What Would You Do If You Could No Longer Work as a Pharmacist?


Five years after graduating from pharmacy school, I thought I would lose my career as a pharmacist.

Five years after graduating from pharmacy school, I thought I would lose my career as a pharmacist.

Every workday, my right knee ached and I found it difficult to stand. I didn’t want to appear lazy sitting on a stool, but I was in pain in my 20s with a body that shouldn’t have been failing. I wanted to change careers, but I had student loans, a mortgage, car payment, and credit card debt, and I didn’t know how to make the transition.

I met with my pharmacy and store district supervisors, and they transferred me to a slower store. A few months later, that store closed, and those scripts were moved to a high-volume store with a drive-thru.

I, however, moved downtown to another slower-volume store, but that initial fear followed me like a shadow. I gradually improved physically, but in the back of my mind, I knew my career was limited.

I enjoyed my job and was satisfied with my work, but the complete dependence on a single stream of income worried me. It wasn’t until I took the leap into real estate sales that I understood what it took to make a career transition.

At first, I worked as much in real estate as I did in pharmacy while making little progress financially. This is common for new businesses, as the first steps in a new profession can be clumsy. These golden handcuffs generally keep us in jobs we don’t want to stay in, but my fear motivated me to keep going.

I worked hard in real estate, but made little traction until my office manager recommended a seminar in Washington, DC, called a Turning Point retreat. The company now calls this its Success Tour, but to me, it was a turning point.

This was a 2-day seminar on being better as an independent contractor. There was a lot of good advice, but the one thing I clearly remember over a decade later is the 18 minutes spent on goal writing. I never wrote a goal to get out of pharmacy. Instead, my goal was to pay off my student loans, credit card debt, and car with 2 years’ worth of savings. That number removed the fear of losing my job as a pharmacist and allowed me to feel truly comfortable.

Immediately after the seminar, I paid $400 a month to learn how to become better at this second profession. The coaching helped me develop a business that ultimately surpassed my income as a pharmacist. I eventually switched to a primary career in real estate sales and a part-time career as a pharmacist. Most importantly, I found balance in the areas of my life outside of my career.

By the time the real estate crash came, I had paid off my debts and had enough savings to live on the part-time pharmacist income in those very lean times. I’d drive long commutes because there wasn’t always much work to be had. I worked overnights and sometimes had to take a nap in a big-box store parking lot on the way home, just so I didn’t fall asleep while driving.

Eventually, I landed a nonclinical job in pharmacy again that paid about one-third of what the highest-grossing pharmacists make today. But, with no debt except a mortgage, I could trade salary for satisfaction.

I think many new graduates and current pharmacists want to know what they can do to progress toward more family time and less financial stress. I have 3 recommendations:

1. Working a second non-pharmacy job that renews and engages you will help change your perspective. It’s a lot cheaper than paying tuition immediately for another degree or starting a business you know little about. You can get the degree later when you’re clear on the direction you want to go.

2. Although its focus is on real estate sales, you’ll gain great value from listening to the Brian Buffini Show, a free podcast that focuses on keeping your spirits high while you’re trying to make a career transition.

3. Stay motivated by others in your profession. Pharmacy Life Radio has tangible advice for making your life significantly better, but you have to want to make the change. Fear from health issues motivated me, and I hope you’ll find the vision of a better life is enough to take a first step toward financial independence.

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