Specsavers Graduate Program: Side by side in the second year

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Ben Bull and Vincent Tang
Ben Bull and Vincent Tang

This month, in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog, second-year graduate optometrist and New Zealand national Vincent Tang of Specsavers Hollywood, South Australia looks back on how far he has already come in his career as he prepares for the final segment of the program, while his mentor and store partner, Ben Bull, notes the valuable contribution Vincent has made to the practice.

Vincent Tang: There have been many highlights in the Specsavers Graduate Program for me over the past year. While the three-day Graduate Induction is at the top of the list, the graduate workshops have also been a great opportunity to mix and mingle with peers, discuss our thoughts and experiences throughout the program, and exchange cases through Grand Rounds.

The most recent of these workshops was the Year Two Graduate Forum and Grand Rounds, which took place in mid-May. In this forum we discussed and explored our interests, discovering more about ourselves and the career aspirations we might like to pursue beyond the Graduate Program. It was an eye opener as some of us were still uncertain of what we wanted to do after this year.

Many ideas were pitched: we could continue with further study and develop our skills in specific interest areas, consider roles in leadership, or apply for the Holy Grail – the Pathway Program, which sets you up to be a Specsavers Joint Venture Partner.

As part of the second year of the Graduate Program we also undertake and complete a project in-store, which we were introduced to during the recent forum. The project is designed to help us grow further by focussing on our areas of interests, such as personal performance, leadership, increasing growth within our store, and giving back to the community, as just a few examples.

Compared to my first 12 months ‘adulting’ as a new graduate optometrist, the second leg of the two-year program has been smooth sailing. Having said that, the first year of the program not only helped me develop professionally, but personally as well.

The mentorship provided in the Graduate Program has provided me with invaluable feedback that has made the transition from student to graduate optometrist seem effortless. During the protected time my mentor, Ben, set aside for me, we caught up on cases and discussed professional benchmarks, but importantly, we also touched base on how I was doing on this side of the ditch, 3,200km away from home.

The Graduate Program provides immense support. Whether it’s through the mentorship, the graduate workshops, or even calling the Specsavers Professional Development team for help at 2am (maybe try not to do that), support is always available. This ongoing support has made me feel much more confident, competent, and independent than I thought I would at this stage, and that’s why the Specsavers Graduate Program has been such an important stepping-stone in my early career.

Ben Bull: Having Vincent join our practice has been a pleasure from day one. Vincent did a week-long placement with us when he was a student, and that was enough for us to realise his potential as an optometrist.

The year has flown by, and Vincent has established himself as a fully-fledged member of our team. He has helped our practice grow significantly and has started to develop his own patient base, who look to him for their care.

The early days of frequent catch-ups have faded a little as Vincent has become more confident, but I have always been a big believer in maintaining protected time once a week. It gives us a chance to review the week, and make sure things are running smoothly for him.

I accompanied Vincent to the recent Year Two Graduate Forum, where the mentors undertook a separate workshop to discuss how to keep our graduates engaged. Initially, this seemed like it might be a ‘tick a box’ affair as Vincent is already very engaged in our practice; however, the day was useful.

There was a discussion among the mentors on the value of the Year Two projects and what our graduates expected from us. The Grand Rounds session that followed the forum included some excellent case studies that were thought-provoking and well presented. The final session also allowed for some one-on-one catch-up time outside of the practice, where Vincent and I had a great discussion on what he might like to do for his Year Two project. Having this meeting at the forum meant we were able to easily liaise with other store teams to arrange store-to-store swaps, which was very useful and saved time.

Moving forward, we have agreed on an interesting project that may show some real benefit for our store, and which I think it has piqued Vincent’s interest as he completes the final portion of the Graduate Program.

More in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog series
Supported on a new journey
Moving forward with mentorship
Side by side in the second year
Through the eyes of a graduate optometrist
The benefits of ‘going regional’
Graduate Induction – the first steps
Three days of professional development
Practising rural optometry with a friend
Venturing into leadership with the Year Two Project

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