3 Reasons Not to Turn Down a Dinner Invite With Industry Reps

practice visit, industry reps, Illinois College of Optometry, Students

I’m six weeks from finishing my very last optometry school practical rotation. Right now, I’m wrapping up boards, initiating the licensing process, and thinking about what kind of job I’m hoping to find. As a 4th year, you’re approached by optometry practices, financial companies, and industry professionals. Some will invite you to their manufacturing facility, some will recruit you to work with them, and some will talk to you about paying off your loans and saving up for your next big ticket item. If nothing else, they will become another contact to add to your network.

The luxury of externships is that you have a lot of free time to take people up on their invitations and be educated on the opportunities and products they can provide. So, here is why I chose to accept as many invitations to dinner as I could- despite having to study for parts 2 and 3 boards.

1.) They have so many practice opportunities for you

I attended few of these events in the fall quarter, when new optometrists are recruited to fill positions for the spring after graduation. Unfortunately, at that time, I didn’t know what I personally wanted from my career and couldn’t sign a contract for nearly a year later. I think ICO did a great job opening my eyes to the many modes of practice available right out of the gate. Since before starting optometry school, I’ve been most interested in private practice; that hasn’t changed. The opportunity to run a business and be my own boss was one of the reasons optometry was such a good fit for me.

I’m from Canada, and going to school in the United States meant that most of the recruiting companies I came in contact with were looking for ODs in the US. Since I already have the next few years planned in terms of what city I’ll be living in, it would be unsuitable for me to take a job anywhere other than in Canada. As much as I think my whole life is figured out, plans DO change. What if I have to move across the country and find a new job?  At least I will know people who know people who might be looking for an associate.

Some of my colleagues have accepted positions already – some in private practice, some in corporate, some doing residency. Many work in corporate optometry shortly after graduation because it tends to pay the most. The huge loans hanging over our heads after graduation make high starting salaries attractive. I would certainly consider working in corporate optometry, provided that it fit my lifestyle and had the aspects of practice I was looking for.

2.) They know a lot about new technology and have likely had firsthand experience with it

New technologies, especially in optometry, seem to pop up frequently. It seems I’m always reading about new equipment that makes exams faster or easier. As a student on the last leg of my optometric education, I have long since learned the basics of refraction. The reality is that I am most comfortable with the equipment I learned to use in school. I’m going to graduate and start practicing the way I’ve been doing it over the last 4 years.  Having gone to ICO, I would love a Haag Streit slit lamp, a marco manual phoropter, and electronic VA chart. In reality, that may not happen. So, at this point, what do I feel that I really need?

The automated phoropter is one of these things I’ve thought about recently. I heard the most about this new technology from one of the reps, and at the time, I wasn’t in the market for one. However, now that I am getting closer to getting the OD behind my name, it has come to the forefront again. I recall reading a post on social media about how big a difference it made in terms of comfort and ergonomics. These real practice stories are what made me seriously consider fitting this piece of equipment into my budget when equipping my exam lane.

OCT… I just love the OCT.  This is the piece of equipment that I feel I absolutely NEED. The OCT has been an integral part of our education from the beginning and most of my externship sites had one. This is my go-to test, at times. It has become another item on my “need/really want” list for my practice.

3.) They will be a good connection in the future

Of the 4 invitations we received, I didn’t plan on attending all of them. However, I was advised never to close any doors; you never know where life will take you.

So, I thought I’d attend the events where I already had a relationship with the rep. This happened to be most of them because I took advantage of all the networking opportunities offered by ICO; I knew them all by the time I got to 4th year. ICO Homecoming and the Practice Opportunities Symposium are the best events to meet reps, alumni, and future colleagues. Although I didn’t know the rep for one of the invitations, I decided to attend anyway because I knew the company offered H1-B visas when they hired ODs.

After events like these, I like to add my new contacts on LinkedIn so I can maintain the connection. Then, I’ll know some people at future conferences and networking events once I’m out of school.

With graduation now about 6 weeks away, I’ve been actively networking my desired practice location and looking for practice opportunities. Through ICO’s connection opportunities and their alumni directory, I was able to meet ICO grads in my home city. This has actually connected me to my first job as an OD!

Make time for the invites and have fun networking with your future colleagues!!

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