Today's Job Search: New Strategies Open New Doors

Pharmacy Times, December 2014 Heart Health, Volume 80, Issue 12

Today's job seekers are revamping their search strategies and looking beyond traditional routes.

Today’s job seekers are revamping their search strategies and looking beyond traditional routes.

In many areas of the country, pharmacists are encountering difficulty in their search for meaningful work. Whatever the reasons may be, let’s look at how you—an individual with solid medical training, a unique skill set, and exploitable interests—can find a better-than-good position.

1. Inventory your skills.

You should know your pharmacy skills well, but it’s important to take a few days to create a comprehensive list of your many other capabilities. Job seekers and individuals looking for promotions or lateral transfers to administrative or management positions often find resume fodder in volunteer activities. Civic, school, or nonprofit volunteers organize events, manage budgets, plan and conduct meetings, market products or events, create spreadsheets, design newsletters, and acquire a plethora of other useful job skills. Don’t forget to include foreign language skills.

2. Create a flexible resume.

3. Deemphasize job titles.

When searching for a position, look at functions and potential rather than simply the job title or type of business. Tired of retail and think you want to go to into long-term care? If you exclude hospital, chain pharmacy, and other descriptors from your search, you may miss an opportunity. Perhaps a chain is looking for an eldercare specialist in its specialty pharmacies, or a local hospital is opening a long-term care wing. Tailor multiple resumes to address each position’s unique requirements. If you’re applying for a position outside the pharmacy field, replace health care vocabulary with more generic terms (eg, customer or client instead of patient, retail experience instead of pharmacy experience). Your concise cover letter should state briefly why you are a worthwhile candidate for the position; select and address 3 reasons why you are a very good match.

4. Expand your job search beyond the newspaper’s help wanted section.

Today’s job seekers search many venues for open positions, particularly online (Table 2). In addition, pharmacy schools, professional associations, and professional meetings often have job banks. Job fairs are excellent places to talk with employers about their needs and receive feedback on your resume.

Many people consider the old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” to be a fallacy. They’re wrong. Networking is a common and viable route to a new job. This is especially true as your career progresses or if you’re seeking contract, part-time, or short-term employment. Hiring officials want to identify the best possible candidates for their vacancies, and if their applicant pool is insufficient they start asking around. Your neighbor may mention that a local insurance company is looking for a specialist to review medical claims; that’s similar to chart review. So talk to your friends and acquaintances.

6. Get your foot in the door.

Organizations that have full-time vacancies often consider their part-time, per diem, and contract employees as well as reliable volunteers. If you want to work at a specific place, court it. Learn everything you can about the company. Talk to people who work there, read every inch of the company’s website, and comb the Internet to determine the organization’s reputation, financial stability, strengths, and competitors. Then, approach a manager about part-time or volunteer positions. Yes, you are already busy if you have a full-time job, but consider an extra 4 to 8 hours per week at another position an investment in your future.

7. Consider an employment agency.

Employment agencies come in several varieties. Some place people in temporary or per diem positions (see #6 above); others find candidates for full-time positions and charge the hiring organization a fee; some serve as headhunters.

8. Track what you do and send thank you notes every time someone helps you.

Remind the person who you are, in case he or she may have forgotten. Thank people for whatever kindness they provide, and ask them to keep you in mind if a suitable position opens. Using regular mail is better than e-mail; it turns easily deleted electronic correspondence into a visual, tactile, memorable experience for the recipient.

9. Don’t give up.

Finding a new job is quite possibly harder than staying in your old job. It’s work. Set aside some time every day or two, and keep trying. Do what employers do when they can’t find the help they need—expand your search area. Relocating may open doors.

10. If all else fails, look for ways to make your current position more bearable and your resume fuller.

Take classes to improve your skills. Suggest ways to streamline operations or make the organization more cost-effective. Work at improving relationships throughout the department.

Ms. Wick is a Visiting Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a former National Cancer Institute employee.