You’ve heard it before: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” As a third-year optometry student making my way through grueling coursework that adage raises my blood pressure a bit. As a professional in any field, a strong base of knowledge is imperative for quality performance and complete patient care. However, while not completely black and white, I know that this quip holds quite a bit of truth. Being a part of organizations within the profession of optometry has made this abundantly clear.

Before optometry school began, I could not have imagined the doors that would open as a result of serendipitous handshakes. My story (albeit abridged) began when I became involved with student government at Michigan College of Optometry and  a faculty member told me about a summer internship he had heard about from an alumnus at a major soft contact lens company. That job exposed me to new facets of the profession I had never known about before. As a result of this involvement, I found myself sitting on a discussion panel with the CEO of a major global corporation. Coincidentally, this corporation was the parent of my beloved internship company. How many times have we heard it said the eyecare industry is a small world?

Taking the time to develop and maintain genuine friendly professional relationships is key. Getting involved is the first step. Whether you’re been at this for two years or 20, I believe finding a group that interests you and becoming an active member is a great way to connect. If you are particularly gregarious, then this is your chance to flex your congeniality. If you are a bit shy, now is the time to develop the skills you need to navigate these valuable opportunities.

Certainly a strong background in your field is a necessary component, but many doors open with a little help from networking. It may start with a handshake, but in time, I’m sure you’ll find that serendipitous networking goes far beyond that. It is, after all, how I got this guest column.

Editor’s Note: Starting with this issue [and appearing in alternating issues], this column will be written by a future optometrist. In this forum, a different student will voice her or his thoughts on the profession. Know of someone who might be interested? Email me at

Ellie Rose is a third-year optometry student at the Michigan College of Optometry in Big Rapids, MI, who wants to specialize in contact lenses.


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