5 Tips for Building a Professional Pharmacy Network

By following these tips, you will be on your way to forging a robust professional network that can help you land that elusive dream job.

Several years ago, I was a young pharmacist-to-be who was looking for a career path. It was January of my last year of pharmacy school, and I was deep into the hunt for a job that best suited my talents and interests.

I spoke with the folks in the career center and was surfing the Internet for an organization that seemed interesting and happened to be hiring. I decided it was time to call in my support team, so I reached out to the network I had cultivated since I was a freshman.

Fortunately, one of my connections knew someone who heard about a potentially auspicious internship and recommended that I interview for it. I landed that internship and it propelled me down a career path that I don’t regret.

Since then, I’ve taken several hard looks at my career path and noticed a crucial component: I’ve never held a position that didn’t begin with a personal contact within that organization.

Let me be clear: I work hard, I take pride in my work, and I believe that I was a good hire for every job I have ever held. But, in most cases, there were other similarly qualified candidates who I beat out for the job.

I’d like to think that it’s not necessarily because I’m inherently better at interviewing; rather, it’s because I had someone to vouch for my work ethic, skills, and capability.

Given this anecdotal evidence on the importance of building and maintaining a strong network, here are my top 5 tips on the topic:

1. Be Optimistic.

At any given point, there could be anywhere from 1 to 3 solid networking opportunities for you to attend this week. Granted, I live in a major metropolitan area, but if you look around at your local pharmacy association or live continuing education (CE) sessions, then you will surely find some event going on near you that would provide you with an opportunity to network.

You may think these events are a drain on your time, especially when you’re deep in your job search, but it’s very important to change that mindset. Each event is an opportunity to meet the person who could connect you to your next job.

Attend each meeting with the idea that it could be the one that changes the game for you, but do not expect to see results by attending just 1 meeting. You want everyone there to get the sense that you are excited to be present in the moment.

Shake hands, make eye contact, listen, and ask relevant questions. Make the most of the meeting since you’re already there!

2. Be Prepared.

Your 2 best networking tools are a great personality and a strong elevator pitch on who you are and what you do.

Your pitch is a simple 2- to 3-sentence response to the question, “What do you do?” Your answer needs to be straightforward, positive, and leave the person wanting to know more about you.

Consider something along the lines of, “I recently graduated from XYZ Pharmacy School, and I am very interested in X practice area. I’m actively looking for a position, and hope to land something soon.”

Please do not give out your old e-mail address from middle school like HaPpYkItTyXOXO@gmail.com. Spend 5 minutes and create a professional e-mail address using your real name. This will make a tremendous difference in how you are perceived.

3. Be Open.

Remember that pharmacy has become a tough job market, especially in certain areas. Most of the jobs you want may require the experience that you are trying to get from the job that you want, which is a vicious cycle.

To get that initial real-world experience, you may have sacrifice salary or your geographic location if it means landing a position far from home. As someone just entering the job market, consider how many other more qualified candidates are applying for the job you want.

It may be in your best interest to take something in a practice area that you haven’t yet considered for the sake of building your résumé.

4. Be Polite.

Minding your manners goes without saying, but my top 2 rules for social events behavior are do not overdo it with the alcohol, and do not hit on fellow meeting attendees.

Even if it’s free, the likelihood of something embarrassing happening doubles when alcohol is involved. First impressions are critical and being inebriated will not win you over with your peers and potential contacts. So, limit your drinking and focus on meeting contacts.

When you do meet people, do not use the occasion to practice your flirtation skills. Save that for your social life, not your professional outings!

5. Be Savvy.

You’ve heard about the 6 degrees of separation. Well, the same rule applies to professional networking.

The pharmacy world is small, so chances are we are all connected by less than 6 degrees of separation. It’s entirely possible that the person you just met is a close friend of someone at a company that you’d like to work for.

The impression you make on that fellow you made small talk with on the elevator may be the director that will make the decision whether or not to hire you. This means that you need to follow a few more simple rules:

  • Learn the art of making small talk.
  • Dress for the job you want.
  • Behave as you would as if your grandmother were in the room.
  • Limit alcohol consumption at social events.
  • Be friendly, not flirty.
  • Be outgoing, courteous, and motivated to make new connections.

Your professional demeanor will increase your chances of making a good impression. After all, you could be speaking with your future boss.

By following these tips, you will be on your way to forging a robust professional network that can help you land that elusive dream job.

You have already made it through the hardest parts: pharmacy school and passing your boards. Now, you just need a little support from your professional colleagues to get you to the next step: maximizing your career path.