5 Career Tips for New Pharmacy School Graduates

May 10, 2016

As a member of the Class of 2016, you deserve props for successfully completing the long and arduous journey through pharmacy school and rotations.

As a member of the Class of 2016, you deserve props for successfully completing the long and arduous journey through pharmacy school and rotations. That’s no easy feat, and I’m sure there were times when you felt like the work would never end.

But here you are at the finish line. Your career as a pharmacy student has come to an end, and your career as a pharmacist is about to begin.

All through school, someone else led the way. You were told what classes to take, what rotations to do, and what to study.

Of course, this instruction came at a heavy cost. But, for the most part, someone was pointing you in the right direction and keeping you moving along the path to graduation.

From this point on, though, you most likely won’t hear someone say “Here’s the next goal and your next move.” This may be a daunting, if not terrifying, realization for you.

Your career direction is now almost entirely up to you. You’ve been a passenger (albeit a hard-working one) being driven along the highway of pharmacy education, but now, you’re in the driver’s seat. The steering wheel is in your hands, and your foot is on the gas pedal.

You’ll soon discover there are some wrong turns you can make. Like streets, careers have dead ends, wrong ways, and “under construction” signs. Without even realizing it, you could drive your career in the wrong direction for a long time.

I can’t tell you where to go with respect to your pharmacy future. The map is in your head and the path is only limited by your dreams and determination. No one else can give you a compass to navigate the winding path of your career.

Still, I can share a few suggestions. I’ve been pharmacist for more than 20 years, nearly half of which I’ve worked with students. Here are some things I wish someone had told me at the start of my own pharmacy career.

1. Know yourself.

I can’t tell you how many pharmacists find themselves in jobs and careers that are utterly unsuited for their personalities, goals, and priorities. They’re miserable and they’re a misery to others.

What are your life goals? What are your big priorities? What are the things that really make you happy?

Now, how does your pharmacy career fit into that picture?

If spending time with your kids is very important to you, then a career that has you traveling all the time is probably a bad fit. It might be a good idea to talk to those who you well and get their perspective on your career choices.

The point is that your career isn’t everything. You have family, friends, and physical and spiritual needs and interests that all fit together and make you who you are. Don’t ignore them.

2. Be intentional about your career.

In other words, take deliberate and calculated steps designed to help you secure the type of job that’s the best fit for you.

Right out of school, you might have to settle for whatever job you can find, and that’s okay! But, if your goal is to become the Director of Pharmacy for a 500-bed hospital with a staff of 50 pharmacists and other direct reports, you’ll never get there by staying at a retail pharmacy. You’ll need to make some moves and get your foot in a different door.

The best way to be intentional about your career is to consult pharmacists currently working in the type of position you want. Although there may be many different roads to the same type of position, they often have certain paths in common.

3. Be a top performer.

We all tend to think we’re above average, but the reality is that top performers aren’t as common as you might think. In my experience, those who work at being top performers tend to have the most career options.

What does it mean to be a top performer? It’s not just getting projects done well before deadlines, never arriving late for work, always working while you’re on the clock, and not complaining all the time. To be a top performer, you must also have the determination to give every opportunity your very best effort.

Do your best and you’ll be well on your way to excellence.

4. Know and use your career resources.

A well-built career requires the use of the right tools, and there are several that I highly recommend for your pharmacy career.

To start, your pharmacy school probably has career resource professionals. Stay in touch with these individuals because they have their finger on the pulse of the pharmacy job market and may be able to alert you to opportunities.

Your state’s pharmacy association is another way to network with local pharmacists who work in a variety of career settings. In addition, you should use LinkedIn regularly as a networking tool to help you connect with other professionals. Be aware of job opportunities through the use of several pharmacy job boards that can regularly send you alerts.

5. Practice outside the box.

Don’t allow the description of your current job to dictate what you do as a pharmacist.

Do you want to write articles? Then start a blog or send a sample of your writing to the local newspaper. Do you want to help seniors manage their medications? Then talk to someone at the local senior center about doing a free presentation. Do you want an additional certification? Then don’t wait for your employer to suggest it.

As a side note, I strongly advise all new graduates (and even more seasoned pharmacists) to be aware of how they present themselves online. Your social media profiles may be screened as new job opportunities come your way.

That said, I’m very excited about your new career, and I greatly admire the hard work you’ve put into making it this far. Now, it’s time to hop into the driver’s seat and take your pharmacy career wherever you want it to go.