achievements that may highlight you to a potential employer. I’ve had hundreds of job opportunities come direct to me over the last few years purely for having an account on their website.
I will add that you need to be cautious when using social media and to try and separate your professional contacts from your personal ones. A careless status update, a share or like may impress your friends, but could appear negative to prospective colleagues and employers. The College of Optometrist have a great guide on how to use social media in an acceptable manner (1).
Conferences are brilliant ways to further your network. Most attending the conference are motivated to be there, looking to learn and engage with others. If others are keen to make new contacts, then the entire process is made a lot easier. With specialist events such as the Hospital Conferences, Specsavers’ PACs and Therapeutics conferences, the attendees will be more geared to your professional interests and as such will likely become invaluable contacts for the future.
I personally enjoy attending conferences when I can as it also puts you in direct contact with the leaders in each field of optometry and hearing their thoughts and research in a given area first hand can be a rewarding experience. Additionally, manufacturers and other companies can be present to market their products, which again gives you additional professional links that may aid your career. Also, don’t forget the freebies – pens, notepads, PD rulers are just some of the extra benefits of attending the many conferences that occur across the year!
As mentioned in a previous blog, optometrists and dispensing opticians are required to continually self-improve with the need to obtain CET points. In many instances employers, outside companies and LOCs arrange small training events that occur locally to help meet this requirement. Some of the consultants in my local area put on an evening once every few months that include a couple of relevant lectures and a cooked meal. These events bring many other optometrists from the local area together, once again allowing a night for networking.
Furthermore, if these training events include a peer review session, relevant discussions on how your peers are practising can help guide your professional performance in the future, as well as gaining that all-important peer review CET point.
Local Optical Committees (LOCs)
Your local optical committee is also a source for networking; with enthusiastic optometrists and dispensing opticians that help represent the interests of community optometrists and dispensing opticians. Contacting these LOCs can enable you to stay on top of the latest local optical developments, training and any changes to the local pathways and shared care scheme. Details of the relevant committee members are usually available on the respective LOC website – allowing you to have further contacts within the profession.
This post looked at ways of successfully increasing your optical network. Beyond the points established above, there are many more ways that you can meet new contacts, strengthen your professional reach and be involved in furthering the social aspect of your career. Do you have any tips that you have found useful? If so, please comment below.
If you would like to chat about your career and possible opportunities to develop please call the Prospect Health Optometry team on 01423 813 452 or have a look at the current roles available here