Pharmacy students hoping to join student organizations at the beginning of the school year often encounter a sea of white coats, colorful posters, pharmacy pop quizzes, and promises of free pens as they search involvement fairs for the right group.
Pharmacy students hoping to join student organizations at the beginning of the school year often encounter a sea of white coats, colorful posters, pharmacy pop quizzes, and promises of free pens as they search involvement fairs for the right group. Although getting involved with student organizations is an important part of the pharmacy school experience, it is easy to get swept away when attempting to navigate these many different groups. Before adding your name and email address to that sign-up sheet, keep these tips in mind.
1. Follow Your Passions, Not Your Friends
It may be tempting to join the same groups as your friends, but remember that you may not share the same passions and interests. Just as all pharmacy students are different, so, too, are all student organizations, which may offer various opportunities within specialized areas of pharmacy. Neglecting your own interests for the safety and familiarity your friends offer may not be the best decision for your future career.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting new people is an important first step toward getting involved, so consider checking out different events on your own to see how you fit in. Does this organization provide opportunities for leadership or even space to create a new role for yourself? Can you see yourself making an impact in this organization? Your answers to these questions are far more important than whether or not you have friends in a group.
2. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Effective time management is crucial in pharmacy school, so it’s important that the time you dedicate to your organizations be more focused. Although many groups may interest you, it’s better for you to be heavily involved in a few organizations than minimally involved with a larger number of groups. Not only will this help you manage your time, but it may also help you as you apply to residencies and jobs: Potential employers will likely be more impressed by the great things you’ve done in an organization than how many you happen to be a part of.
3. Find the Right Mentors
Sometimes the best opportunities come from having the right guidance, and joining organizations can enable you to connect with fellow students who can mentor you through pharmacy school and help you reach your potential. When you first attend a group’s general interest meeting, start by introducing yourself to various members. Get to know their role in the organization and how they got started, and see if they offer good on how to get involved; not only can this be a great way to better understand the structure of leadership in different organizations, but it can also help you identify potential mentors from whom you can learn.
4. Look to Your Professors
Your mentors throughout pharmacy school don’t always have to be peers; professors and other faculty members can also guide you outside of the classroom. Faculty members are often very involved in their communities, and some even have started their own nonprofit organizations for a cause that they are passionate about. Be sure to ask your professors about opportunities to get involved; doing so can help you gain not only leadership experience but an important mentor and connection, as well.
5. Never Assume It’s Too Early or Too Late to Get Involved
Pharmacy school can be busy and time-consuming, but never forget that you can always get involved. Students who are well into their professional years have a lot of knowledge to share with younger organization members, so their input and time can prove to be extremely valuable. Students who are in the pre-professional years may feel intimidated and not get involved as quickly, but keep in mind that joining an organization is not about what you bring to the table right now but about what you may bring in the future.
Although the vast number of student organizations available to join can feel overwhelming, these tips can help you get your bearings as you look for the right fit. It may be hard to find that perfect group right away, but remember that organizations are never static; just like you, organizations experience changes, such as different members and different semesters. Allow yourself to become a part of that change and you will surely find opportunities that can help shape your professional career.
Liya Johnson is a 2019 PharmD candidate at the Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy in New Brunswick, New Jersey.