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An Unexpected Opportunity, What Should I Do?

questionIt seems every Friday I have another question for my wonderful readers. Just to update, over the last couple of week you’ve helped me decide what to do with a windfall (It’s in the vacation fund for now, but part will go into stocks when there is a market correction) and helped me decide that good service is the most important thing with my phone, although I’m still not sure whether I need a smart phone or not. This week, I have been presented with an unexpected opportunity, a new job offer.

As you may already know, I have transitioned from being a workaholic business owner/optometrist to a part time optometrist who works at three different places; two private offices and for an Indian Health Service clinic. I am averaging about three days a week currently.

A few weeks ago, an optometrist called me out of the blue and offered a part time position with a large referral center just across the border in New Mexico. She got my name from a colleague who works full time for Indian Health. It is a small community, and if you have the training and personality to work with that population, it opens lots of doors. A great percentage of patients in this practice come from the reservation. For the most part, this is the place after the primary care clinic can no longer meet your needs and you require specialized services.

Life is never that easy because there are a few conditions.

  • It is a 70 mile drive. This is actually not a huge deal to me if I don’t have to do it every day. One of the offices I work in currently is that far, but over a mountain pass, so this would be an easy drive in comparison.
  • I would have to get a New Mexico license. New Mexico, for whatever reason, is one of the harder states to get licensed in. Most states allow you to obtain a license after passing all three parts of a national board exam plus a treatment/management of ocular disease test. A few require a separate exam. The New Mexico exam is very difficult and consists of a practical portion and an oral exam about eye disease cases.

Now, if I were to pass or fail on my own merit, I have no problem with that, but it has long been know that if you have the right or wrong connections, it greatly influences your scores in New Mexico. Years ago, the oral part consisted of an interview. The examiners asked where you intended to practice. If it was in direct competition to a high ranking optometrist in the pecking order, you failed. It has improved over the years, and it is really a test of skills and knowledge now, but some believe the oral portion is still the way it is so that the examiners reserve the right to fail you. Often the board of a state does not want too many doctors, and this is a way to ensure the ones already there can continue to make money. It’s not right or fair, but it is what it is. Without written results to argue a score, it’s pretty much he said/she said, and if you piss off the board, you can never hope to get a license .

The test is given one time a year, and it costs $575 to take, non-refundable, plus $100 for a CPR course, and then another $200 if you pass. It is held in Santa Fe over a three day period, so I would incur travel expenses as well.  I have to decide and have the money in by June 24th. I do believe the company who is trying to hire me has a good reputation, and I would be likely to pass if I can meet the requirements, but you never know. I will also be reimbursed the fees if I pass and go to work for this company.

Now, the more important question is, do I even want this opportunity? Honestly, I don’t know. If my current positions continue as they are, probably not. However, once my business sale is final, I have no job security. I think I’m well liked and do a good job, but there are many other factors that influence employment other than doing a good job. Ironically, I interviewed and was offered a position with this company before I went into private practice. It would be like coming full circle. I have no doubt that the work would be challenging, and it’s no secret that medical optometry is my favorite part. Not that I don’t like fitting disposable contacts, but it’s not the most exciting thing in the world.

As far as hours and pay, there is tons of flexibility. Because of the difficulty of obtaining a New Mexico license, there just aren’t any doctors to hire, especially in this area, and certainly not many who want to work part time. If someone moved up from Albuquerque, they would want full time with full benefits. The position offered is currently for one or two days a week plus fill in for other doctors when needed. Realistically, I could probably negotiate a deal to work two days a week and make as much as I’m making for three now. That would also mean I would either have to go back to working 5 days a week, which I don’t want, or leaving one of my other positions. I really love everywhere I work and would hate to do that. Regardless, if I don’t take the test, I lose the opportunity for at least a year, maybe forever. Even if I get the license and don’t take the job, I would hold a pretty coveted piece of paper, which might come in handy down the road. Part of me says jump at the opportunity. Part of me says chill out.

I’d be out the fees and whatever it costs to keep the license current, but it might not be a bad deal, assuming I could pass the thing in the first place. If I never ended up using it, it would be a total waste of money and all this worry.

What should I do? Should I shell out and take the test or avoid it altogether? Am I too pessimistic about my current employment situation?

 Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Miles

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I would try to get the license, and figure out just how badly you want the job later on. Even if you don’t take the job, you’ll still have the license and can always apply for a different job in NM later if that’s what you decide.

    • That would make sense if I can cram everything I’ve learned and forgotten over the past 15 years into a month of studying.

  2. Wow, that’s a tough call, Kim. What does hubby think about it? I do like Myfij’s thoughts about just getting the license so you’re “in”. Then, if something comes up later you already have the license. That being said, I think you might want to look too, at long term goals for your career and family and ask yourself “What do I want to be doing in 5 years, and does this job fit in with the path to get there?”. Good luck with your decision, Kim!

    • You guys have been very helpful with the comments. I really do need to sit down and see where I want to be in the next few years. My husband is very supportive of whatever I want to do, and I’ve certainly thrown some doozies in over the last couple of years. So far, it’s all worked out pretty well, and maybe I need to leave it at that.

  3. That’s a tough one….but if you’re somewhat happy where you’re at it would be hard to leave. That’s a tough call!

    • I should just be happy I don’t have to work a million hours a week and quit trying to add more work, but I always like more pay and that’s the crux of the matter.

