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How Hiring an Associate is A Lot Like Dating

It’s a long, hard path to finding the right person.

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I WAS GETTING a snack when my associate leaned back in his breakroom chair and said the words that punched me in the gut, “I got a full-time gig with Big Box Eyes and I’m leaving in three weeks.” I was shocked. How could he dump me right before the holidays?!? After sobbing into my Häagen-Dazs, I updated my profile and let everyone know I was back on the market.

I limped through December with the help of my ex (the previous owner) who was kind enough to pitch in. I started my search with the job boards of the three closest optometry schools which had been successful the last time around. This time, no responses. None.

I posted on my state society’s webpage. A month later, I got an email from a prospective suitor. It read, “Like, hi, is this for full time?” Delete. How hard is it to comprehend the meaning of “part-time associate wanted?”

I let every human I came in contact with know that I was looking. At my yearly visit with my own doctor, in the “are you under any inordinate stress” category, I put “Yes, working six days a week.” I thought he would offer me something fun like Xanax, but instead he had an OD patient who was job hunting. She came to the office and immediately critiqued my daughters abstract oil painting of double vision. Strike one. She then interrogated me and told me why my routing slip was super lame. Strike two. After it was over, she texted me that she wasn’t really looking for a position. Sigh.

I tried ODs on Facebook. I didn’t even get one “Like.”

Then, I hooked up with Covalent Careers, a great platform that I highly recommend, but unfortunately each candidate had a major flaw:

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Suitor No. 1: We had a fantastic first call! I was ready to hire him on the spot. We planned for him to come in, but then poof! I got ghosted. When I texted, he told me he had signed a restrictive covenant with a neighboring practice and I was in the no-fly zone.

Suitor No. 2: We really hit it off. I offered her the job, but then she pushed for a lot more hours.

Suitor No. 3: Repeat of No. 2 but wanted LESS hours.

Suitor No. 4: Came to the office but we did not really connect and then she told me she had already taken another job.

Six months of working six days a week had passed; I was cranky and exhausted. Then one day, a colleague with a specialty practice asked if I was still looking. The prospective candidate was graduating shortly and wouldn’t have her license for months but we met anyway; four months later I had a new associate!

In retrospect, I am not sure I could have done anything differently. Maybe I could have invested a zillion dollars in one of the hiring services that persisted in courting me but I wasn’t financially willing to do that. I was transparent about what I was looking for — salary, hours, days, mode of practice, etc. Why would they lead me on, make me think we had a future, and then dump me? Not cool. Ultimately, I met my associate the old-fashioned way — through a friend. Bottom line: I would recommend the traditional job sites, but don’t underestimate word of mouth. Above all, don’t lose hope — interviewing is like dating — if you kiss enough toads you will find your prince.

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Dr. Chani Miller graduated from SUNY in 1993. In 2015, she bought her practice and has been living the joys and horrors of being a practice owner. She has raised two daughters with her husband of 29 years. You can find her on Instagram @ccspecs or [email protected]

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