Unemployed Pharmacist: First Steps

Where does a pharmacist start after being released into the open job market?

In my last article within this series I discussed ways to prepare for the unexpected circumstance of being between jobs. In this article, I want to share some helpful first steps to take after being laid off.

'Happy' probably won’t be a term you use to describe your emotional state when you first find out you’ll be job hunting, but it’s very important that you don’t burn any bridges at that moment. As I mentioned in my last article, pharmacy is a small world, and if you’re like me, your superiors could be good references for a future job, and be willing to help connect you with opportunities elsewhere.

There are two overarching recommendations I have for immediate steps after losing your job: evaluate what you want to do next, and then notify your peers.

Evaluate What You Want to Do Next

The first question that comes to mind is a panicked 'What am I going to do next?.' But it’s probably more helpful to calmly ask yourself, 'What do I want to do next?.' Evaluate what you are willing to do, and what you desire to do—the what, where, and when.

In what area of pharmacy do you wish to work? Do you want to stay in the same setting or try something new? If you’re coming from a niche role where you’ve built experience, and moved up the ladder, you may have to accept a lower salary if you’re making a switch to an area of pharmacy in which you don’t have as much experience. Are there any obstacles to you working in the same field of practice, such as a non-compete agreement with your former employer? What options does it rule out? How strictly does the company enforce non-compete agreements? These are good questions to ask as you evaluate your next move.

The next question is 'Where?.' Where are you willing to go? Are you willing to relocate? Maybe initially your preference is to avoid moving, but you may have to consider relocation as time goes by without finding any promising leads nearby. What about your commute? At first glance, are most of your options going to triple or quadruple your commute time? Is that okay? Perhaps your previous job was just 10 minutes from home, but required you to regularly work 60 or more hours per week. A one-hour commute for a 40-hours-per-week role may be a welcomed change.

Finally, there is the question of 'When?', which is closely tied to the number of options available that fit your what and where criterias, as well as your financial status. Chances are, the longer you’re able to wait, the more options you’ll come across. But not many people have the luxury of being able to hold out for months upon months waiting for that dream job to pop up, let alone waiting, and gambling on actually being selected for it. So, it’s important to evaluate how long you’re able to wait, considering your savings, expenses, and severance, if applicable.

Notify Your Peers

There may be a lingering feeling of embarrassment right after losing your job, but being shy about your circumstances is not the right move if you hope to have many options to choose from, and find the next great opportunity in your career. The next thing you need to do is to let your peers know that you are no longer with your former company.

Think about all the pharmacy groups you’ve worked with to date. On what committees, task forces, or boards are you serving on or have you served on? This is where being professionally involved prior to becoming unemployed is so important. What pharmacy leaders remain at your former company? Who that you have worked with in the past, and have a positive rapport with has taken a position elsewhere? Even think back to the preceptors you had in pharmacy school, if that’s not too far behind you. These are the people to whom you should be reaching out. Again, pharmacy is a small world, and the number of connections you make will directly (and sometimes synergistically) relate to the number of options you will have to look over.

As part of notifying your peers, it can be extremely helpful to describe a little bit about what your goals are for your next career move—the what and where, which you previously defined. Let them know that you are in the market for a position in hospital pharmacy on the west side of your state, or that you’re looking for a pharmacy manager position in a community pharmacy. They can let you know of positions available where they work, of positions in the profession elsewhere, and if they hear of positions opening up within their own network. Attach your curriculum vitae (CV), and mention it in your communication in case they can share it with someone in a position to hire you or to recommend you.

Last, while you’re contacting your peers don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and be considering who could provide letters of recommendation. You may want to ask for advice on ways to improve your CV, approaches to reaching out to prospective companies, or job search tools to use. And, likely, for some of the contacts you’re reaching out to, you’ve spent some time working with them. They’ve had the chance to get to know you over several months or years. These are the people you want to ask about providing a letter of recommendation, even if you’ve not yet applied for a specific job. Once you have applied, recommendations addressed directly to that company or hiring manager tend to be more effective.

Think about these recommendations if you do find yourself scrolling through a job board. In my next article, I’ll take a look at the process of getting into the weeds, and searching through the options your peers have forwarded to you or that you’ve found online.