8 top tips for a successful career in optics from a Specsavers specialist
From 1 September 2022, approved T Level providers will be able to register students on the Optical Care Services occupational specialism as part of the T Level Technical Qualification in Healthcare Science (Level 3). As leading international optician, Specsavers, supports the launch of the technical qualification, we asked Nick Trivino, Apprenticeship Programme Designer at Specsavers, to reflect on his 15-year career in optics. He shared with us some top tips on how to have a successful career in this sector.
1. Embrace your limitations
When I first started in optics, I was amazed at how much there was to learn. I was eager to impress, I made mistakes (I still do!) and learned from them. Try not to be frustrated if at first you can't do or don’t fully understand something in optics – instead, focus on the things you can do.
2. You can't do it alone
I started as an Optical Assistant and have since become a Dispensing Optician, worked in a lab, managed stores, taught apprentices, wrote apprenticeship programmes and so much more. The biggest thing I have learned from these accomplishments is that I had help – I sought out mentors, asked questions and relied on more experienced staff members to guide me through the minefield of knowledge within optics.
3. You are not a salesperson
The sooner you understand this, the better you will become – and believe it or not, the more money your customers will spend! Before optics, I sold electrical equipment at Currys, which was a true salesperson role. I entered into optics because even though retail is involved, it’s focused on customers’ needs and eye health. Optics is about listening to your customers, finding out what they need and looking after their sight – not what you can sell to them.
4. The opportunities are endless
When I was teaching or training people who were new to optics, I always told them to think of a long-term goal that matched their interests within the business. I made it clear that any role was possible if they wanted it and were willing to work hard. I’ve seen colleagues and friends move into various roles such as optometry, directorship and management. The thing we shared in common is that we all started as Optical Assistants and set ourselves goals to achieve!
5. The customer comes first
You're probably thinking "oh no, not this cliché!" – but hear me out. Always do what is in your customer's best interest, as this will make any decisions you have to make much easier. I once remember a staff member of mine who gave a customer thinner lenses that did not benefit the prescription. When I asked them why they’d done it, they told me they thought it was the best thing for their customer as they needed the lightest spectacles possible. Ultimately, what they had given was incorrect, but the intention was good.
6. You’re always a student
As you gain experience and knowledge, you’ll become more confident and possibly even what some might call a “know it all”! It’s important to keep an open mind, as there will always be something new to learn in optics. Optics is a fast paced and evolving sector – if you rest on your laurels, you will be left behind.
7. Pass your knowledge on
As you become more knowledgeable within the industry, you’ll be able to start mentoring those who were just like you at the beginning of your career. You may also be given learning opportunities, such as Dispensing Optician or Optometrist, and you can then share the knowledge you gain with your team to help them develop. Sharing new information with colleagues will make them stronger and result in a more positive experience for your customers.
8. You won't remember the “bad days”
Just like any job, you’ll have “bad days” – but they won't stay with you. If you asked me to tell you about the bad days I’ve had, I would ask if I could tell you about the many great days I’ve had instead! I’m still surprised at the number of thanks I receive from customers and even colleagues, just because I did something as simple as listening to them. It’s the good days that have kept me going in the industry for 15 years and if you give it half the chance, I'm sure you will see how fantastic of a career it can be.
Want to find out more about the routes the Healthcare Science T Level can take you in Optical Care Services?