By most people’s estimations, you’re stuck.
You’ve invested time and money into this pharmacy career that suddenly feels wrong; and you make such a great salary, walking away seems crazy.
You can’t imagine staying and you can’t imagine leaving.
I’ve been where you are. I’ve worked in a job where people distrusted each other and I wondered how I would ever improve my situation.
It’s a terrible predicament.
You can’t imagine staying in your current job, and you can’t imagine leaving it either.
You’ve invested huge amounts of time and money into this pharmacy career, but you’re miserable. You make such a great salary that walking away seems crazy.
By my estimation, however, there’s hope: hope of freeing yourself from a job you dread, and hope of finding a fulfilling job that you enjoy.
How do I know? I’ve been right where you are, but I worked my way out of it. I’ve also spoken to countless others who have shared similar stories of improving their career outlook.
It would be easy to feel skeptical at this point, but I challenge you to keep reading. Skepticism may be one of the main reasons you continue to stay stuck.
1. Be selective about the things you choose to believe.
Everyone struggles with self-doubt occasionally; even people who love their jobs.
For pharmacists seeking to transition out of their traditional positions, the doubt can be paralyzing. In fact, it isn’t the lack of available jobs or the lack of opportunity that keeps us stationary. It’s often our own minds, and the negative thoughts we choose to believe.
When negative thoughts plague you, write them down. Then consider whether or not they are actually true. (They usually aren’t.)
As I wrote the first draft of my book on this very topic, I found myself thinking that people would never read it. I got caught up in the things readers would hate about the book, and fear took over. I stopped writing.
Desperate to get started again, I wrote down my fears and determined that most of them weren’t true; and then I started writing again.
As you contemplate transition, if you find yourself wondering why you can’t just be happy that you’re earning 6 figures, write down your thoughts. Perhaps the truth is that the salary is good, but you aren’t happy with the work you’re doing. If the fear of giving up your large paycheck makes you feel trapped, write it down. Then you can evaluate exactly what your financial situation is instead of dwelling on incorrect assumptions.
Negative voices tend to be louder than the others. That doesn’t mean you have to listen.
2. Imagine your ideal pharmacy career.
No doubt you have ideas about what your dream job would look like. You know the parts of pharmacy that excite you and you know the parts that you hate.
Spend some time creating a profile of the job you’d love to have. Once you’ve done that, it will be easier to identify small steps that will move you toward that job. It will also put you in control of your career and remove feelings of helplessness.
If you never determine what you hope to get from your career, you’ll stay among the thousands of pharmacists that are unhappy in their work. You’ll never figure out that the world is not, in fact, your oyster, or that job opportunities aren’t likely to land in your lap. You have to search for them and create them if necessary.
The easiest first step is to check out The Happy PharmD Career Conference, which tells the stories of pharmacists like you who have successfully transitioned out of retail and hospital jobs into different areas of pharmacy. Sign up for the upcoming event to hear personal accounts of people who have created fulfilling pharmacy careers, and to hear how they did it.
Whatever your circumstances, we can help. We have helped pharmacists transition from part-time to full-time and vice versa. We have helped them move into areas of pharmacy even where they had no experience.
I can do the same for you, but you must take the first step.
3. Find your ikigai.
Ikigai is a Japanese term that means “reason for being.” It’s the sweet spot of what you’re good at, what you love doing, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs.
Anytime two of the concepts overlap, there will be some success. When they all come together, you’ll find your ideal career.
If, for example, you find a job that you’re good at, and one you can be paid for, you’ll find a profession. Without mission and passion, though, you’ll likely fail to find meaning in your work, and you’ll eventually be unhappy.
Consider these questions about your own career:
- Will you accept that you might be happier if you weren’t a pharmacist?
- Will you accept the idea of making less money than you currently do?
- Will you accept the idea that there is a fulfilling pharmacy job out there?
If you answer no to any of these questions, you’re likely limiting your own growth. Ikigai requires substantial self-evaluation and a willingness to be honest about where you are and where you want to be.
4. Choose your influences carefully.
Of the five people you spend the most time with, how many of them are happy in their careers? Have they discovered their own ikigai? Do they challenge you to be better?
Do your friends focus more on their lives outside of work? Are they miserable in their own jobs and convinced this is as good as it gets?
For the last five years, I’ve been part of a Mastermind that refuses to let me be stagnant. They challenge me to grow as an entrepreneur and as a person. Without that group, I likely would not have found my place helping other pharmacists find work they love doing.
Surround yourself with people who love their own careers, because they will be motivated to help you find the same for yourself. When you spend time with a group of people whose priorities are similar to your own, you’ll feed off each other’s successes. You’ll learn the tricks of the trade and you’ll learn how to succeed. You’ll also benefit from each other’s wins and losses.
If it’s true that “A rising tide raises all ships,” then surround yourself with people who will raise you up.
5. Avoid your comfort zone.
Our brains seek shortcuts out of a need for efficiency. When we streamline processes, our brains aren’t required to work as hard. Habits do the same for us in our daily lives, but they can also become comfort zones.
The job you’re currently in -- the one that is causing you to feel unhappy and burned-out -- is most likely your comfort zone. It’s a known entity. It’s safe. Staying in it is easy.
When your comfort zone becomes a source of pain in your life, it’s time to contemplate transition. When your job isn’t fulfilling and you’re ready for change, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone.
Transition isn’t easy, though. It’s much simpler to stay where you are and make do than it is to branch out and find something better.
Truth is that great things rarely happen in our comfort zones. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and when we do things that others are unwilling to do, we often find magic.
I challenged a student I know to create a video message that would introduce him to a hiring manager; and though he was afraid of the idea, he did it. That video landed him an interview for a job he wasn’t qualified to do.
Don’t buy into the idea that you’re stuck in your career. Be willing to do the hard work required to find fulfilling work. Introspection, encouragement, courage, and effort will move you toward a job that is your ikigai.
Don’t take my word for it. Trust the stories of pharmacists who have found their way to fulfilling work. Allow yourself to explore the possibilities.
Your only other option is to stay where you are and endure your current job.
You must decide for yourself whether that’s really an option.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.