Eyecare — in all its forms — is an incredible business, one filled with pleasures big and small. Eye doctors heal people and improve their patients’ most important sense. Opticians advance fashion trends and change a customer’s entire personality with a single accessory. From nurturing connections within the industry to playing a key role in the community, there’s a lot of joy to be had ... and it’s always worthwhile to try to put those feelings of satisfaction into words. That’s what INVISION is doing this month: creating a list of 50 of the most inspiring things about the eyecare profession. For help, we enlisted our own Brain Squad and social media groups ODs on Facebook, Opticians on Facebook and Luxury Eyewear Forum. (And readers are invited to add their own suggestions for “50 Awesome Things” online at invmag.us/50awesome.)
We hope you will recognize a good number of these pleasures and experience them frequently in your work. And if you’re not experiencing them, maybe you need to look a little harder. In fact, the best time to refer to a list of things you love about your work is at a time when you’re not loving your work very much. Of course, there will be sunny spring days when the last place on earth you want to be is cooped up inside your business — and days when whiny patients, insurance paperwork and clueless customers bring you down. Those are the times when a list such as this one — a “happy list” — will help you slow down, take a deep breath and remember how lucky you really are.
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.
2. While your job might be selling glasses, your purpose is so much more — it’s helping a mom see her daughters play, a bus driver drive kids home safely, and a surgeon perform a successful surgery. Few jobs have such a viscerally important purpose.
3. As an eyecare pro, you’re highly comfortable looking deep into another person’s eyes. Which makes you a perfect romantic partner. He (or she) will melt.
4. A couple of times in your career, you just might save somebody’s life.
5. Eyecare pros tend to know almost everyone in town.
6. Meeting artists and designers and traveling to shows.
7. In a single day, you can wear a lot of hats. You can be an optician or optometrist, a receptionist, and a therapist to your clients. You can be a style guru. You can be head of marketing and janitor. You can be a scientist. You can be a teacher. You can even be an artist, studying colors and shapes and the effects each has on a person’s face.
8. The chance to travel to under-served areas of the world on annual vision missions and help people who have nothing. It’s a great way to see the world and get perspective on how lucky we are.
9. Always having the best eyewear at any party.
10. When a client drives 45 minutes to see you, even though there are 10 eyecare businesses closer to her than yours is.
11. Being able to give back locally. Like volunteering for the Special Olympics “Opening Eyes” program and producing hundreds of sets for eyewear for athletes. This is one of those things that is an immediate perspective-shifter.
12. Being the hit of any party. Everybody wants advice on their eyewear or wants you to analyze their faces for what their best frame shape would be.
13. That with the considered application of a single fashion accessory, you can make a 63-year-old woman look like a kid, and a 16-year-old kid look like an adult.
14. That “optician” was the only job that got a perfect ranking when PayScale.com asked people whether they would recommend their career to a close friend.
15. Hearing of a new customer's terrible experience at a big-box eyecare business, and knowing how much they're gonna love you.
16. People thinking all optometrists are rich and successful. They are wrong, but it feels good anyway.
17. “What does mommy do?” “Mommy fixes eyes!”
18. Getting to see the new stuff first.
19. The chance to work with family.
20. The trust people place in you and how they tell you everything so easily, as if you are their closest friend.
21. Giving freebies to clients just to let them know that you really value their business.
22. The opportunity for continuing growth, experimentation and new ideas. There’s always something new to try.
23. When a patient comes by and asks if they can have some business cards to hand out at their next senior card game.
24. Running into a customer and they make a big fuss over you and tell everyone that you are their personal optician/optometrist — even if it is only in the grocery store.
25. Selling polarized lenses. It isn’t a scratch coating that you can’t really tell is there. You can see the polarizing effect. A guaranteed wow from clients.
26. Frequent chances to play "Find the lost contact lens!" That game just never gets old.
27. The chance to be your own boss. You might or might not quite be there yet. But in a business full of independents, you've always got a chance.
29. The eyecare business is a small world, and one unto itself — which means that, over the years, someone may go from being your customer, to your boss, to your vendor, to the manager of a regional chain you are trying to sell your product to.
30. That the business is so small that anyone who behaves dishonestly or sleazily will be discovered very quickly. (That tight-knit nature also ensures that honesty and quality is usually rapidly recognized.)
31. Selling that first set of stylish designer frames to a 13-year-old kid that you know are going to drastically improve his or her image at school. Seeing that shy smile that is the first sign of increased confidence.
32. That you can sometimes get to work with clients from youth to old age. Not many other professions give you the opportunity to do that.
33. That you can start your career selling glasses for $59 a pop and end it selling them for $1,000 a pop.
34. Removing foreign bodies. AHHHHH!
35. Tons of interesting people walk through your doors. Which means great dinner table stories.
36. Knowing that you can change someone’s look even more dramatically than their hair-stylist can.
38. Because eyewear and lenses now have a technology curve like that of electronics. You walk out the door and your lenses are obsolete.
39. Medical, retail, fashion and business — all in the same profession. What other job can offer that?
40. Because you can prove someone has a brain by shining a light in their eye. Much cheaper than a CT scan!
41. That in a day’s work, you can do VAs, PDs, EOMs, CVFs, CLs, SLEs, DFEs, CDs, OCTs, HVFs, IOLMs, FAs, and Rxs.
42. “Job description?” “I sit in a dark room and count to 2 all day.”
43. That you can hold hands with old women before their cataract surgeries and hug them after.
44. The client who owns 37 sets of eyewear. And comes in every other month for more.
45. That you can poke your finger in people’s eyes and get paid for it.
46. The money. OK, maybe not the money.
47. When a client asks, specifically, for your opinion on a frame she is considering.
48. When patients come in, unsure and timid and un-styled and leave styled, confident and rocking their glasses and themselves. And when you see them on the street later, he or she looks like a different person.
49. Being able to comfort a scared patient and reassure them that, no matter how bad it looks and how much it may hurt right now, everything is going to be OK.
50. When you show someone who has always thought of their eyewear as “just glasses” what a difference-maker the right eyewear can be.