Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by  Dr. Chris Lopez who is a contributor for ODs on Finance and optometrist at a group optometric practice in New York. He enjoys helping optometry students and new grads navigate the career search.

Aaron and Dat are extremely strict about guest requirements in that they must be educational and informative to our readers. Every guest post is vetted, read and upheld to the highest standards of ODsonFinance. Your trust is the most valuable factor to us. We like having experts in their field write on our website, because honestly, Aaron and Dat don't know everything! Enjoy and give us feedback!

First, you impressed them with your resume and job application. Next, you nailed the interviews. Then, you reached the crux of the job search process: the employer offered you a job contract. Now comes the most important step - the negotiation.


I will preface this article by stating that negotiating is not easy. Rather, it’s an extremely difficult skill to master. Moreover, the act of negotiation can be very unnerving. It’s not until you have been through a number of negotiations that you even begin to feel comfortable with the process.


The good news is that like any skill, whether it’s public speaking, working out, or playing golf; improvement comes with practice (well, maybe not golf). It takes time and repeated effort to develop, hone, and refine negotiation skills. However, the payoff can be tremendous. Few things in business make you feel better than being appreciated and getting paid for your worth. On the other hand, not negotiating can make a world of difference when it comes to job satisfaction. Can you imagine going to work every day feeling undervalued? Could you easily refuse to dwell on your subpar compensation package?


Job fulfillment is not to be downplayed. Do not get me wrong, finding gratification in your career is certainly not all about the money (at least for most people), but who doesn’t want to be compensated fairly? Unfortunately, feeling undervalued may lead to anger, tension, and resentment. THAT is why negotiating is so crucial. You are more likely to be happy in your workplace if you feel that you made an effort with your employer to find a happy middle ground and improve your position in life and in the practice. 

What is the Key?

What is the key to negotiation? It’s not a trick question. The key to any negotiation is to ASK. You must ask for what you want in the contract or the likelihood of you procuring it is slim. Why would an employer offer an extra $20,000 with no discussion? Why would the practice owner throw in an additional week of paid leave without indication? Of course it would be great to attain added benefits, but business owners tend to be a bit savvier than the average person, so working towards those contract improvements requires effort through negotiation.


Importantly, not bargaining with your (potential) employer can be detrimental down the road. It’s been reported that forgoing the negotiation process can cost you more than one million dollars over the span of your career. Unfortunately, most job candidates follow this path because it’s “easier.” Is “easier” worth losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars?

"Why do people resist negotiating? The answer is fear. We fear angering the employer. We try to avoid uncomfortable situations. We dread disappointing others. Mainly, we are afraid that negotiating may rub the employer the wrong way and the contract offer will be withdrawn"

What is Holding You Back?

A question worth investigating is why do people resist negotiating? The answer is fear. We fear angering the employer. We try to avoid uncomfortable situations. We dread disappointing others. Mainly, we are afraid that negotiating may rub the employer the wrong way and the contract offer will be withdrawn. Could this really happen? Sure, and it’s happened before. However, the risk of that occurring is extraordinarily low. 


Job applicants should understand that from an owner’s perspective, hiring someone isn’t the smoothest process either. Finding the right candidate takes time, patience, effort, and money. With that in mind, which of the following is more likely to take place? Is a hiring optometrist more likely to withdraw an offer because they are offended by your willingness to negotiate, or would it behoove him/her to communicate with the candidate to find a happy middle ground? Employers are more likely to work out a deal with someone whom they’ve already invested resources in. 

"The key to any negotiation is to ASK. Why would an employer offer an extra $20,000 with no discussion?... Importantly, not bargaining with your (potential) employer can be detrimental down the road. It’s been reported that forgoing the negotiation process can cost you more than one million dollars over the span of your career."

How to Negotiate

Another concern career searchers have is how to negotiate. It is critical to communicate with the practice owner in a tactful manner. Unfortunately, millennials often get painted with an “entitled” label. However, using thoughtfulness and discretion can allow you to maneuver the negotiation process with finesse, and avoid depictions of greed and entitlement.


