For most optometrists, finding and landing your first job is a process. A long process. There is a lot to be done—from the tangible, such as preparing your CV, to the intangible, such as interview prep and relationship building. The latter is especially important to landing the position you want and is not something that you want to rush.
When should that process begin? We suggest you start job search preparations at least six months before graduation.
Building Your Personal Network
Landing your first job begins and ends with the right relationship. Throughout your years of study, you have had the opportunity to interact with a long list of professionals, and now is the time to reach out and begin the relationship-building process. Contact your professional colleagues and academic influencers, and tell them that you are preparing for your first career move. Mention that you value their opinions and would accept any advice or job leads they may have to offer. Keep careful track of whom you are contacting and the people they are referring you to. It is very important in these early stages to be the best, most thorough communicator you can be. Do not leave anyone without a reply or a thank you. Follow up with everyone, regardless of your interest level in what they have to offer.
Update Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)
CVs are like detailed resumes that predominately speak to an academic audience. You should complete your first CV early on in residency and continually update the document as new positions that interest you are identified. Similar to a cover letter, CVs should be written and adapted to the job you want. If you are applying to an academic position, emphasize research, leadership roles, papers, etc. If you’re searching for private practice positions, rewrite your CV to emphasize training, certifications and experiential training. Here are some tips for constructing your CV.
Identify the Traits of Your Perfect Position
What setting do you want to work in? Commercial, private practice, hospitals, academia? Where do you want to live? East Coast, West Coast, urban, rural? What are your career goals? Are you hoping to one day own your own practice, or would you prefer to work as an associate? Take advantage of the time you have now to answer these questions so that you’ll be able to hit the ground running when graduation rolls around. Thinking more deliberately about your future professional goals will allow you to target your search more specifically and filter out the positions you are not interested in. If you have trouble finding that perfect position, you can start to expand your search parameters, but understanding exactly what you want in the “perfect” job is paramount.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for landing that first position. Ultimately, it often comes down to cultivating solid relationships, and the sooner you can work with professional colleagues or experienced recruiters in the industry, the sooner you’ll land that first job.