I enjoy watching TV. Several years ago, actress Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle) starred in a TV show called “Carol’s Second Act.”. It was about a woman who worked as a teacher. However, later in her life, she left her teaching position and pursued her dream of becoming a doctor.
I wasn’t too impressed with this program. Neither was anyone else. It was canceled after a year.
I was very fortunate. I was able to have a second act. I was able to reinvent myself late in my career. It came about because of two situations:
1. I really enjoyed teaching. Even though I was a pharmacy manager, I had a passion for helping others learn something. It could be something new or just an extension of what they already knew. Sometimes I would give a formal presentation with slides and handouts. Other times, I sat around with a bunch of people and just talked. But I was really good at getting my message across. And I had a lot of fun teaching people.
2. My pharmacy department was being outsourced. The new outsourcing company was bringing in their own management team. I was being let go from my job. I applied for several other positions. I eventually accepted a supervisory pharmacy position in another hospital.
Shortly after I was let go by the management company, I was on vacation in Florida. One morning I received a phone call from one of the jobs that I had applied to. It was a community college in New Jersey. They were seeking an instructor to teach students how to become pharmacy technicians. Students who successfully passed the course could get their New Jersey license and apply for certification.
I was interested in the position. I knew that it was for an adjunct instructor, so there’d be few hours and no benefits. But I was fine with that. I wanted to teach.
I interviewed when I returned from vacation. I was hired on the spot. But then came the best part. They gave me full reign on how I wanted to set up the program. I was able to choose my own textbooks, set up tests and quizzes to evaluate the students, and design the curriculum the way I wanted it.
I taught at the county college for six years.
Realizing My Ambitions
Two years later, I got a job as a Director of Pharmacy in a small community hospital. I had been working in pharmacy management for over thirty years. I had always enjoyed working as a pharmacy manager. I also enjoyed working in hospitals. But the hospital business had changed. Hospitals were merging and the business was becoming very competitive. All the employee perks and activities that I enjoyed early in my career were no longer there.
I was still working as an adjunct instructor for the community college. But the limited hours, salary, and lack of benefits weren’t enough for me to financially survive.
But then I got lucky. A career school was seeking an experienced pharmacy instructor to teach their students to become pharmacy technicians. And although the salary offered was significantly lower than any pharmacy manager job that I ever had, it was a full-time teaching position with benefits. I left my hospital pharmacy management position and pursued my second act to teach.
Helping Students Grow
I enjoyed my teaching role. It was very satisfying to train students and help them obtain their credentials. I eventually branched out from the usual pharmacy programs. I devised a course on career development. I taught classes on resume writing, cover letters, interview skills, and references. Anything to help my students find jobs in the pharmacy market.
After several years as a pharmacy instructor, a career services representative position opened up at the school.
A career services representative was responsible for helping students from all disciplines (not just pharmacy) find jobs. My courses on career development could be easily adaptable to any student. It would be quite beneficial in helping them further their career.
I really enjoyed helping students find their perfect job. Thus, becoming a career services representative became my second second act.
Implementing A Second Act
Establishing a second act doesn’t have to be at the end of one’s career, though. My college roommate started his career working as the primary pharmacist in a supermarket pharmacy department. He worked long hours, was constantly forced to achieve benchmarks, and had little or no help.
After ten grueling years, he left the supermarket pharmacy. He abruptly resigned— without having another job lined up. But he knew, being a pharmacist, that he could always find another job. Pharmacists were a hot commodity. His salary might not be as high as it was when he was working for the supermarket. However, it would still support him and his family.
He applied for and eventually got a job as a night shift pharmacist in a hospital pharmacy. He enjoyed working from 9 pm to 7 am. And because it was the night shift, the hospital catered to their night employees. The hospital made the salary and perks as enticing as possible.
The hospital offered a 7 on- 7 off-plan for their pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. It allowed them to work 70 night shift hours (7 days straight, working 9 pm to 7 am followed by 7 days off) and get paid for 80. Thus, between salary, shift differential, in-charge pay, weekend hourly rate, overtime, and other monetary incentives— my roommate made nearly as much as he did when he worked in the supermarket.
My roommate reinvented himself as a hospital pharmacist. His desire to work the night shift put him in high demand. Eventually, I convinced him to work in my hospital’s pharmacy (on the night shift). His successful second act resulted in a very lucrative career.
Considering Key Factors
It’s not hard to establish a second act. I generally tell people to find something that they are good at or something that they enjoy doing or something that they always wanted to do. Then do it. However, there are four things that have to be considered.
1. Money. Chances are money or salaries are usually going to be less with a second act opportunity. The reason is simple. Most times people are going from some aspect of the pharmacy profession, with a decent salary. In turn, they are going to a second act opportunity where the money is generally lower. The trade-off of course is that the second act is usually more enjoyable and less stressful. And most of the time these benefits will outweigh the problem of less money.
2. Power. After 39 years in hospital pharmacy management, I got a job teaching students how to become pharmacy technicians. I was just an instructor and I enjoyed teaching. However, every so often there was an incident or problem at the school. And I always wanted to fix it. In fact many times, I’d submit a solution without having even been asked. My wife used to yell at me for doing this. She’d say that I wasn’t the boss anymore and that I didn’t have to address every problem that arose. But after 39 years, I still thought of myself as the boss. I still thought I had the power even though I didn’t. It’s a luxury being in one’s second act, where all the headaches are someone else’s. And a person is just doing what they enjoy. But quite often, it is a difficult feat to make the transition and give up the power.
3. Lifestyle. When it comes to changing one’s lifestyle to accommodate a second act, this may be challenging. Few people can uproot themselves from their current job or position and migrate to a second act. Many people, even those without spouses and kids, won’t or can’t alter significant aspects of their lifestyle which are needed to perform a second act. Thus, changing days or times that one works, weekend requirements, or where one lives may not be feasible. Therefore, the second act may be enticing, but not at the expense of changing one’s lifestyle in order to achieve it.
4. Resistance to change. I worked in my favorite hospital for eleven years. I managed a pharmacy staff of 75 people. There were several staff members that were resistant to change. Sometimes we obtained a new piece of equipment, or a more efficient method of performing a task. But sadly these staff people still wanted to do things the old way. They were resistant to change. I doubted whether these staff members would ever have embarked on a second act. I couldn’t see them changing from what they always did to doing something different. That’s one of the things necessary in developing a second act. A person has to leave their comfort zone. They have to stop doing what they’ve always done and do something different.
Obviously, establishing a second act is not for everybody, But those who achieve it seem to be much happier than those who don’t.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.