From new employees to experienced techs and administrators, ophthalmic professionals often can take advantage of career opportunities by establishing — and achieving — goals. The challenge is that conceptualizing a career path is one thing; setting actionable goals along the way to achieve results is something else. The good news: “Success is readily available to those who want to work for it,” says Patti Barkey, COE, Bowden Eye & Associates in Jacksonville, FL.
Here, ophthalmic professionals share how to set goals and follow through with them.
Choosing a goal
Where do you start? First, identify a goal you’d like to achieve.
“Think what is the one big thing — maybe something you’ve been putting off, or maybe it’s that big audacious dream,” says Carrie Jacobs, COE, OCS, Chu Vision Institute in Bloomington, MN. “From a career perspective, perhaps you want to achieve certification, for example.” Ms. Jacobs has been a practice administrator for more than 18 years and refers to herself as a huge goal setter.
The key, she says, is to establish priorities. “We often approach life as a buffet,” she says, “but if you’re chasing a dream, it’s too difficult to focus on more than one goal at a time.”
In addition to setting too many goals at once, another common mistake to avoid is letting self-doubt get in the way of achieving your goal, advises Ms. Jacobs, who is also a board member of American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA).
That said, understand that goals can evolve. “The further along we get in our careers, the more we have to find ways to push ourselves,” explains Joe Theine, MBA, COE, Four Corners Eye Clinic, in Durango, CO. “It’s sometimes valuable to set a goal that is a stretch.”
Also, you may need to re-evaluate goals based on the changing needs of the practice. For example, your practice may offer a new service or announce an unexpected vacancy in a position that might interest you. “Be flexible,” says Ms. Barkey, “and be open to achieving goals as opportunities present.”
Strategies for success
After you identify your goal, Ms. Jacobs says to own it, write it down, and determine what steps you will need to accomplish it. “Ask yourself, ‘What is your timeline? What resources do you need?’ Then, reach out to colleagues or a mentor to help. Set a strategy, start, and stick with it.”
Ms. Jacobs admits that it can be difficult to find time to work toward your goal. “So many of us are wearing so many hats. You may find yourself asking, ‘I set my goal and have my timeframe, but how do I fit it in?’”
One solution: Schedule a set time in your week. “We set time aside for things that must happen — like payroll — and oftentimes that means we set our own development on the back burner,” says Mr. Theine, also a board member of ASOA. “You really have to create an appointment with yourself.”
For Mr. Theine, that means committing to a date or deadline. For example, he says he didn’t start assessing his plan to pass the certified ophthalmic executive exam until he registered for a date to take the exam.
The role of education
Many professional goals center around continuing education or achieving a certification, which can benefit both your career and your practice. Jodie Jackson, COT, Sabates Eye Center, in Kansas City, MO, thinks of certification “as investing in your future.”
“You can take it with you. It’s internationally recognized, and adds value to your career,” she says. “Plus, employers pay more for it.”
Ms. Barkey came to ophthalmology with a two-year degree and a medical assistant program completion that required her to spend time as an “intern” in a medical setting. This trained her in a variety of aspects of eye care, including in the optical and billing, and as a surgical scrub, counselor, tech, and scribe. “Education for me has been a winning situation in my advancement, but not in the way some of my peers have advanced,” she says. Ms. Barkey is also an ASOA board member.
Beyond formal training, other education opportunities exist, many of which are free, says Ms. Barkey: “Don’t pass on great opportunities to do webinars, classes, dinners, etc. You can learn daily if you open your mind and don’t put up blockers.”
Ms. Jackson recommends other informal training opportunities. “Working in a small practice, it was easy for me to grab another tech to practice photography, go over prisms, etc.”
Networking is critical to seeing, setting, and achieving goals. Consider the following networking opportunities:
- Meetings. Even a day or two of engaging with colleagues at industry meetings can create relationships that last a career, says Mr. Theine. “The best relationships I have developed are from going to meetings.” One benefit of speaking to people outside of your practice is that you can speak more openly and get a fresh perspective, he adds.
- Mentorships. A bit more formal than a casual conversation at an industry meeting, mentors can provide insight into how to reach your goals. “Especially for younger managers,” says Ms. Jacobs, “have a mentor to coach or just answer questions. It may be someone in the practice or someone just in the industry. You just have to identify them and reach out.”
- Professional organizations. Ms. Jackson recommends the Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology, or ATPO, which has many volunteer and networking opportunities. For those entering a leadership role, Ms. Barkey suggests getting involved with American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators. “There is a wealth of leadership knowledge out there. You do not have to re-invent the wheel.”
Professional organizations can provide the resources and the means with which to achieve professional goals. Organizations available to allied health professionals include:
American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (asoa.org ); International Joint Commission on Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology (jcahpo.org ); American Association of Certified Orthoptists, orthoptics.org American Academy of Professional Coders (aapc.com ); Ophthalmic Photographer Society (opsweb.org ). See more on certifications in the March/April issue of Ophthalmic Professional or bit.ly/OPCertification .
The employer’s role
It’s impossible to talk about setting goals in a job without addressing the employer’s perspective.
Mr. Theine points to the impact of a changing employee-employer relationship and puts the responsibility on the employee. “We’ve had a big shift in the workplace where things are now being driven by the individual. Most employers will respond well to employees who ask to develop themselves.”
In other words, it’s up to you to set and reach your goals. OP