By Helen Wong
Graduation with an optometry degree usually means finding a good full-time job as an optometrist and earning money in one of the higher-paying jobs that you can score in the first year of leaving university.
I graduated in 2010 and I and my peers did just that, sign contracts as fresh grad optometrists ready to tackle the real-world clinic, and put to use all the theory and practicals that we had learned and hopefully mastered.
In my student dispenser days I worked for Luxottica and after university I continued as an optometrist, working full-time based in OPSM Castle Towers and Budget Eyewear Tuggerah.
OPSM Castle Towers is a very big, busy store, running with four optometrists a day. In contrast, Budget Eyewear in Tuggerah was definitely a one-man store—one optom, one dispenser, no NCT, no autorefractor, no retinal camera. I got to hone my skills and ask questions in OPSM, and got my fair share of flying solo in Budget Eyewear.
With Luxottica's shake-up and the closing of many Budget Eyewear stores, I thought it would be a good time to try independent practice.
I joined theeyecarecompany for two years where I picked up an amazing amount of experience, not only in my clinical skills where Margaret and Griffin guided me in learning ortho-K, but also in how an optometry business runs. Everything from ordering stock, invoicing and even fixing broken doors had to be done.
From my student dispenser days, I got to apply my dispensing skills but I took them to a higher level in edging, fitting, drilling and some of the nastiest repair jobs on horrendously twisted frames. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of dealing with frames immensely, and every challenge it posed made my day more interesting.
Throughout my early years as a fully-fledged optometrist, I had thought that optometry would entertain me only for a certain amount of time. I craved to do something different and out of the ordinary. I consider myself active and I enjoyed regularly going to the gym for some serious weight training. Occasionally, I would get lazy and join a group fitness class.
It was there that I met a group fitness instructor, which led me to consider a career in fitness.
I studied for my Cert 3 and 4 in Fitness while working as an optom, and after finishing started work straight away with Fitness First as a gym floor instructor. Although holding those certificates meant I could be a personal trainer, I wanted to see where it would take me first.
One thing does lead to another, and it wasn't long until I found myself also as a group fitness instructor focusing on core training and kickboxing, particularly a program called Bodycombat, and even running boot camps for my colleagues from work. Yes, the optometric practice. What's better than being paid to work out?
I will never give up optometry as a career. After working in independent optometry, I decided to rejoin Luxottica, practising optometry in OPSM Macquarie Centre. Optometry is highly rewarding in being able to help those around you and meet new people every day. Chucking fitness into the mix has made my work life even more exciting. Optometry allows for flexibility in allocated clinical hours, and fitness classes easily fit into early mornings and evenings as those are the times the gym is buzzing.
Sometimes it seems like the two vastly different careers will never meet. Then one of your fitness clients or gym members turns up in your clinic chair—and that has happened more than once.
Just because you may have a piece of paper that qualifies you as an optometrist, it doesn't mean you have it for life. Get out there, never stand still and always challenge the norm.
Young Optometrists NSW