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Part-time work: a taste of the real thing


Margaret Lam


By Patrick Hutchens

Most optometry students will apply for a part-time job in a practice not just to pay the bills. They want to get a feel for the profession that will define their careers.

Optometrist Margaret Lam, who is an owner of the Sydney multi-practice business theeyecarecompany, has employed students without ever having advertised for them, because great applicants make the initial approach.  

Margaret looks for students who have the right attitude, and are proactive and keen to learn.

‘These students usually have the opportunity for a job offer on graduation. That can often be a great role that they love and find very rewarding, because their employer values their contribution to the working “family” organisation that is there,’ Margaret said.

Cleaning and administration may be part of the mix of duties as students work their way up towards the opportunity of observing interesting case studies that pass through the doors of a practice.

‘It’s a balance. It pays to be keen to learn but not be too proud to do things like mundane cleaning and serving challenging patients. They may be challenging, but these patients can be turned into strong advocates for the practice when there is exceptional patient care and customer service displayed by the students,’ she said.

Margaret recommends that students choose practices that have a supportive learning experience.

‘Don’t search for positions based on those that pay the most, but instead the practices that will teach the most. After all, there’s no point earning a little bit more to later find the work mundane and boring, and then drop out of optometry,’ she said.

‘There is so much in optometry that is rewarding for patient care and professionally, if you put an effort into developing your optometric expertise,’ she said.

Students might be interested in getting a taste for working in a particularly field of optometry such as contact lenses or behavioural optometry. The Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists has a directory of optometrists with expertise in sports vision, paediatric care and neuro-optometry. The Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia has a list of practitioners who may be happy to employ you during your studies.

ProVision has a Future Directions program for optometrists interested in a career in independent optometry and its vacancies page for practice support staff is here.

ProVision human resources and education manager Reny Frighetto says if there are no vacancies, a phone call to him is the first step.

‘I ask them to send me a copy of their resume and I conduct a telephone interview to get a feel for the applicant. I then go to our members to look at opportunities that might be suitable,’ he said.

Mr Frighetto says ProVision hires staff based on their ‘can do’ attitude.

‘They need to be customer focused and make the journey a pleasant experience for patients. They must also be eager to learn and have some exposure to dispensing,’ he said.

The multinational companies have websites that students can visit to apply for work opportunities. Specsavers lists its job opportunities and OPSM its employment openings online. 

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