Pair Up, Publish, Promote, and Prosper: Why and How to Write Before You Graduate from Pharmacy School

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Fall 2016, 0

Don’t leave behind your writing passion if you head to pharmacy school; instead, leverage it as a way to share with others what you’ve learned in school.

At Butler University, the mission is to integrate core liberal arts and sciences (LAS) education with professional education as our founder, Ovid Butler, described. And, as a passionate writer myself, I make it my personal mission to provide writing and publishing opportunities for students, both inside and outside of our pharmacy program.

Cases in point: we have a new, open-access, multimedia health care journal called BU Well, which is open to all majors on campus to run much like a law review at the undergraduate level, and anyone, anywhere, can submit articles for publication consideration (including you, reader!). For senior projects, we’ve had several interprofessional teams of students write, illustrate, and publish 7 different book projects on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, immunizations, asthma, diabetes, pharmacy, and antibiotic stewardship, just to name a few.

But beyond the intrinsic rewards of writing and publishing before graduation from pharmacy school, how can one leverage this amazing opportunity into standing out from the crowd and showcasing it with potential employers? Here are a few tips:

Publish Before Graduating from Pharmacy School

1. Find a mentor/professor to partner with. Even if your school or college of pharmacy doesn’t require research projects or publishing, you can usually find a mentor or professor within your college to pair up with for a publication. You gain some credibility as a first-time or early-career writer when you pair up with a professor with years of experience.

2. Pick your passion when writing about a topic. Even though the holy grail of publishing might be original, double-blind, randomized research, that doesn’t mean that other types of writing are less valuable. In BU Well, for example, students write almost in a long-hand journalistic style, rather than focusing on original research. In the children’s book projects, students are writing for children in an “edutaining” way about public health topics. (And, by the way, writing children’s literature is one of the hardest forms of writing to do well.)

3. Begin with the end in mind for publication planning. After you have your mentor or faculty member and topic on board, next, before you even start your research, you need to target which type of article, journal, and/or book you want to write. If you want to publish in a peer-reviewed journal, do your homework and fully understand the publication parameters. Details matter, so know the rules before you get started so you’re not rewriting your paper. For example, with BU Well, we have detailed descriptions on our website of what we seek for publication consideration. See Table 1 for some ideas on where to publish.

4. Can’t find a journal? Publish a book! In the era of self-publishing, if you have good content, you don’t need permission to publish: just go ahead and write your own book! You have e-book options that cost next to nothing, all the way up to spending thousands of dollars to purchase advanced copies of your book. Caution: writing and publishing a well-edited book is a long, arduous, and sometimes painful process. Keep that in mind when you’re considering going for the gusto!

Now that you have a few pre—pub-planning tips, let’s fast forward to the good part: you’re published. Now what? How can you leverage your experience into meaningful conversations (and jobs with potential employers)? Here are some thoughts:

Leverage Your Publication for Great Conversations and Job Offers

1. Include your publication on your social media portals. Check on copyright beforehand, but if your publisher allows you to reuse your content, blast it through your social media channels! (If they are smart, they’ll encourage you to do so because traffic is something publishers welcome these days.) LinkedIn is an excellent place to highlight your publications, and in an era when recruiters pay more attention to your LinkedIn profile than they do your résumé, it’s imperative that you use this free tool to promote your writing and publishing experiences. Also, if you’ve paired up with a faculty mentor, use social media to thank them for working with you and post the link to the work.

2. Put it on your résumé. Peer-reviewed publications are just one type of publication you can include on your résumé or CV. Other categories might include letters to the editor, opinion/editorial pieces, newsletter articles, posters, workshops, abstracts, and features. If you write, but not in health care, writing is still a critical skill that employers don’t have enough of in this era, so feature it and include it in discussions with employers. Solid writing transcends technical knowledge, and employers want your technical acumen!

3. Take your interviewers on a publishing journey with you. If you’ve interviewed for a job before, you’ve probably been hit with 1 or 2 questions like, “Tell me about a time where you [INSERT SKILL HERE] like, led a team, worked in a group, had to solve a problem, etc?” This is an opportunity for you to tell the story behind the story of your writing and publishing outcomes. What method(s) did you use to pick your topic, target your publication or journal, research your article, write, edit, and collaborate on your article? This shows that you can be a project-based, outcomes-focused employee. It shows you are organized. It also shows that you are intrinsically motivated to finish what you start … all of these skills are highly coveted in the workplace.

4. Take a copy of your work to the interview. Show and tell! Leave behind a copy of your work with your résumé or CV. Everyone will have a résumé or CV at an interview fair—that’s a given. But if you’ve got a publication to go along with it, you’re golden. Not everyone will have a publication under her or his belt—it will separate you from the herd.

The pen is mighty. It can even get you published—and hired. So, don’t leave behind your writing passion if you head to pharmacy school. Instead, leverage it as a way to share with others what you’ve learned in school—what sets you apart.

Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, PAHM, is a health outcomes pharmacist and pharmacy fellowship director for Myers and Stauffer, LC, a co-host of The Pharmacy Podcast, writer, entrepreneur, attorney, preceptor, career coach, and STEM advocate. She would like to thank one of her mentors, Joe Fink at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, for the idea of this article. More on her at her blog, www.erinalbert.com.