As a child of the 90s, I loved classic movies such as Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
One of the things I loved about these movies is how the characters used intricate traps made of everyday things. In Goonies, the characters used this weird, elaborate, and largely unnecessary contraption to open the front gate — and it was entertaining for kid.
I also loved playing the children’s game “Mouse Trap.” I was thinking about how “Mouse Trap” is the perfect analogy for how people go through the game of life and create traps for themselves along the way — even though they don’t realize it.
Most people are having fun and enjoying life when they suddenly reach a point where they must make a pivotal decision and find that they are trapped.
I wanted to share some reflections on how pharmacists trap themselves into careers. My observations are based on conversations with pharmacists and research.
Now, that’s not to say that all pharmacists are dissatisfied, but we know many are struggling. An estimated 50% of community pharmacists want to leave their jobs, according to this study.
Here are 4 common traps that keep pharmacists in jobs that make them unhappy:
1. The Settling-Down Trap
When new grads start a new job, they are excited. They often have aspirations to make big changes in the company. Most workplace veterans know that the new hire eventually will settle down, change their ways and adjust — just like everyone else who has been hired before them.
I call this “The Settling-Down Trap” because many people start their career excited about their prospects and eventually lose their enthusiasm due to a toxic work environment, a demanding boss or negative coworkers. They say to themselves, “Why try? My idea will be shot down.”
When people settle down, they lose interest in their job, profession, and developing their abilities. And I’ve been there. In fact, there are times when I AM there.
When I’m in this place, I notice that I’m not helping my teammates, volunteering to help with projects or working with my usual level of enthusiasm.
Everyone ends up in this place at one time or another, but settling down for a prolonged period can have a negative impact on your career. It makes you a less-than-desirable job candidate. People don’t want to hire someone who isn’t engaged with their job.
When you have a passion, it’s visible in the quality of the work that you do, the output that you have, the projects that you volunteer for and the things you do in your spare time. Companies are interested in people who are passionate, experienced and knowledgeable about a particular niche.
2. The Lifestyle Trap
When I was a student, I made about $15,000 per year from a part-time job. When I landed my first $100,000+ per year pharmacy job, I was THRILLED to finally be making money and doing what I loved after seven long years of school and residency.
What I often see is pharmacists whose living expenses meet or exceed even this high salary. This means that every dollar that comes in every 2 weeks goes directly toward paying credit cards and other bills.
I’m not one to judge a lifestyle, but one thing I do know is that lower expenses allow for more career flexibility. If you live life to your financial limit, you will end up living in a state of fear because you can never leave your day job—even if you hate it.
You might think things like, “I don’t know if I can find another job. What job is going to pay me this much money?” You can’t think about moving, because you can’t anticipate the financial burdens that a new home might present. You can’t think about taking a job that sounds more fun than your current one because it’s a $20,000 or $30,000 pay cut.
Christine Tsakiris told me about how she changed her life by making the decision to cut expenses and live on her part-time business income. Eventually, she quit her full-time pharmacy job to pursue her passions.
Just to be clear, she told me that she’s not making nearly what a pharmacist makes — and she doesn’t have to. She’s living life according to her own demands and she’s working on projects that drive her passion forward, such as working with children at the American Heart Association’s Halle Heart Children’s Museum.
By limiting your expenses, you create financial flexibility that will allow you to pursue things that are less lucrative but will bring you more satisfaction.
3. The People-Pleaser Trap
People-pleasers know who they are. They’re wonderful people to work with. They’re the pharmacists who are willing to go above and beyond to help you do your job. Although people-pleasers can make friends easily in the workplace, they often struggle to find their own path.
Being married to a people-pleaser, I struggled with my wife to balance helping others and pursuing her dreams. She has a tendency to help others (including myself) even when it hurts her ability to pursue what she wants. People pleasers tend not to assert themselves and, as a result, often don’t do what they’d really like to be doing. They often get the lowest jobs on the totem pole and suffer inwardly because they are not living full-out. People-pleasing also can lead to resentment, as they can feel like no one listens to their ideas.
People-pleasers put themselves between a rock and a hard place because while they would love to do certain jobs, tasks or projects, they sometimes give that up to other people. You see, they would rather see other people happy, even if it means that they suffer.
People-pleasers trap themselves in their careers and never choose to chart their own course because of who it might negatively affect.
4. The Fear Trap
I receive about 2 emails per week from pharmacists who say that they need help looking for a job. Some of the common things I hear are:
· “There are no jobs out there.”
· “No one is willing to hire me.”
· “I don’t have any experience.”
Often, I find that these people apply to jobs through online job boards — and that’s the extent of what they do. Applying for a job in response to a LinkedIn post or an Indeed ad is not the best way to get a new job. Most candidates who apply for jobs online are not called back or invited to an interview.
I am not surprised to find out these pharmacists haven’t tried to do things that push the boundaries of what they’re comfortable with, such as calling the pharmacy to find out what it’s like to work there.
Don’t worry about being judged and rejected to the point where you become afraid to try things that are out-of-the-box and show initiative. People feel like they don’t want to stand out, and they don’t want to be too obvious about the fact that they want a job.
Maybe it’s not fear of failure that traps them. It could be a fear of rejection. But ultimately, that fear is preventing them from moving forward in their lives and in their careers.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
When you face your fears head-on, you can do unbelievable things. Fear is often the main thing that stops people from living a full life.
What traps stop you from living full-out? Do you need more information about some of the career options that are out there for you? You don’t need a PharmD or oodles of experience to get into new fields. There are jobs that are open to you in a variety of niches—those under-the-radar specialty areas that most people don’t know about.
For more information about how you can plug into these opportunities, check out my free online conference on non-traditional careers. I’ll be interviewing people who had no experience in their current field and finding out how they landed those jobs. And I’ll clue you in on how you can do it, too.
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.