When my editor told me this month’s edition would feature all things green, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. So I did what any 21st-century citizen would do. I consulted an app - my Dictionary app to be specific.
When I typed in the word “green,” it resulted in 18 different definitions. This was going to be harder to figure out than I first thought. Could she have meant the fourth color of the spectrum
(definition #1)? Covered with herbage or foliage, or made of green vegetables
(definitions # 2 and #4)? Of course, not. I knew she meant
definition #12: Environmentally sound or beneficial. But where’s the fun in that? Surely everyone else would be writing about that. Which is why I decided to go with
definition #7: Immature in age or judgment; untrained or inexperienced.
Here are nine things that people who are new (green) to the optical profession might be well advised to think about.
You’re All That! I mean come on…you ARE all that. You have just landed a new job. Perhaps it’s your dream job at that dream practice. You’ve just successfully graduated from a two-year training program, or completed an intense apprenticeship. Whatever path brought you to your new, current position, chances are the journey took a lot of hard work and effort. You have also joined a profession with a long, rich history, helping clients to improve their vision, and ultimately, their quality of life. You should be proud of yourself and relish your accomplishments because you are after all, all that. Having said that, you have to remember…
You’re Not All That. Especially if you have recently graduated from school. What I mean by that is while you should be proud of your educational accomplishments, you should also realize that your less green, more seasoned co-workers have much more experience than you do. For example, if you have a 50-something team member who has been practicing opticianry for25 years, and you work in even a moderately busy establishment, that optician has experienced nearly 200,000 patent encounters. If you’re smart, you will show respect for that experience, and try to soak up as much knowledge as you can. Forging meaningful relationships with more experienced colleagues is one of the smartest things you could do.
Your Education Has Just Begun. One of the biggest mistakes you could make is believe that your education is complete when you receive your diploma or license. On the contrary, it has only just begun. Always remember that if you are not learning something new, you are falling behind…and that statement has never been truer than it is today. It seems that things change in our profession with each passing day. Whether it’s the latest digital, free-form progressive lens, the newest lens material, or a cutting-edge computer program, you have to stay on top of things. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to subscribe to (and actually read) as many industry publications as you can. Attend continuing education classes more often than required.
Think Win-Win-Win. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey (a must-read for anyone joining the workforce) says that Habit #4 of effective people is to "Think win-win." That's why I feel that one of the most powerful philosophies you could embrace is to always think win-win-win. What that means is as you become the best ECP (Eye-Care Professional) you can be, make decisions that are mutually beneficial to you, your patient, and your practice. The key in achieving that end is to always think and act as an advocate for your patients. As you suggest certain lenses, treatments, and frames, imagine that you are helping you parent, your sibling, your spouse, or your kid. That will ensure the win-win-win.
Find a Mentor. A mentor is someone with much experience who is willing to share it with you. Someone with integrity, wisdom, and knowledge. Someone whose shoulder you can cry on, someone to bounce ideas against, and someone who can guide you in your development as an ECP. If you have someone like that in your life, count yourself blessed. If you don’t have that kind of mentoring influence for yourself and your career, seek one out. You’ll be happy you did.
Be a Mentor. Not only should you find a mentor, you should consider being a mentor yourself. While you might not have the industry knowledge and experience that comes with time, you are probably a lot more savvy than you older colleagues when it comes to things like technology, computer-based programs and apps, etc. Build relationships with those older colleagues, again in a win-win spirit.
Learn to Listen. Of the four main ways we communicate – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – which is the only one we are never formally taught how to do? Listening! Ironically, though it’s the thing were least taught, it’s the thing that will truly make you a more effective professional. Good listeners make better opticians than good talkers. Learn to be a good listener. As you interact with your clients, stop listening with the intent to reply, rather, try to develop the habit of listening to understand. Your patients really don’t care how much you know, they are much more interested to know how much you care. Moreover, the best way to demonstrate to them how much you care is to embrace this habit: As you interact with your patients, stop listening with the intent to reply, Listen instead with the intent to understand.
Learn Everything You Can About the Commodity You Deal In. If a group of green opticians were asked to describe the commodity they deal on, they would probably answer, “eyeglasses and contact lenses.” Wrong! The commodity you deal in is people. Period. You sell glasses to people. You dispense glasses to people. You repair glasses for people, and you fit contact lenses for people. Which is why if you are wise green optician, you will learn as much as you can about people and what makes them tick. Many people refer these kinds of skills as "soft skills," as if they were somehow easier to master than technically related tasks. In my 30 years of management experience, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Any person with half a brain (and a true to desire to learn) can be taught to use a piece of equipment (edger, lensometer, etc.) relatively easily. Lenses and frames usually don't talk back! But flesh and blood people have different personalities, skills, and likes and dislikes. The green optician who realizes that early on in his or her career is wise. Learning to communicate and interact with others on their own terms is a make-it-or-break-it factor in your long-term success on any work team.
Make Yourself Indispensable. Finally, make yourself indispensable. Become the best optician you can be. Be the kind of optician that your employer just can’t live without. Develop the reputation of not being ordinary. Instead make yourself extraordinary. Do that by being willing to do a few “extra” things. A little extra learning, a little extra patience, a little extra time, a little extra caring. And all of those little extra things will eventually pay off huge dividends. Far more dividends than the little extra effort it took on the front end. So again, welcome to the wonderful world of eye care. We’re glad you are here.