How Pharmacy Graduates Can Overcome Unemployment

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Fall 2019, Volume 13, Issue 2

For unemployed pharmacy graduates, the heartbreak of not finding work is real. They dedicated themselves to a demanding education, spent significant money on their schooling, and developed a plan to find work they love—only to discover that competition for jobs is fierce.

For unemployed pharmacy graduates, the heartbreak of not finding work is real.

They dedicated themselves to a demanding education, spent significant money on their schooling, and developed a plan to find work they love—only to discover that competition for jobs is fierce.

As a career consultant, I routinely receive messages from pharmacy grads who cannot find work. Unlike their predecessors, who often had their pick of pharmacy jobs and signing bonuses, these new pharmacists discovered a crowded field with decreasing salaries and smaller incomes.

Buried in debt and frustrated by the lack of open positions, many consider leaving the industry before they even get started. It’s an understandable decision, but it may not be a necessary one. Many of the pharmacists I encounter have approached their job search the wrong way without even realizing it.

DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM

Frustration among pharmacists isn’t a new problem, but the circumstances around the job search continue to emerge. The challenging job market, demanding work environment, and dwindling salaries are some of the issues that cause frustration.

Just as in medicine, in order to find a solution, we have to first understand the underlying problem.

We do not treat diabetes simply by prescribing medicine; we must also address the circumstances and issues that led to the development of the disease.

Rather than simply suggesting that you apply for more jobs, develop better relationships, and seek new opportunities, we must first evaluate the decisions that brought you to this place. If you graduate from pharmacy school with no job offers, no residency opportunities, and no interview invitations, we have to understand why no one is interested in what you have to offer.

CHANGING YOUR FOCUS

You may have focused your efforts in the wrong places. When I was in pharmacy school, I spent the first 2 years just trying to survive. It wasn’t until my third year that I realized I needed to focus on my upcoming career.

I was late to the game, so I panicked.

I scrambled to apply for residencies, and my results were a direct reflection of the effort I invested: Of 9 positions I applied to, I earned 1 interview. That single request was with a new program that had low expectations of its residents.

As a result of my own experiences and those of other pharmacists I’ve worked with, I’ve discovered 3 common factors among pharmacists who struggle to find work:

No reliable network: Pharmacists who do not join relevant associations nor engage in pharmacy-related activities have no reliable network to help them in their job search. Meanwhile, those who do have a network often have only a small group of connections they have cobbled together while they were in school. Utilizing a large network of people in pharmacy can help with identifying more job opportunities.

Narrow focus on grades: Although your grades in pharmacy school matter somewhat, few people care about your GPA after residency. Experts with backgrounds in finance and pharmacy have argued that GPA is no longer a good predictor of residency success, so it should not be your primary focus in school.

Limited growth opportunities: Pharmacy school provides a perfect opportunity for you to stretch yourself and learn new skills. If you fail to seize opportunities for growth, you will likely be perceived as a pharmacist with limited curiosity and no real desire to learn the industry.

If you find yourself without a network or without meaningful experiences after pharmacy school, you’ll be competing for a limited number of jobs with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of other applicants who have those attributes. Students should focus on building their career networks and opportunities for growth well before graduation.

Want more advice for finding a job after graduation? I have written a book, Indispensable: The Prescription for a Fulfilling Pharmacy Career, to assist students who do not yet have a job. This book can be downloaded for free at thehappypharmd.com/ freerxbook. It can be a staple guide for taking control of a career and truly pursuing all that pharmacy has to offer.