The importance of getting work experience before you graduate

Ulster student Colm McNicholl discusses why summer is the perfect time to get some valuable work experience

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As an optometry student, you know that you once you qualify you'll have to miss bank holidays, and of course, weekends. However, the summer between your years at university is a grace period of 4 months, free from the stress of exams, clinics and the constant worry that you might be forgetting some of your equipment! 

While it's certainly important to enjoy the time off, there are ways of using this time effectively.
Apart from catching up on sleep, summer is a great time to make some cash to help with the expensive cost of university life.

I recommend getting experience in the optical profession. This can usually be done by working part-time as a lab technician, secretary or preferably as an optical assistant. These jobs often don’t require any further qualifications and allow you to put your university knowledge into practice, and give you experience of real life scenarios outside of your textbooks. It gets you used to dealing with the public and understanding their issues and symptoms.

Optical work experience will also help you to develop a routine and gets you grounded in many of the activities that will become day-to-day realities once you graduate, including taking PD measurements, taking fundus photos, using the tonometer or even just finding ways to engage the patient with interesting and informative conversations.

Experience also allows you to get used to the systems and operations of optical practices as businesses and this is invaluable when progressing forward into your pre-registration year and beyond.

Summer also provides a great chance to get involved in charity work as well, with organisations such as Vision Aid Overseas or RNIB. All provide incredible help to people who need it the most.

Colm McNicholl
Student rep, Ulster University

Colm is studying optometry at Ulster University. For him, the best thing about the course is everything that relates to eye health. The diseases, conditions and cures for all the various eye conditions are fascinating. The only downside is the many hours needed in the library to get through it all! If Colm isn’t studying (and he should be!), then he is most likely to be found rowing at Coleraine Rowing Club, playing guitar or on the couch… most probably on the couch…