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7 tips to kickstart your pharmacy career

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When I first graduated pharmacy school, I did not explore all the pharmacy career options. Community pharmacy seemed to be the logical next step since I had worked as a pharmacy assistant while pursuing my pharmacy degree. Little did I know I would encounter amazing job opportunities in the future! After experience in various positions in retail, hospital, regulatory, pharmaceutical industry, and now academia, I hope to share some career building tips and insights.

One's career path is not always a straight one. Not all of us are able to land our dream job right after graduation. We don’t always make a beeline to the job we want or get to stay in one that we love forever (change in management or roles). The most important thing about career building is to have a hunter mentality and keep your eyes open. Moreover, always cherish each opportunity that you get.

  1. Reflect on what you like, dislike, and want from work

This is the first step in getting to know yourself. Reflection can help you figure out what you like and dislike. I remember reflecting regularly in each job that I had because I wanted to assess what skills I gained, what I liked and disliked about the job. I always asked myself if I can see myself working here for the next 5 years and if not, what do I need more or less of. Sometimes I had to change jobs because of personal commitment to other decisions. For instance, when I decided to go back to school for my PharmD, I had to think through what type of jobs would be able to provide me the flexibility and income that I needed.

  1. Craft your résumé and keep it up to date

Like a grower of artisan coffee, one must be willing to take the extra time and dedication to craft a quality résumé. This means thinking about the wording of each sentence. Does it tell your story? Is it action-focused? Have your shared your transferable skills? I had shared my résumés with academic advisors, friends, and family to understand their impressions and then identified what I needed to work on. Think of this as your most important tool to share a bit of who you are when you apply for the job you want.

  1. Explore education and training opportunities

Learning is always a good thing, especially if it’s an area that interests you. Sometimes you may not have a clear path laid out while pursuing more education, and that is OK. You may not land the exact job you wanted but you will gain different sets of skills that may come in handy one day! When I started, I floated to as many retail locations as possible, absorbing wisdom from different people and adapting new environments. Every job gave me different sets of skills and each dynamic experience broadened my horizon. Admittedly, no job is perfect and there will always be aspects of a job that one may not like. However, having a positive attitude towards your commitment to a role will help you get the best out of every opportunity.  

  1. Reflect after each interview

I see interviews as an incredible chance to learn more about myself as others ask different types of questions about the position I've applied for. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Whenever I receive a rejection email, I reflect on what I did well, what I didn’t do well, and question whether I was a good fit for the role after my discussion with the hiring manager. Most people may think the hiring manager is the only one with the decision power. Truth is that both the interviewee and the hiring manager can decide whether this job is a fit or not. When I do get the job offer, I also reflect on how the interview went compared to the unsuccessful ones before this.

  1. Step out of your comfort zone

Trying new things can be challenging and scary. Stepping out of your comfort zone can push you to learn beyond your skillsets and gain new knowledge. Following your curiosity is important to pursue your passion. Sometimes we do not know what our passions are until we try different types of roles and interact with various people to discover our interests. Whenever I encounter a new role, I always reframe my attitude. Instead of being scared and timid, I tell myself that I can learn and master new skills. Then I plan out how I want to accomplish the goals for this new position.

  1. Be prepared

We don’t always get the job we want at the exact timing we want. However, getting that degree you desire or trying out the job you wanted will prepare you for the career you want when it knocks on your door. For instance, I longed for an academic job when I was in undergrad but did not think I had the skillsets or the knowledge to get there until much later in my career. I went after the MBA and PharmD because they gave me insights to new knowledge and skillsets that would help me differentiate myself from the rest. Furthermore, I tried a variety of roles because I followed my curiosity. I figured that the more skillsets I have, the better view I will have of the healthcare industry and one day I will have the opportunity to share it with the next generation of pharmacists. Interestingly, the job opportunity arose in a serendipitous way, and I was prepared with various skillsets that met the job requirements.

  1. Always go for it

Just because a job description asks for different expertise does not mean you should shy away from it. Read it over, reflect on what your skills are and whether you have met the mandatory asks, such as registered pharmacist. I remember when I finally received an offer for my first pharmaceutical position, I did not have the required 2 years of pharmaceutical sales experience. Fortunately, I was able to demonstrate my capabilities through transferable skills from my previous experiences. So, do not shy away from applying for a job just because you may not fit the job description to a T. Apply anyway, you have nothing to lose!

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