“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Nobody knows for sure who said it— it is wisdom often overlooked.
I’m remembering back about 34 years ago: despite all the reading I’d done to prepare myself to be a new mother, I was overwhelmed with taking care of a relentless, squawking, colicky, newborn infant. I was newly graduated from
optometry school and felt competent when taking care of any patient’s eye problem; but, when it came to being a new mother, frazzled by getting no sleep at all, I was not even close to being prepared for the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a newborn infant.
Despite all the steps I thought I took to prepare, I felt like someone who couldn’t swim being thrown into the deep end.
Unlike the experience of being a new mother, the training process as an optometry student was sequential. I was never overwhelmed by the level of responsibility that I would eventually be expected to shoulder. Instead of being thrown in the deep end, as an optometry student, I was gradually acclimatized to patient care by ever-present mentors who soothed my warranted fears of inadequacy and gave me the training and advice I needed specific to the clinical situation. The mentors—clinic faculty who had been down the same path I was to travel—knew just what I needed to know and when I was ready for the next step. My motherhood experience was just the opposite and I was frantic for any advice or help—any at all! This was my mindset when I came across just the ticket: an article in a parenting magazine.
Its message was simple yet profound: when getting ready to tackle a brand new undertaking, begin by getting advice from the experts.
Yes of course! Get advice from those who have already been down the same road. That’s what was provided for me as an optometry student, namely, expert advice from clinic faculty. I gradually learned to take on the weighty responsibility of patient care under their mentorship. So why had I expected to feel competent as a new mother with no OJT training and only information I’d gleaned from reading baby books. So obvious!
I’m here to pass this advice on to you, dear pre-optometry student, by making it specific for the pre-optometry student/applicant. What better way to “get advice from the experts” than to put together your very own Board of Trustees.
An applicant should view him or herself as a corporation who operates with leadership and advice dispensed by a select group of experts, namely a Board of Trustees—a group of individuals who strive to make the best decisions, to establish goals and objectives—in short, to lead the corporation through challenges and onto its best future.
As an applicant, you need your own Board of Trustees. You need your very own group of hand-picked individuals who have lived life, tackled similar challenges, and can share their practical wisdom. Assemble your Board by seeking out professionals, trusted friends, other pre-optometry students, optometrists, clergy members—whoever you feel would be willing to serve by candidly offering their expertise and advice. Ask them to serve on your personal Board of Trustees. The objective of the members of the Board is to give advice designed to help negotiate your way into your future!
Call or write targeted people and formally ask them to serve on your Board. The idea is to choose different people for different jobs. Included would be those who may provide input about strengthening one’s character, increasing emotional intelligence, improving communication and interviewing skills. Ask each of them what they might specifically bring to the table. It will surprise you to learn what each may offer—perhaps well beyond what you anticipated.
Especially helpful would be professional people who have experience in the fields of business or education. It would be important for these people to be frank and honest about say perhaps your personal appearance or communication skills. It’s important that you empower your Board members to be honest with you. That’s why you can’t have someone like your mom on your Board because by definition, she cannot be objective.
I’m big on visual reinforcement: when you get your Board in place, get their pictures together. Use their images to go through a mental exercise of picturing yourself sitting in a meeting with this group in a large board room, listening intently as a discussion unfolds about how you might strategize about getting from Point A to Point B. Can’t you just picture a lively board meeting right now? And most importantly, guess whose future is the topic of conversation?!
Problem solving involves strategizing with two kinds of variables: known and unknown. The known ones are easier to deal with because they can be anticipated in advance and planned for. The unknown ones are the most challenging when it comes to planning because “you don’t know what you don’t know.” My own kids are tired of
hearing this wisdom from me: it’s not the “known” in a situation that is the toughest challenge. Rather, it’s discerning the unknown—that’s the rub. Because my own kids have heard this advice so many times from me, I can picture their eyes rolling right now as I write these words. It’s that killer unknown that will trip you up. We can strategize and make plans to deal with the known, but how do we discover and plan for the unknown? That’s where your Board can provide the greatest service, by giving insight and perspective, which will turn those unknown variables into known ones.
When it comes to the admissions process, pre-optometry students are in the tricky business of plunging into the unknown. They have never been down this bumpy path before and as such, are trying to stem the tide and figure out just what obstacles will be encountered on who knows how many fronts. To help with your journey, you need advice from all types of experts—experience-junkies and life veterans who have been down the same road that’s ahead. It doesn’t matter that they have not applied to a professional program; they have life experience that can be applied to your situation.
This is a win-win situation. Board members will feel honored by a request to be chosen to serve, and pre-optometry students will get to turn knowledge into wisdom with willing guidance from those who have gone before. By realizing what a good idea you are implementing and how they may have valued such advice way back when they were in your same situation, they will be impressed by your plan. I guarantee your Board members will be eager and honored to help.
Picture in your mind that board meeting, where you might ask questions about, say, the admissions process, because after all, it has so many elements common to landing a job in the marketplace—especially when it comes to the interview. Your Board will advise in your best interests. You already have their advance permission to involve them in your process so you feel comfortable doing so. Call or email any number of your board members when you want input. With time and experience, you will come to anticipate your Board members’ answers to your questions and begin to make decisions on your own and with more confidence—that’s when you are really getting somewhere!
Seek knowledge and apply it over time, learn cause and effect—and pretty soon, this knowledge turns into wisdom. Until you log your own experience, you should be wise enough to know that you need experienced advice—a perfect job for your own personal Board of Trustees!