I fell into optical by accident. I was working at a factory, going to college and waiting tables to make ends meets. My shift at the carpet mill was changing and I needed a job that was flexible around my schedule so I searched the Help Wanted Ads of my local newspaper and applied for a position of optician at a local full-service optical in the mall. I had no idea what I was applying for, just that the hours were good, it was air-conditioned and there was no carpet involved. Luckily, despite my lack of experience, I got that job and a few more after that; however, there have been times, especially in the beginning, when it was a struggle. After all these years, I have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight and there are a few things I wish I had known from the beginning.
- Consumer care is priority one, sales will follow. I know that this often seems the reverse of any directive that you may receive, but trust me. Always keep your focus on the person in your care.
- Opticianry is a profession and a trade. It is a highly adapted skill set that combines fashion, manufacturing, and health. Take pride in this and realize that you are one of the few professions that are blessed to accommodate such a wide range of interests.
- Take the time to know the basics as they are the foundation of your career. Lensometry, base curve selection, adjustments, and the hand stone are all cornerstones of your craft.
- Consumers are horrible. Consumers are wonderful. With the rare exception, what they are, depends a lot on your attitude.
- Get certified. All the certifications. No, you probably will not get paid more. No, they won’t all make you a better optician. However, this does show dedication, an ability to retain information, pride in your field, and pride in yourself.
- Listen to everyone. Consumers, peers, supervisors, doctors… they all have something to teach you if you are willing to listen.
- Don’t believe everything you hear. Research; if something doesn’t make sense, or if you get contradictory information, take it upon yourself to find out the truth and learn.
- Do not expect training or books to be free. You must make the investment in yourself and realize that you are worth every penny.
- For the love of all that is holy, please fully adjust the frames BEFORE taking the measurements. It will save everyone a lot of time and heartache in the long run.
- Be kind to each other. Online or in person, be kind and honest. You never know what kind of impression you are making. What you do matters.
Carrie Willson has been in optical for over 22 years working with opticians and optometrists across the country. She is a recognized developer of talent, education, and influencer in the field.