Generation Gap: Advancing Careers at Any Age

Pharmacy Times, February 2015 Autoimmune Disorders, Volume 81, Issue 2

Regardless of age or experience, it's possible to find a position that's a good fit for you.

Pharmacists can ocassionally feel a touch of career restlessness tinged with a bit of boredom. When this happens, we examine our skills, career trajectories, and hopes for the future. New graduates worry about finding a first or second job. Older pharmacists may perceive new graduates as having the advantage of recent learning and technological expertise. Regardless of age or experience, it’s possible to find a position that’s a good fit for you.

Step 1: Self-Assessment

First, assess your strengths (eg, you work well under pressure or are a finance wizard) and limitations (eg, you tend to procrastinate or are uncomfortable meeting new people). A good way to gain insight is to take a personality-type test. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and similar tests are available online, and some are free. Local governments and libraries sometimes have career development centers and offer personality assessment tests. They may also conduct skills assessments and aptitude tests. From the results of these tests, you can determine what you can offer employers, where you can improve, and which job settings you should avoid. Another insight builder is to ask coworkers what they see as your strengths. Capitalizing on your strengths and working on improving your limitations is a lifelong endeavor.

Step 2: Preparation

Pharmacists who constantly look forward and anticipate where they hope to practice help position themselves for dream jobs. Many pharmacists make the mistake of dreaming too broadly. For example, dreaming of working in geriatrics can set an individual up for failure if related jobs are scarce. Pharmacists can be involved in geriatric practice in many ways: by working (1) in outpatient pharmacies predominately serving elders, (2) in inpatient pharmacies, or (3) as a long-term care pharmacist. Pharmacists can work with state Medicaid/Medicare programs, or in managed care organizations or insurance companies that serve elders. Knowing your personal strengths and limitations (Step 1) is one way to fine tune your goals and avoid selecting a site that requires traits you don’t have.

Steady involvement in an interest area, even in small ways, builds your credentials. Your resume and CV should reflect your interests and show growth. Highlighting accomplishments, continuing education, volunteer work, and postgraduate education in subjects related to your dream career helps employers see your potential.

Some pharmacists need a little help finding their niche. The American Pharmacists Association offers a free career evaluation tool at www.pharmacist.com/apha-careerpathway-evaluation-program-pharmacyprofessionals. In addition, pharmacists might consider using the book What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles.

Step 3: Find Vacancies

Job search strategies have changed rapidly over the past few years. In pharmacy, the labor pool is large and, some people believe, more competitive. The Internet provides instant access to career research (information about requirements for specific jobs), job announcements, and other opportunities. Pharmacists often need to do more than search help-wanted ads and the Internet, however, because many jobs aren’t advertised (Figure).

Step 4: Present Your Credentials

Younger pharmacists are armed with recent education and clinical rotations, but pharmacists who have worked for a while have the one thing students cannot find in school: experience. Regardless of your age, present your assets in the best possible light. Younger candidates can emphasize enthusiasm and current knowledge. Older applicants should emphasize experience and continued learning. The Online Table describes good techniques to polish your image.

Final Note

Finding a new position is work. Completing 100 online applications may feel like you’ve accomplished something, but spending a few hours finding suitable positions and sending just a few well-prepared and tailored packages to select employers or personal contacts is more likely to result in an interview. Above all, make the search circular and constant. Follow-up when you send inquiries. Once you land that position, tell everyone and thank them for their help.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.