“Pharmacy is a small world.”
When I first heard the statement, I was skeptical. According to recent data there are nearly 300,000 licensed pharmacists in the United States, so the idea of pharmacy being a small profession seemed foreign to me.
However, throughout my involvement in pharmacy, I learned that not only is the statement true, but being able to network within such a small profession is also crucial to your future success. For those who are unaware, networking involves the process of making meaningful connections and building mutually beneficial relationships.
According to a 2013 study of more than 46,000 individuals, networking is the top source of new employment, with 46% of them acquiring jobs through this route. However, the benefits of networking expands to more then acquiring jobs. Through networking with other people, you can acquire career information, advice, and other opportunities. In addition, regular networking can increase your confidence and communication skills. According to Adam Small, founder of the Strategic Business Network, “networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization.”
Listed below are strategies to effectively network within the pharmacy world.
Social media: Linkedin provides one of the greatest means to effectively network and market yourself. Within Linkedin, you can list your employment history, skills, awards, education status, and attach your resume. You can then connect with peers, colleagues, pharmacists, and national pharmacy organizations. The website also allows searching for job openings in your field. I have found this site to be an invaluable resource in locating individuals at various residency sites I’m interested in pursuing. I can then send them a message to discuss different aspects of the residency program.
Additionally, Facebook and Twitter can be used to connect and exchange ideas with other health care professionals.
Pharmacy school: Take advantage of being a student. My faculty mentor once told me to network as much as possible as a student, because most faculty are happy to talk with students. However, once you graduate, you become competition and many faculty will be less likely to help you out. According to Heather Krasna, director of career services at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs, alumni and faculty are more likely to want to help you as a student since “it’s less pressure because the person is just asking for advice,” rather then looking for a competing job.
Joining pharmacy organizations on campus can allow for networking with other pharmacy students, alumni, and faculty. Finally, many pharmacy schools offer mentor-mentee programs which help match students with faculty based on their areas of interest.
Pharmacy conferences: Conferences offer students the opportunity network with other pharmacy students and pharmacists from across the country. Most conferences have a scheduled meet and greet reception which is the perfect time to branch out and exchange career information. Having attended multiple pharmacy conferences within the past few years, I’ve made countless contacts with students and pharmacists.
Remember to always bring a stack of business cards! You never know when someone will want to exchange information with you.
Work: Working in a pharmacy as a technician or intern opens an abundance of opportunities by being able to discuss career information and possible job leads or advancements. As I mentioned earlier, pharmacy really is a small world. Many of the people you meet at work or rotations may show up at different points of your career. Therefore, it’s important to start building relationships with your coworkers early in your career. Most of the career decisions I’ve made have been with the help of people I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
Although working while in pharmacy school can feel stressful, working even once a week can provide a great means to gain experience and connect with different pharmacists which, as mentioned, can have longterm benefits.
Friends and family: Having a network of friends and family can open numerous opportunities. From exchanging career advice to possible job referrals, the bigger your network, the better. Keeping in touch with friends after graduation can also provide a robust means for networking and future job referrals.
Finally, don’t rule anyone out! Connecting with non-pharmacy or non-health care individuals can sometimes provide unforeseen opportunities.
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD, is a Clinical Pharmacist working at a regional health insurance plan on the east coast. Additionally he works per diem at a nationwide retail pharmacy chain. He graduated from MCPHS University - Boston in 2015 and subsequently completed a PGY-1 Managed Care Pharmacy Residency. He completed his M.S. in Health Services Administration, with a focus on Health Economics and Outcomes, in 2018. His professional interests include pharmacy legislation and managed care pharmacy. He can be followed on Twitter at @toshea125.