If you know Alex Bennett, you probably have a hard time keeping up with him. He drinks 10 cups of tea a day, runs to “clear his head” and recently got into obstacle racing for funsies. “It’s a workout for my body and mind,” he says. But that’s nothing, considering that for the last two years he’s also been regularly contributing to industry publications and working full-time as an ABO-certified optician at Peepers optical in Denver, while completing prerequisites for optometry school. “Caffeine and aspirin keep me going,” he jokes(?).

  • I got into optical accidentally. In 2008, I had my dream job at Boulder Forest Rehabilitation but the economy crashed. I was unemployed and needed a job. I got one edging lenses in a lab at a Fort Collins, CO, office. The same day I started, someone left and they asked if I wanted to be a frame stylist. A year after I started, I passed the national exam.
  • After four years in Fort Collins, I moved down to Denver to start at Peepers. The OD asked me where I saw myself in five years. I thought maybe ABO Advanced? But he said “Man, if you’re going to do that much, just commit. Just go for it and go back to school.” 
  • Usually each morning I go for a run and then I load Daily Optician to see what’s new. There is always a little nugget of information that helps. And then I try to bring something creative from the day before to our morning meetings.
  • Some opticians are all about style, others are all about lenses but can’t fit a frame. I like to bridge the gap between the two when fitting a patient.
  • I attend as many CE opportunities as possible to network. I speak and work with as many people as I can. It’s important to me to do a lot of reaching out to people — reps, lab techs — everyone knows something that could be useful to my development.
  • To be a good optical salesperson, you need to have technical knowledge, styling skills — since it relates so closely to offering the best product, and problem-solving/adjustability skills. That all takes a lot of time and a lot of practice.
  • If I weren’t working in optical, I would probably be cutting down trees, in land management, forestry or a wildland firefighter. I was considering that too when I got the lab tech job.
  • My advice to anyone just starting out, ask more questions of your OD than you think necessary. When the doctor presents a patient, I try to capitalize on that moment, ask questions in the handoff in front of the patient so they are part of the conversation and a part of their own care.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of INVISION.

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