By Johnna Dukes, ABOC

I recently attended an all-day educational event put on by the Opticians’ Association in my state, and I was swiftly reminded of how much I enjoy not only the educational part of these continuing education classes, but how inspiring it is to be in a room full of opticians who work in different settings and talking shop. Not only do I leave these events more educated, I leave more inspired to be the best optician I can be!

I personally love the opportunity to network with other opticians as I find that we all tend to struggle with many of the same issues even though the settings where we work can be vastly different. And I get a sense that there is camaraderie within these walls. This is a new feeling for me. I’ve been around for a long time, and I remember early in my career there was an air of separation and superiority that I sensed at these conferences. Everyone kept to themselves and barely interacted, and the overall sense was that we were all enemies, and would cut each other down at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, I believe those old days are dying. And I am so happy to see that! I believe that by building networks within our field, you give yourself the opportunity to help yourself. I always say that I don’t have to know all there is to know about this thing we call opticianry, but we do need to know who to call to find the information we need. This is the power of the network. (To be clear, I’m not recommending you call up the office down the street and exchange information with someone who is a competitor; maybe you talk to someone in a different city who has work experience that is different from yours.)

You see, I love prism—LOVE it (I know, weird…) and I’m solid on it, so I often find myself helping other opticians who need a little help in that area. On the flip side, I use a variety of about 10 to 15 progressive lens designs frequently, and there are so many more out there that I don’t use simply because I’m unfamiliar with their designs or what the expected patient outcome would be. Often I will reach out to other opticians I’ve built relationships with and pick their brains about their experience with these products, and in turn I will share my experience with products I’ve chosen to use. This is information I wouldn’t probably get from a book or an online CE class, as it requires a conversation and discussion of information. This is real information that will impact how I do my job every day, and I learned it from another optician who was kind enough to be a part of my network.

This network has allowed me to speak candidly with another optician and exchange ideas and information that will likely make both of us better opticians. So if you go to one of these events, and you feel you’re not engaging with the opticians around you, I’d say you might be missing out on making a connection that could benefit both of you. After all, we are in the same boat; we are comrades, not enemies. Why not build your network and go about the business of making yourself into that top gun optician that you’ve always aspired to be? What could be better than that?