LinkedIn to Pharmacy: A Student Pharmacist's Guide

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Developing industry connections is crucial for aspiring pharmacists.

As you may have heard before from colleagues, professors, preceptors, and other professionals, pharmacy is a small world. You would be surprised with how many connections professionals in the pharmacy industry have with one another.

As an aspiring pharmacy student, it is important to foster those valuable connections now, because you never know how it may benefit you in the future. One effective and relatively easy way to establish and maintain these contacts is through the creation and maintenance of a LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is more than another social network — it allows you to share your qualifications, goals, values, work experience, and much more, in order to market yourself as a pharmacy professional. Not only are employers able to see your professional profile, but they will also be able to see any groups or organizations you have participated in, specific interests of yours, and even skills that you excel in.

LinkedIn is the preferred method for recruiters to research potential candidates for a position, making it the ultimate networking tool and a must-have for all student pharmacists. Creating a profile to make your virtual footprint in the networking world is the first step, but actually making one that stands above the rest, providing an appropriate professional image to draw in recruiters, is the challenge.

Even as a student pharmacist, this visibility to your accomplishments during both pharmacy school and your advanced practice rotations will help to set you apart as you begin your career. It’s easy to sign up — simply visit www.linkedin.com and use your personal address to create your account.

From here, the site will guide you to add information about yourself that will focus on your experience, accomplishments and personal details. Using your personal email address, rather than a work email address, will help you to maintain constant access to your profile, especially if you start your career as a licensed pharmacist with another organization from where you completed your internship.

As you start to build your profile, having a picture on your profile is extremely important. According to LinkedIn, profiles with photos receive seven times more views than those without. Use a professional headshot, if possible, but it is certainly not required.

Next, make sure you have a title that accurately describes your expertise in a few simple words. Employers are able to search by keywords to find candidates, so it is important to include what you do.

Another tip for creating a successful and effective LinkedIn page would be to create a descriptive and complete summary. This summary should highlight your qualifications, goals, and values using freeform text.

In this section, you can state what type of position you are looking for, and what you’re looking to get out of your future position. For instance, if you are interested in helping the underserved or working for a non-profit organization, include that in your summary.

Do not be afraid to write your profile in first person here. This whole profile is about you, and you are the best person to describe yourself.

The “advice for contacting” section is where your preferred method of contact is included. It is not recommended to put your personal phone number down, because of the potential for recruiters to constantly contact your phone. But utilizing the LinkedIn message system is a good outlook for communication along with a professional email.

It is always advisable to respond to contacts when they reach out to you - you never know when it may come around full circle. It’s always important to never burn any bridges in such a close-knit industry. A pleasant response declining an offer goes much further than an ignored message.

Be sure to include your past and present work experience into your profile. Employers are very interested in the types of positions you have held in the past, and the amount of time you have held each position.

This is to be treated similarly to what would be placed on a resume using an orderly bullet point format to explain what was completed there, along with the skills gained. If you currently have no pharmacy experience just yet, feel free to put the other employment opportunities experienced in the past, with the most recent being at the top of the list.

Include specific tasks that you participated in at each of your positions to help build your experience profile. For instance, if you worked at a retail pharmacy and were involved in medication therapy management, include that to show employers what sets you apart from other potential candidates.

Advanced Practice Rotations experience as part of your professional curriculum can be detailed here as well, to further illustrate the activities you’ve been exposed to during your pharmacy career. Other valuable material to include in your profile would be any accomplishments or achievements that you have earned, including publications, poster board presentations, research projects with faculty, mid-year presentations, or other professional projects.

All certifications you have obtained can be included, such as CPR training, immunization certification, or tobacco cessation specialist certification. Volunteer work is also very important to employers, especially if it is related to pharmacy. Document and explain any volunteer work you have completed to help build your profile and to display yourself as a more well-rounded candidate than others.

Another valuable piece of advice would be to include any groups or organizations that you are a part of into your profile. Not only should you include those groups on your page, but you should connect with their group page as well. This allows you to stay engaged with your group while expanding your LinkedIn connections.

Don’t be afraid to include groups or organizations that may not be related to pharmacy, because you never know how you may connect with a potential employer. These will also show that you are able to participate outside the field of pharmacy further differentiating yourself.

Recommendations are another important part of LinkedIn, just about the same as they are for other instances, such as applying for college, graduate school, and certain jobs and residencies. Reach out to others that know you well for a recommendation on LinkedIn that can validate what you have displayed on your profile.

Current and past employers, close college professors, and preceptors from rotations are good references to seek out for these recommendations. This is an excellent way to display on your profile to employers that others think highly of you.

If you do not feel comfortable reaching out and asking for a recommendation from someone, leaving them a recommendation from you unannounced is a great way receive one back in return. They will be more inclined to after hearing the positive things you have to share about them.

Important to note — you may only leave a recommendation once daily for your first-degree connections. Be specific about the times that you shared with your recommended contact and be sure to highlight their traits.

You have the ability to quickly and easily increase the likelihood of a potential employer stumbling across your page through changing your personal URL. Make it something easy and specific to you, such as your first and last name.

This makes your profile easier to find via a typical search engine and can be used on business cards to further the ease of developing new connections. To make this change to your LinkedIn URL on your profile page, simply click the cogwheel beside the current URL that was generated for your account. An example of what this would look like: www.LinkedIn.com/in/yourname.

To get the most out of your profile, connect with everyone you know. This includes friends, family members, colleagues, coworkers, and faculty. Further connections can be made after meeting people within the field of pharmacy at conferences or any other avenue, just be sure to connect with them soon after meeting them so they do not forget about you.

This is a great way to differentiate yourself and leave a lasting impression. However, it is important to not connect with people that you have not met before in an attempt to broaden your connections. If too many of them hit ‘I do not know this person’, LinkedIn may flag your profile as spam and delete your account (along with all the hard work you’ve put into it thus far).

You have the ability to see who has viewed your profile — but keep in mind that as you view profiles of others, they can see that you’ve viewed them as well. You can turn this visibility setting off so you can view profiles inconspicuously, but you then lose the ability to see who has been viewing your profile.

It is important to both keep your profile up to date and remain actively engaged. Participate in the groups you’re joined. Commenting on posts within those groups, ‘liking’ others, and generating meaningful material is a great way to appropriately use LinkedIn groups.

Maintaining an effective LinkedIn presence would require periodically checking in on your profile to update content as you gain new work experience, participate in community service events, or increase organizational involvement. Professional networking, similar to personal networking through avenues such as Facebook or Instagram, is a continuous process that requires the need to check up on how you are being portrayed from time to time, even if networking is not an active goal.

As you continue to build your presence as a pharmacy professional, your LinkedIn persona can be a valuable way to reflect the experiences you have gained to date. Creating an appropriate profile that exudes a professional image is an avenue for connecting with others in the health care industry to assist in both building your current portfolio and preparing for what might be next.

Along with generating good content, keeping everything up to date can only aid you in the course for success. Overall, LinkedIn has a tremendous amount of potential networking benefits for young and aspiring student pharmacists, and can lead to a promising future career path.

Jonathan Ogurchak is Vice President for Business Operations at PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy. PANTHERx Specialty is a dually-accredited, national specialty pharmacy focused on transforming lives by delivering medical breakthroughs, clinical excellence and access solutions to patients afflicted with rare and devastating conditions. Uinnovations in technology and patient services, we Reinvent Specialty, Revolutionize Pharmacy, and Redefine Care® on a daily basis.

Adam Grana and Frederick Bentzel are PharmD candidates at Duquesne University School of Pharmacy.