  4. It sounds (at least to me) like you really want to take this opportunity. I would say try to get the license and then decide (which I know is kind of ridiculous if you don’t end up using it). I’d say go for it. I especially like the idea of making in two days what you can in three, and if you can only work two days that would be a pretty nice setup.

    • Even if I didn’t use it, just studying to pass the test would probably make me better for my patients. It’s amazing how much you forget when you don’t use it every day.

  5. That’s a really interesting situation. I used to work in southern NM and the commute was 60 miles, but I always made it in less than an hour because there’s nothing in the way!
    As far as paying the fees to explore that opportunity, they don’t seem like huge fees for what could be a pretty big career change. If you truly want to do it, don’t let those fees stand in your way.

    • Yes, the fees are pretty negligible for the opportunity if I choose to take it. There certainly isn’t much on the road to NM. My worst thing would be a goat or cow in the road.

  6. Sounds like NM is not much different from Guatemala! You do seem eager to give it a try, although one thing you don’t talk about is once you pass, do you keep having corrupted official get in your way? Not being able to do your job properly can be really annoying.

    • I guess it is like Guatemala. Corruption abounds!

      Once you are licensed, as long as you pay the fees, do the required continuing education credits, and don’t do something stupid like get arrested, you are good to go. They can’t take your license away for not playing the game.

  7. I don’t think I’d do it, personally. I would hate driving 70 miles each way to and from work. Plus it sounds like the barriers to entry are pretty high and you’re enjoying all of the work you are currently doing. That being said, if you don’t think any of your current gigs are long-term options then you may want to consider getting your license in NM just because it’ll open up more doors than just the one you see right now.

    • Maybe I should wait a year and see where I’m at, then take the board? I don’t think my current job situation is changing in the near future.

  8. Since it’s really hard to make that decision for you, I’ll tell you what I got as a gut instinct reading your blog, and that is it may not be worth it to you to take this job. Like I said, I’m only going on “feeling” as I read it.

  9. That is a tough call. I can see it from both sides, but I think the test only being available once a year might trump it. I might try and take the test and then go from there. It gives you more time to think it over without having to commit now to taking the job.

    • I wish they had called me a couple of months ago. I like to think I’m a fly by the seat of my pants girl, but I really need time to think things like this over.

  10. I don’t think that this is a tough call. It sounds like you are a excited about the opportunity to work there and also about the doors that will open for you after doing so. The cost to take the test is a little on the high side but once passed will not be recurring. I say go for it.

  11. Hmmm this seems tough. If you are afraid of future job security, then maybe you should do it? However, I don’t know. This is tough!

    • I don’t think I’m really afraid. I’m just one of those people who likes to have a plan for worst case. Even worse case, I probably don’t need to do this. It is flattering that someone wants me for a tough job, though.

  12. Wow, that’s a tough call Kim and I think you are the best person to make that decision because it all boils down to YOU and where you want to see your life head. I wish you all the luck in what you decide but I’m sure you will make an informed professional decision in the end. Cheers

    • Professional Kim wants to work at the top of the food chain and handle the most difficult patients that I am allowed to treat by law. Mommy Kim wants to have play dates and never work out of town again. Those two sides don’t always get along.

  13. In your description of the opportunity, you never mention your overall goals or plans. Have you met your financial goals? What are your future goals and plans? Does this opportunity fit with those goals? I think that is what is important.

    • So true. We were in debt repayment mode for so long that I do need to revisit those goals to see what the next few years need to bring. We are in the best financial position of our lives currently. I’m not sure why I can’t enjoy it more instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  14. Take the test just to show those New Mexicans and yourself that you know your stuff.

    Take the job but only if they make it 2 days every other week and they pay you a lodging and food allowance. That way you could work 2 days in a row and make the drive less frequently.

    I haven’t taken many chances in my life. I rarely regret things I have done wrong and totally messed up in my life but I do have a lot of regrets because I have let chances pass me by because I was afraid.

  15. Is this something you were hoping for before it was offered? If not, then why not? There might be good reasons this wasn’t something you were pursuing and those reasons probably haven’t changed just because there’s an offer on the table.

    If this is something you really want, that you think will improve your life in a meaningful way, then the fees are worth it, even if it doesn’t come to fruition. But if not, then what’s the point? We don’t need to chase every opportunity that comes our way if we’re already content with what we have.

    • I agree. Sometimes I think I think too much and it gets me in trouble. Even if all my jobs fell through, I could likely get something else this side of the border.

  16. The fees seem pretty small, so I wouldn’t let them be the deciding factor. If it were me, I’d probably go for it in order to have the option, but do you really want to go back to working 5 days per week?

    • No way if I can help it. Fees are steeper than most states, but certainly could be recovered quickly if I put it to use. If only I had a few months to think about it!

  17. Thats a tough one. You seem to really like your current state but are a little worried about messing up or missing out. I would say at least take the tests and get those out of the way. See how things go from there.

  18. I’d guess that even the fact you’re giving this opportunity this much thought means you’re really serious about it. I’d imagine it’s always better to be licensed in more vs. less states, esp. since you’re so close to the border anyway. My line of thinking is take the test now vs later. If you decide 5-10 years from now that you want to work in NM at least you have it and aren’t 20-25 years away from the clinical coursework.

  19. Not the worst of conundrums to have! Congratulations on the offer. The commute seems to me to be the main issue, as I’m sure you’ll be motivated to pass the NM exam.

  20. I love how others are coming around to help out these days. Great. My advice is to take the test and get the license. It could open up other opportunities, but it will also show that you still know your shit (I am sure that you really do). Yes, it costs money, but it is coveted. Do it!

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