New on the Job: Dos and Don'ts

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers November 2014

These tips can help recent pharmacy school graduates navigate the professional world.

Effective com­munication skills cannot be taught but must be learned through experience.

After receiving a thorough education, completing clinical rotations, graduating pharmacy school, and passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exams, young pharmacists are ready to take on their first full-time pharmacy job. However, despite their training and quali­fications, new graduates may be unsure how to conduct themselves in the professional pharmacy world.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help recent graduates adjust to their new positions.


1. Get involved

Just as you were advised to get involved in school, joining professional organizations and becoming an advocate for the profession will help fur­ther your professional goals and keep your passion for pharmacy alive.

“Stay connected with major pharmacy organizations, attend their meet­ings and conferences to stay abreast of the new trends in the pharmacy profession at large, and meet new colleagues and expand your profes­sional network,” said 2013 Next-Generation Pharmacist Future Pharmacist of the Year award winner Hoda Masmouei, PharmD, in an interview with Pharmacy Times.

Attending national meetings is a good start, but to gain valuable expe­rience, Dr. Masmouei suggests taking an active role in local or national associations.

“If you can, become active in regional, state, or national chapters of pharmacy organizations and practice your leadership skills within the profession,” she said.

2. Communicate with Your Colleagues

Communication is the key to any successful relationship—especially those with your coworkers and superiors. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education identifies communication as an important skill for new pharmacists to possess on their list of competencies for community, health-system, and managed care pharmacy.

For the most part, effective communication skills cannot be taught but must be learned through experience.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns about any aspect of the pharmacy or the work you are doing. Be open to communication with coworkers and try to create and maintain good relationships with everyone you work with.

3. Find a Mentor

Although you have received extensive education and training, you do not know everything—many skills come from experience.

To help guide you through the unknown, seek out an experienced mentor you trust and feel comfortable with. Mentors can provide valuable advice on career transitions, professionalism, career advancement, and other areas that are not necessarily taught in school.

“Find a pharmacy mentor who has experience in the line of pharmacy your job is in, who is abreast of the trends, and is familiar with you enough to be able to help you make the decisions that are right for you when the time comes to make changes,” Dr. Masmouei suggested.

4. Say Thank You

Many people have helped you get through pharmacy school, land your first job, and do well in the position. Remember to thank all these people.

In her book The New Pharmacist: 46 Doses of Advice, the first piece of advice from author Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, is to send handwritten thank you notes.

“Thank your parents, friends, family, boss, professors, co-workers, and anyone else who got you to the point of being a licensed pharmacist immediately. You did not get to where you are at this moment alone,” she writes.

After sending these initial thank you notes, Dr. Albert suggests that pharmacists make gratitude a habit.

“Also, keep a stack of blank thank you notes on your desk somewhere, and make sure you’re thanking someone in the universe each and every week at a minimum and day at maximum if and when you can.”


1. Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you have a question about a patient or process, do not understand a task, or are confused about anything, don’t be too shy to ask your boss or coworker.

Asking for help does not show weakness—it shows that you are learning. If you don’t ask, you risk making a mistake or completing a task wrong, which can cause everyone on your team extra time and energy to correct.

Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations will help you to grow professionally and to contribute to your place of employment.

“Invest in your strengths to bring more value to the organization you work for and use your knowledge of your limitations to develop strategies to prevent mistakes,” Dr. Masmouei advised.

2. Try to Be a Maverick

Although the health care landscape is changing, don’t try to or expect to make big changes when you are new on the job.

The organization you work for most likely has tried and true processes and protocol in place and knows best how to manage problems. Before you try to reinvent the wheel, spend some time learning the basics, learning how the organization runs their daily activities, and gaining an understanding of the unique challenges they face.

After you have spent some time learning about and understanding the organization and the profession, then you can begin to think about ways you can improve it.

3. Forget the Little (and Big) People

When you are immersed in a new job and new environment, phar­macy school may seem like the distant past, and keeping in touch with anyone from school can be difficult. However, your professors, preceptors, and anyone else who helped you along the way can serve as important contacts, mentors, and friends.

Don’t neglect these valuable relationships—write emails, send LinkedIn messages, meet up for coffee, have phone conversations. Do whatever you can to maintain these relationships within your and their busy schedules.

4. Lose Sight of Your Goals

While in pharmacy school, or just before starting your first job post-graduation, you may lay out your career goals and the steps you will take to get there. But once you start working full-time, you can easily become distracted by your daily duties.

“Don’t get too caught up with your current job to the point where you forget about mapping your career and where you want to be in the next 5, 10, and 15 years,” Dr. Masmouei said. “Take up tasks in your current job that make you more eligible for the positions you want should they arise.”

“Find a pharma­cy mentor who has experience in the line of pharmacy your job is in.”

“Thank your parents, friends, family, boss, professors, co-workers, and anyone else who got you to the point of being a licensed pharma­cist immediately.

Asking for help does not show weakness—it shows that you are learning.

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