by Edwin Wu, O.D. President - SGVOS
With the passing of the seasons come the tidings of Summer which bring with it a batch of bushy tailed bright-eyed new Optometry graduates ready to add their skills into the workforce. Due to this I have decided dedicate this section to impart some advice to those freshly minted doctors that I may have appreciated when I was a new grad.
1. Dust off your practice management course notes
Most Optometry students are given a modicum of business knowledge in school somewhere sandwiched between boards, 12 station, and a whole lot of clinical hours. The knowledge being somewhat less relevant at the time to the lives of an Optometry student tends to sit on a priority back burner and never quite sticks beyond the test. Whether it’s a loan application, design of an ideal office, resumé, or inventory all of this will soon be relevant and it’s best to give yourself a refresher for things to come.
2. Don’t be afraid of debt
A lot of students come out of school with a range of debt that could cover between a monthly car lease or as much as a mortgage payment on a house. Suffice to say you will be in debt for the rest of your life and that’s not a bad thing. Debt allows you to do things NOW that usually you would have to save for years before being able to afford. I’m not talking about credit card debt (by far the worst) or high interest debt. Student loans, business loans and mortgages are some of the best types of debt to have due to the terms and rates (i.e. tend to be longer timeline and lower interest rate). Also a lot of students wish to be debt free but that is a fault in their understanding about how money works. The reasons these types of debt are good to have are as follows: this debt normally is traded for something that holds value or will make you money in the future, inflation, time value of money, and the decrease in the buying power of the dollar. Definitely review these concepts on Investopedia.com or google.com and see if you can understand why they are listed. This way when a doctor offers to sell his practice to you for $600-800k you may not balk as much at the price. Also review the concepts of cash flow and a mortgage calculator.
3. Value yourself and know your audience
Let’s say you are a contact lens resident recently out of school. You feel you have an advantage over your classmates and bring more to the table in terms of knowledge/skill and wish to be compensated for as much. Your first interview goes very well but your less informed classmate gets picked for the job over you. Why? Maybe it’s because you asked for a starting salary of no less than $150k/yr. Maybe it’s because you pitched your contact lens skills to an ocular disease practice that sees 90% glaucoma patients. Maybe it’s because you didn’t present enough value to the owner doctor. Get comfortable writing down exactly what skills you can perform and get an idea of how much value you can actually bring to an office. You must think like the current owner and have aligned goals for the office to do well in order to justify your salary. It is not his job to monetize your skills and unless he has things in place to do so you are not worth what you think you are.
4. Enjoy your money
As much as financial advisers would have you save for retirement don’t be afraid to spoil yourself a little. You just finished a grueling Optometry program and it’s probably better money than you’ve seen before so take a trip, go out and enjoy your money once in a while. A good work/life balance is just as important for your mental health so you don’t burn out in the 1st year trying to pay off your loans. Plus work life becomes somewhat repetitive and the time flies a few years out. Things you enjoyed in your late 20’s are….well….different in your 30’s and 40’s so try to enjoy things while you still do. A friend once lamented to me that when he was 15 he enjoyed running into trash cans with his car but lost that joy when he turned 20. Don’t be that guy/girl.
Overall every one of you has a good head on their shoulder and will be successful in your own way in the profession you have chosen. I leave you with the wise words of Kesha and you can tell me that I told you so because “someday these WILL be the good old days”.