Inspiring teenagers is a rewarding aspect of the profession. It can be thought-provoking and encouraging, making you reflect on your working life.

So how should you prepare if you are approached by a local school? Or if you are inspired to reach out? 

The basics

First, agree the format. Is this face to face or online? A formal talk with slides followed by a Q&A, or an informal fireside chat led by student questions, with no prepared presentation? What technology is available? Who will be there to help if it doesn’t work first time? 

Find out the timing; how long have you got? If in person, allow 20 to 30 minutes for a Q&A after your speech, if online, 10 to 20 minutes. 

Schedule a call with the lead teacher before the event. Discuss how many students will be there, their ages and likely career goals. How many students are taking relevant GCSEs and A-levels? Have any former students gone on to further study, apprenticeships or to work in optical practices? 

What is the aim of the talk? To demystify your profession, inspire students, or to discuss specific subjects?

Agree some prepared questions to discuss with the teacher. The students may be too nervous to ask the first question. 

Structure your talk

Introduce yourself and explain why you are there. Some students may not realise this isn’t a normal assembly, for instance.

State your key message. For example, it could be that you wish someone had told you that there are different routes into optical careers or about the skills you can use or the different roles available.

There will always be some who aren’t sure how your talk applies to them. Take a moment to connect it to their lives.

Ask the audience questions about the optical world to see what it is they know and their preconceptions.

Give a brief outline of your career. What led you to become a dispensing optician? 

Remember to explain acronyms and jargon.

Outline your main themes. Explain what you do and how it relates to young people.

Tell them about your job. What do you enjoy about your work? Any career highlights? Tell stories, don’t just list facts. 

What are the key skills that could help young people to be successful? What do you look for when recruiting? 

Towards the end mention career pathways for those interested. Do you offer apprenticeships in your practice? 

Most schools welcome you bringing an apprentice or graduate. They can speak about their experiences after the main talk.

Short videos (a few minutes) or strong visuals can be a great way to give students a look behind the scenes. 

Follow up

It’s a good idea to chat to the teachers after the event, or in a follow up phone call or email. Feedback is always interesting – you might be surprised what students value most. 

More ideas

For top tips on talking about careers from a STEM perspective, see STEM careers: inspiring young people and you can also find a lesson plan here.