Unemployed Pharmacist: Preparing for Job Loss


How can a pharmacist be prepared for the unexpected?

You don’t often hear about pharmacists being laid off, but as I recently discovered first hand, it does happen. Because the topic seems to be somewhat taboo, and as someone who likes to write about his experiences, I decided I would share my experience with 'employment intermission.'

This topic could be a help for my colleagues: What to do while you are employed? Later is this series, much of which is built on advice gleaned from my network, I’ll take a look at the first steps following job loss, what to do while searching, and narrowing down your options.

There are 3 things pharmacists can do while they are employed that will be a help should they later find themselves unemployed: be professionally involved, maintain an updated curriculum vitae (CV) or resume, and keep professional information accessible. I’ll explain more about each one in the coming sections.

Professional Involvement

We’ve all heard it: pharmacy is a small world. That statement has rung true to me on more than 1 occasion, and my search for a new job was no exception. I had served on state, local, and academic boards, and committees. Being professionally involved helped me to establish a great network in pharmacy, and having this network would prove to be a huge help.

While simply 'cold calling' for open positions on job boards or direct to the hiring employer is certainly a good idea, it is far more effective when 'you know a guy' for the opportunity in which you’re interested. Furthermore, colleagues can identify unlisted positions, or connect pharmacists with employers who have roles that have yet to be posted or even created.

All in all, this warm introduction (and ideally recommendation) of you, to the hiring manager, by someone who knows both of you can go a long way. Thus, I highly recommend getting involved in your local pharmacy organizations, state pharmacy associations, and pharmacy alumni associations. If you plan to remain in the same industry, being a member of organizations that represent your practice type (e.g., specialty, hospital, community) can serve a similar benefit. Having such a network can serve as a great booster in identifying job leads and becoming a strong candidate for your desired position.

Curriculum Vitae

Unless you’re fresh out of school, writing a CV from scratch can be a challenge. You have to recall dates, locations, titles, names, etc. You also have to decide what’s important enough to go in the CV. Having to spend the time doing this after losing your job can delay the obvious next step of finding a new job. So instead of creating a new CV between jobs, develop a plan to maintain 1 throughout your career.

To do this I recommend keeping a master copy, which contains everything you’ve done—jobs, publications, presentations, volunteer work, awards, etc. With this master copy, do 2 things. First, set a reminder to update it regularly (I recommend quarterly). Second, between updates, keep notes on new items to add to your CV or changes to make, such as volunteer terms ending or changes in your role with your current employer. Then, when your reminder to update comes, pull up these notes, and use them to make your updates.

Finally, when it comes time to share your CV, work from the master copy to pare it down to the pertinent stuff—what you believe makes you most qualified for your audience (e.g., the hiring manager or the interviewers). This advice can help you have a CV ready for distribution on day 1 (or as soon as you’re ready if you looking for a little 'me time' before your next job).

Accessible Professional Information

The last thing to do while employed, in order to be prepared in the case of sudden unemployment, is to keep professional information accessible. What do I mean by that? Well, so much of what we do as employees is electronic. That includes storage of professional contacts, personal and professional goals, annual reviews, accomplishments, etc. Chances are, if that electronic information is stored on a company-owned device, when we depart, we won’t have access to it. Thus, when a pharmacist gets a business card from a colleague or client at work, it should not be stored on an employer’s personal information management system (e.g. Outlook), but stored on an individual's private system, such as a Gmail account.

When a pharmacist receives an annual performance review, a PDF version should be saved to a thumb drive or cloud service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. The same can be done for pharmacist-led projects. Now, I’m not suggesting storage of proprietary information within a personal account, so use your best judgement. Having contact information for colleagues, and documents showing a record of your accomplishments will come in very handy when it comes time to search for the next career opportunity.

I hope that these recommendations can be a help for any pharmacist, especially those who find themselves moving from a status of employed to seeking employment. In the coming weeks, this article series will cover additional related topics.

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