“I’m so glad I dared to take the leap”

17/01 2022 - Stores

“I’m so glad I dared to take the leap”

After 23 years as an optician at a watch and optics store in her hometown of Gnesta, Sweden, Tarja Ekstrand decided to take the step and become a consultant at Specsavers. Once she had made up her mind, she encountered some tough obstacles along the way. First, a breast cancer diagnosis and then the pandemic turned most things upside down. But in the spring of 2021, it was finally time and then a new work role had also emerged – Optician On Demand.

Read this story in Swedish

As an Optician On Demand, you perform eye examinations from home and online, while your customer is in a store. You have a well-trained clinical assistant who assists you and the customer in the eye examination room. Tarja thought it sounded fascinating, but at the same time, it wasn’t easy to get a grip on what it really meant. Could this work in practice? To find out, she decided to visit a Specsavers store that had just launched the Optician On Demand concept. She was pleasantly surprised: “I thought: this actually works well. I want to do this too!”

“Specsavers is quick to train and help opticians”

Tarja has worked in the optical industry since she was 19 years old and is now 55. “At the beginning of my optical career, we ground and made templates for lenses, so it involved a great amount of craftsmanship,” says Tarja. “My optical education involved both studies and an internship with an optician to learn the craft part of the optical profession. From grinding lenses by hand in the old days to examining fundus images today – it’s a fairly long journey.”

“But I’m impressed with how fast Specsavers is offering advanced training to us, opticians. For instance, I didn’t know anything about fundus photography when I began. In addition, there was a lot that felt new; Teams and other digital technology. But then I attended several courses, and I also learned and developed in the meantime. So now I feel completely confident in my role as an Optician on Demand. I’m constantly growing, and I’m able to take more responsibility.”

“It’s important to highlight the role of the clinical assistant”

“As an Optician On Demand, you need to be clear and always help and guide the clinical assistant. You need to be calm and secure and, at the same time, know that you can direct the other person, so they understand what you mean. I also think it’s important to highlight the role of the clinical assistant. You can, for example, inform the customer that you’ll now receive further help from the store team, and they are good at this. Many people may think that only the optician can perform some tasks, but this isn’t the case at Specsavers, as the store teams here are very well-trained. I feel confident handing over my customers to the store colleagues since I know they have the knowledge.”

“It’s never a problem to become a part of the team”

“I work mostly from home as an Optician on Demand, but once a month, I work in one of Specsavers’ stores. As a consultant, I always feel welcome and involved, both when I sit in front of the screen and when I work on-site in a store.”

Tarja is impressed with how well-trained and skilled the store employees are at Specsavers and that the atmosphere is so nice and friendly everywhere. “I think I have worked in 15 different stores now, and every time everyone has been so welcoming and nice. The clinical assistants are always positive and want to learn new things,” says Tarja.

“All stores have good high-tech equipment,” Tarja continues. “All equipment is basically the same in all Specsavers stores, which of course makes it easier for me as a consultant because it always feels familiar. When I work in a store, I do everything that the clinical assistants usually do when I work remotely as Optician On Demand. This is great, because then I know how everything works in practice. In addition, it’s always clean, fresh and well-organised when I step through the door,” she adds.

“I have a few tricks on how to talk to everyone”

“I speak everyday ‘Swedish’ and try to avoid cumbersome optical terms. I don’t think you need to use ‘nice’ words – then I think you speak a little over the head of your customers. It’s important to read the customer. Sometimes you may not need to explain so much, and sometimes you notice that the customer is a little insecure and needs more support and information. My goal is that the customers shouldn’t have any questions left when they leave the room. That’s very important to me.”

Tarja says that she always tries to make customers laugh, or at least smile a little bit during the visit: “As an optician, I’ve met all kinds of people over the years, so I have a few tricks on how to talk to everyone. I often already see what people think in their body language when they sit in the chair. I like to joke a bit and talk a little in general when they try the frame and so on,” says Tarja with a smile. That’s also what inspires her – happy and positive people.

“Another great thing about being an optical consultant is that you meet so many new people and get many new colleagues,” Tanja continues. “I needed that. It’s so much fun, and even though we don’t meet ‘in real life’, it feels like I’m in the room. And then it’s so much fun with all the different accents!”

“As a consultant, I get all the support I need”

“The support team is always friendly and helpful and serves me as much as they can with everything. I never have to call around and ask myself, would they help me with that? They do everything they can to fill my calendar. They know that I was a bit worried about moving from a permanent job to a consultant role. Will there be enough work? I’m so happy I dared to take the leap. Specsavers puts a lot of focus on helping consultants – we get all the support we need.”

“Now I’m the one who makes the decisions”

“I have so much more freedom now and can decide my working hours myself. My husband will soon retire, and we got three grandchildren in the last three years. I want to be a present grandmother! In addition, I want to have time to do weight training and get my golf swing going again,” Tarja concludes with a big smile.

Read more about what it’s like to work as an Optician On Demand (in Swedish) at Specsavers. You can also browse to other opportunities we offer and find out if there are any vacancies that suit you.

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