One of my favorite sayings goes, “you live and you learn.” It doesn’t sound like anything profound or straight out of a literature book, but it gets me through mistakes I’ve made. If I could go back in time, I would have pursued a job in the field before I started school. I didn’t understand the importance of obtaining real life experience in an optical, versus putting in hours at my school’s optical clinic until applying for my apprenticeship. My classmates and I were able to guide each other frequently for group projects. Therefore, I always had support and comfort with what I was doing. It’s possible if I had started working in an optical setting sooner, I would have been much more relaxed for anything involving practical and physical tasks. I have noticed a drastic improvement in my skills and knowledge since becoming an apprentice. So, I try to convince students to get a job sooner than later because applying your knowledge in this field is immensely important on the road to becoming a successful optician.
I’m sure there are opticians out there who never broke a frame or cut lenses too big or too small. Must be nice to be so perfect! However, I have made my fair share of errors in school and even as an apprentice. It’s all about learning from those mistakes. Sometimes when it gets really busy, the pressure can be intense and people are calling my name across the store for measurements, dispensing and adjustments all at the same time, and things can easily go wrong in a hectic environment. I taught myself to be conscious of the patient’s needs and not to allow the busy traffic to affect their experience with their optician. It can be difficult to achieve Zen mode when five people are waiting for me, but it helps me more to stay calm because I don’t make silly errors that way. It’s a pleasant experience for the customer because it makes them feel like they are being heard and they’ll be getting everything they want. Every customer is different and some will require more attention, so listening and understanding what is necessary for them will minimize errors. I’ve been working in customer service for about seven years, so talking to people comes naturally for me. However, without prior exposure to the field, it was difficult to apply what I was doing in school out on the sales floor and in the lab. It was interesting when things started to click and I would tell myself, “duh!” pretty frequently once I became an apprentice.
For a great example of the challenges to both theoretical and practical knowledge, visit 2020mag.com/ce for our CE At Your Service: Transitioning From the Dispensary to Lab Customer Service.