For example, it would be a mistake to ask for more money simply because you think you deserve it. Yet, if you can demonstrate your worth to the employer and illustrate what you can do to improve the practice, the hiring party may be more willing to offer some improvements to the contract. In reality, at this point in time you should have already cemented yourself as the right person for the position. Establishing yourself as the person for the job is the BEST negotiating hack that you can do.


Check out this Job Interview article  for tips on how to stand out as a premier candidate for optometry careers.


REMEMBER: Everything is negotiable!


Regarding what to look for in an offer, there’s a big difference between what you want and what is realistic. Below is a non-exhaustive list of benefits that you could hope for, but may not be guaranteed.

List of Benefits to ask for

  • Relocation expenses paid for
  • Sign-on bonus
  • Practice buy-in capability
  • Guaranteed annual raise
  • Lax non-compete clause
  • High base salary
  • Generous bonus potential
  • Health/medical benefits
  • Dental benefits
  • Retirement such SIMPLE IRA/401K
  • Paid time off (sick leave, family leave, holidays, etc.)
  • Continuing education reimbursement
  • National and local optometric association dues paid

"It is critical to communicate with the practice owner in a tactful manner. Unfortunately, millennials often get painted with an “entitled” label. However, using thoughtfulness and discretion can allow you to maneuver the negotiation process with finesse, and avoid depictions of greed and entitlement."

What are some Red flags?

In a perfect world, contracts would strike a perfect balance in regards to the desires of two parties. Disingenuity would be eliminated and deceit would be excluded. However, there are red flags that every job candidate should be wary of to avoid future headaches.


  • (1) 1099 versus W-2
    • One of the most common methods an employer may try to “save money” on an employee is by utilizing a type of employment that favors the employer tax wise but puts an extra hardship on the employee.  Study what offer is given to you and also weigh the legal implications of your type of employment (which varies state by state).  In short, review the contract and conclude whether you should be classified as an employee or independent contractor.

  • (2) Complicated Terms
    • Terms for benefits, pay structure, bonuses, vacation and non-compete clauses should be clearly stated.  Ambiguous wording and unreasonable responsibilities or expectations in your contract should raise questions.

  • (3) Bending Legality
    • If any terms suggest performing actions that are against standard of care, out of scope, unethical, illegal or simply out of your comfort zone - it may be best to stay away, since this sets a precedence for future relationships

  • (4) Get it in writing
    • I’m sure you’ve heard this several times before. The reason behind this idea is that there are horror stories about what can happen if you don’t get arrangements in writing. I know Associate ODs who had the promise of practice buy-in dangled in front of them like a carrot for years only to have the owner sell to private equity. I have optometrist friends who expected to receive large bonus checks based on production incentives discussed between them and their employers, but at the end of the year the owners were able to decrease their overall revenue numbers based on confusing verbiage in the contract, thereby minimizing the bonus amount.

At the end of the day, the old idiom holds true, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Get your contract details in writing.

Conclusion

There is nothing easy about negotiating. To most people, it does not come naturally. It is often an uncomfortable, intimidating, and daunting task. Fortunately, improving this challenging technique is possible through practice. If you dominate your career search, you will receive several job offers and thus, have the opportunity to practice negotiating skills. Crushing a contract negotiation can lead to extraordinary job satisfaction or may leave you feeling undervalued. Do not fear this step in the job search process. Act confidently, know your worth, display your best qualities, and ask for what you want. Negotiate like a pro.

Dr. Chris Lopez is a contributor for ODs on Finance and optometrist at a group optometric practice in New York. He enjoys helping optometry students and new grads navigate the career search. If you have any questions/comments/concerns, or if you would like more information please contact Dr. Christopher Lopez at clopez@collegehilleye.com or connect on Linkedin. 

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About DatBuiOD

Dr. Bui is a lead optometrist at the Apple Wellness Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has a deep passion for ocular disease and healthcare technology. He started his career with $230K of student debt and has been focusing on strategies on attacking this massive debt such as budgeting and personal finance, along with investing. He is a big advocate for passive index funding with a small portfolio toward technology stocks. Lastly, he wants to help all new doctors and high-earning professionals navigate toward wealth and financial independence.

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