The One Skill Every Employer Wants

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

Tight job market? Trying to figure out how you can get an edge? Reading up on your therapeutics and management guru books? Well, it turns out that none of those should be your focus—at least for getting a job.

SAY WHAT? I’M NOT SURE WHAT YOU MEAN

Tight job market? Trying to figure out how you can get an edge? Reading up on your therapeutics and management guru books? Well, it turns out that none of those should be your focus—at least for getting a job.

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey Report 2017 found that communication skills are considerably more important for midlevel jobs, which pharmacist positions usually are considered, because they are below management but involve supervision of technicians and paraprofessionals.

Listening, an important communication skill, is listed second in the GMAC survey results, only behind oral communication.

As pharmacists, we often struggle to listen because we trained in the medical-pharmaceutical model, where emphasis is given to having the right medical answer rather than listening to the human struggle, and merit often was given to our classmates with the most correct answers.

Overall, communication skills (oral, listening, written, and presentation) as a group dominated 4 of the top 5 spots in the GMAC survey. Core business knowledge, such as how drugs are bought and sold or beds in a hospital are filled, held middle-of-the-pack importance with the roughly 600 employers interviewed.

TEAM BUILDING AND LEADERSHIP, EVEN IF ENTRY LEVEL

Next in the cluster of favorable responses collected by GMAC? Adaptability, valuing others’ opinions, following the leadership of others, and cross-cultural sensitivity came in third, sixth, eighth, and 10th, respectively, in the 25-category survey.

Health care delivery is no longer meant to be a siloed, conveyor-belt system driven by textbooks. Although it may feel that way from time to time during a student rotation, any pharmacy school graduate entering the workforce in 2020 will have a different set of expectations and skills for their careers than past generations.

Care teams, coordination, and bedside manner have been gaining ground in health professions’ curricula and experiential learning. Outcomes-based models of care delivery and reimbursement are taking over for process-based, fee-for-service models.

In order to accomplish outcomes, it usually takes a village of health care professionals and paraprofessionals, effectively and efficiently working together.

Most pharmacy school graduates, even those making the transition to a residency program, will find themselves as both a team leader and team subordinate from day 1. Communication, teamwork, leadership through directing, and following are the key items that human resources divisions now emphasize.

HOW TO PRACTICE COMMUNICATION? THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES EVERYWHERE.

So, how do you practice your communication skills? Well, you practice. Whether at a physician’s office, community pharmacy, or hospital, you learn by doing everyday and, at all times, practicing to become better.

Everyone reading this column has a practice setting that could use better communication and teamwork.

WHERE DO I FIND HELP?

There are plenty of opportunities, including online resources and continuing education programs, that are specific to health care delivery and teams, as well as thousands (or more) of online opportunities for teamwork and communication trainings.

The key takeaway here? That there are plenty of resources, but none of them do a bit of good unless you practice. Practice at home, practice at school, practice at work, practice with patients.

IT MIGHT JUST MAKE YOU A BETTER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL

Many workplace courses also are good for helping advance your skills in the exam room or at the counseling booth. Most pharmacy schools, health care education agencies, or continuing education organizations offer communication, team building, and care team coordination courses.

There are also well-known courses that are more specifically designed for a health care setting, such as motivational interviewing or mental health first aid. The skills that pharmacists and pharmacy students pick up from these courses, which emphasize listening as a superior way of communicating, can be applied when interacting with coworkers and patients.