5 Tips to Tap into New Learning Opportunities

As medicines advance and ailments transform, our continuing education becomes even more important.

Pharmacists have lots of things to remember. As medicines advance and ailments transform, our continuing education becomes even more important.

But, have you ever stopped to think about how you learn? It doesn’t have to happen behind a computer. We learn on the job, under pressure, and, most importantly, from others.

A key to learning is building a strong support system. Whether from college or daily life, you probably know someone who inspires you and teaches you new things.

Those of you who’ve been working as pharmacists and teaching recent grads for some time have probably found that hands-on training is the best kind. But, how do those of us who’ve been working for 20-plus years continue to develop on the job?

Luckily, pharmacy presents daily challenges, sometimes even forcing us to solve new problems. But, when there’s down time from problem-solving, mentoring can be a great way to increase your knowledge.

Sure, the traditional mentor relationship involves an older, wiser mentor guiding a mentee, but the roles are evolving. Today’s mentorship opportunities offer everyone a chance to learn new things.

Pharmacists who are new to the field, a specific type of pharmacy, or just a location have lots to learn. You just have to know how to ask the right questions. Try these tips.

1. Get social.

Those of us who grew up without cell phones may have a basic knowledge of social media, but we’re typically still baffled that anyone would want to order pizza by texting an emoji to a restaurant.

You can make your job or pharmacy better by embracing new engagement tools. Learn about the latest technology or how to cram a typically long advertisement into a tweet. Beyond that, build an understanding of what drives choice these days. Whether they help you rebrand the pharmacy’s Yelp page or build a LinkedIn profile that has recruiters knocking at your door, find out what their new media expertise is, and enjoy the opportunity to learn.

2. Brush up on your classroom knowledge.

Pharmacists straight out of school will have a fresh perspective to offer. Tap into this chance to continue your learning. Discuss their favorite classes and teaching style or techniques that may have changed over time.

As you walk them through a new skill, ask for input on how it’s taught in the classroom. Listen to feedback and consider ways to improve efficiency.

3. Compare experiences.

Change is a good thing. When you get new blood in the pharmacy, take the time to ask them how things went at their last job. Don’t just look for what went wrong, but find out what was done well and decide if it could be incorporated in your work environment.

Discuss their approach to patient interaction and use any unique tips to improve your next chat with a customer. Don’t just use their arrival as an opportunity to teach someone new. Learn from them, too.

4. Don’t just learn about pharmacy.

Maybe your new recruits are like my daughters, fearless adventurers who travel every chance they get. They constantly teach me things about countries they’ve visited, languages learned, or cities explored. I love learning from their time invested in missions or community service. They inspire me to become more involved and reevaluate how I help in my community and globally. Open yourself to the possibility of learning something new from your mentee, and seek to be inspired to make a difference.

Questions are critical here. You have to want to learn about their interests, and you have to ask. Find common interests and learn from their experiences.

Although I do enjoy sports, I can’t say I’ve ever personally flipped through TV channels hoping catch a game. Recently, however, I was convinced to try Fantasy Football. Now, I’m learning not only about the app, but also about the sport and watching football with a reason to cheer.

The point is that learning broadens your horizons, so get out there and learn something new.

5. Managing and mentoring aren’t the same thing.

Managers are important. They enable businesses to run effectively and help employees work more effectively, but being a mentor involves much more.

A mentor could be a manager, friend, or someone you’ve only met a few times. Regardless, a mentor’s someone who helps you solve problems and become better. An effective mentor must be open to teaching, listening, and learning.

Mentors challenge you to try new things or think about a problem differently. They encourage you to build your expertise and learn life lessons along the way. They help you identify and hone your passions. Often times, they’re the go-to when you need to strategize a way to find more work-life balance. It’s not important that they embody every trait you hope to develop; what’s important is that they remain open-minded and strive to help you build your strengths and get there eventually.

At the end of the day, a mentor takes the time to check up on progress and support the mentee through the complexities of life’s challenges. It’s someone whom you have a chance to learn from and who’s committed to helping you grow.

That’s why it’s so important that the mentor relationship go both ways. When both the mentor and the mentee have much to bring to the table, why not use the relationship to explore what’s out there?