Transitioning from university to a professional setting is a significant step that all graduate optometrists face, but Nickolas Stuhlmann made an additional leap from New Zealand to Australia to start his optometry career with Specsavers Runaway Bay in Queensland. As the first guest author in our new monthly Specsavers Graduate Program blog, Nickolas discusses the reasons behind his decision to move and describes his introduction to professional life with Specsavers.

As a new graduate, entering the professional world is incredibly daunting – the thought of doing this in a new and unfamiliar city is even more so. After finishing my studies at the University of Auckland, I thought starting my new job would be ‘sink or swim’, but here I am five months later and I can confidently say I’m not gasping for air.

Nickolas Stuhlmann (middle) with fellow graduate optometrists at the Specsavers Graduate Induction Welcome Event

In my final year of study, following a successful clinical placement at Specsavers Runaway Bay, I decided to ‘cross the ditch’ and join Specsavers, beginning my career with the same Runaway Bay team. During my week-long placement I saw the ins and outs of a customer’s journey through a busy practice, the enthusiasm of the staff, and I learned more than I could ever have anticipated from some very knowledgeable optometrists and store partners. What resonated with me the most, however, was the store culture. The team worked together not only to provide the best possible experience for every patient but also to support one another. This same support has helped me evolve from a university student to a young professional and has assisted me in settling into my new working environment.

Support, passion and commitment are just a handful of the desirable qualities that stood out for me about Specsavers. These same qualities shone through at the recent Graduate Induction held in Melbourne in February 2018. My three days there were jam-packed with learning workshops and presentations from some of Specsavers’ leading figures – but there was plenty of fun to be had too! What I soon realised at the induction was that not only does Specsavers assist small communities with their daily and immediate eye-care needs, but on a much larger scale it is transforming eye health in both Australia and New Zealand.

One of the workshops at Graduate Induction

The induction also provided a great opportunity to reunite with classmates and to meet some new faces from the Land Down Under. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone and that there were over 80 young optometrists trying to wrap their heads around Medicare, all the new contact lens products, and find their feet in even bigger cities. After getting to know the graduate class of 2018, it dawned on me that I have an incredible support network around me, comprising both fellow optometrists and Specsavers Support Office staff. Armed with this knowledge, I feel a lot more comfortable to ask for advice when faced with a difficult patient or an unfamiliar situation.

All in all, I am extremely excited about this new journey I have embarked on. I have received plenty of guidance from the Specsavers Support Office team and from my amazing store partners and staff. It is this support that has kept me buoyant and will continue to encourage me as I tackle the new challenges this exciting career throws at me.

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