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Pharmacist Oversupply: Outlook for Students

Author: Sara Dixon, PharmD Candidate 2001

Editor’s Note: Pharmacy students are sharing thoughts about the prospective job market and pharmacist oversupply. Here is a Guest Commentary by one student and Pharmacy Times’ Editor-in-Chief.


 Fred Eckel, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief:  

The pharmacist job market is different now. This year’s graduating student pharmacists know that better than anybody. Sara Dixon, a UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy student in her final year, is working with me this month and shares her reaction to Bill Green’s article “Dad Was Right: What Do I Do in a World of Pharmacist Oversupply?”

Sara Dixon, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy 2011:

Pharmacist oversupply is not a phrase that came to mind when most of us entered pharmacy school. I know that when I chose pharmacy as a career, part of that decision was based on the belief that I would be able to find a job anywhere I could possibly want to live. But as many of my classmates can tell you, that is no longer the case.

Now, “pharmacist oversupply” is at the tip of everyone’s tongue and has been the subject of several articles I have read recently. My preceptor this month, Fred Eckel, Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times, has written at least 2 columns on it, and it has been a common topic of our discussions.

In a recent article, Bill Green, president of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA), provides some valuable advice for those of us heading out into the job market. To me, his advice boils down to 2 essential points—be adaptable and build relationships.

I am sure all of us had a specific role in mind when we became pharmacists, but future success relies on adaptability (this is true even in the general terms). If you are unable to adapt to the job opportunities you have available to you or to the job you want—you may not have a job.

Pharmacists have grown accustomed to getting hired immediately for the jobs they seek. In other professions, working your way up or accepting a job only remotely related to your chosen career path is commonplace. Adapting to less-than-ideal job opportunities is just the beginning. Once you have accepted a position, the next step is to turn the entire experience into one which will benefit your future. To do that, you must build and maintain professional relationships.

Perhaps a better term for this is that you must be “relational.”  Relationships have always been integral in other types of business. The cliché “it’s not what you know but who you know” exists because it is often true! The time is past when, as the president of TPA decribed it, “pharmacy [employers] will be willing to ‘accept any warm body.’”

Forming good relationships grows your network of contacts. More importantly, as you start relating to each contact as a professional, you begin to distinguish yourself from other pharmacists. When you need a recommendation, assistance, or even a job, they are there for you because they know you and like you.

Being “relational” means showing your colleagues that you are someone to be trusted, someone to be collaborated with, someone who is easy to work with, and someone who is good to know.  Don’t you want to be that person?  This is the person who comes to employers’ minds when positions open up.  

The pharmacy job market is different than it once was, and I am sure each of you has a personal anecdote that characterizes that difference. Those who adapt to the situation and adapt the situation to themselves will not only be successful at their job, but also happy with it. Being “relational” is a key part of that adaptability. Building and keeping those relationships that are mutually beneficial can help advance your career and your professional development.

Pay attention to Bill Green’s advice and you will have success in this great profession.