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Photo: Optometry Victoria
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By Patrick Hutchens

 

A panel of five young optometrists spoke to students from the University of Melbourne and Deakin University at a careers expo at the Southern Regional Congress in February.

The optometrists, all of whom had graduated within the past five years, shared their reflections on their working life so far.

Courtney Keily moved to Perth as a graduate optometrist in 2011 but felt isolated in her adopted city and struggled to make social connections outside of work.

‘I moved to Perth and thought it would be great living a few kilometres from Scarborough Beach but I didn’t like Perth, so after a year I moved back to Melbourne, where I worked for another practice for 12 months,’ she said.

‘Work-life balance is absolutely one of the most important things starting out. I didn’t get that balance right at all,’ she said.

The panel agreed that work-life balance was a vital consideration when applying for a graduate optometry position. Sustaining personal relationships and building a social life in a new town or city should be weighed against the opportunities of leaving home.

Katrina Yap, who works in Castlemaine and Bendigo, advised students in the audience to draw up a list of priorities ranking what they most want out of a job down to what is least important to them.

‘I felt a bit overwhelmed, so that’s how I found it easiest to look at different options,’ she said.

Simone Hibbert works for a practice in Bendigo. She searched for practices in regional areas where there was more than one optometrist on staff, so that there would be plenty of professional support available during her first year of work.

‘I went for a drive to a few different country towns and I really liked the place I’m working at the moment. They were very friendly and welcoming,’ she said.

Jason Tan works for a private practice in Wangaratta. After his first interview, Jason’s employer took him for a drive around the town to show him some of the local facilities and sporting clubs.

Jason spoke at the Careers Expo about the importance of screening potential co-workers, including dispensing staff, as much as they were likely to screen their future employee.

‘It’s all about who you’re working with, because you end up seeing your co-workers far more than you see anyone else in your life,’ he said.

Jillian Campbell pursued a job at the Australian College of Optometry because she spotted an opportunity to continue her education in contact lenses and paediatric optometry and work with some of the leaders in the profession.

‘When I finished university, I felt that I would be lost if I didn’t keep studying. The good thing about the ACO was that they paid for us to do two courses,’ she said.

The panel also discussed what it felt like to treat their first patients without supervision.

Courtney said that it felt weird not having someone to double-check her work during the first few months.

‘You know what you’re doing. You’ve done the course, passed the exams, you’ve got the certificate on your wall but there’s no one there to tell you you’re doing a good job. Trusting my judgement for the first time was really daunting,’ she said.

Simone said that it felt really good to make decisions and stand by them. ‘That’s the best and hardest thing about it,’ she said.

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