By going through pharmacy school, you have a well-rounded background in various areas, including communication skills through delivering presentations and counseling patients, motivational interviewing experience, and some degree of technical writing experience. The curriculum is structured to make the average pharmacist an excellent communicator, a fast learner, and flexible enough to fit into different fields. There is a perception that the areas available within the profession are limited as many pharmacists are mainly involved in retail, hospital pharmacy, pharma, industry, and regulatory pharmacy practice. There are only pockets of pharmacists scattered here and there in related areas such as medical writing. At the same time, some have pivoted careers exclusively into communication, insurance, and the new oil – the tech industry.
When polls are conducted for pharmacists, the central focus areas are usually retail and hospital pharmacists. However, the figures from the majority are not good – 7 out of 10 pharmacists are unhappy in their current roles. Since many pharmacists are not happy, it begs the following questions:
- What is the thought process that goes into pharmacists choosing these roles in the first place?
- What were their perceptions about the jobs?
- What is their career plan like?
- Are they in it for lack of better options elsewhere?
While some people are not satisfied with their roles due to how long the shifts are, which limits involvement with family and time to pursue other interests, the reality is that this is often the case in most entry jobs regardless of the sector of the economy. First, there must be a shift in mindset to long-term planning rather than simply getting by.
Do you have a Career Plan?
Setting a goal makes it easier to endure administrative bureaucracy and long-hour shifts. The focus should be to develop what writer Carl Newport calls the craftsman mindset. Despite how hectic work is and the inability to appropriately counsel patients as much as we ought to, you should still maintain a positive attitude and go about your job to the best of your abilities. It is not the endgame. If you don’t see yourself still dispensing pills in the next ten years, it is easier to do what needs to be done now because you know you won’t be doing it forever. Think of it as a chapter in the book of your career. It would help if you had the salary, for now, to be able to sort out your current bills, improve your skills, make the right connections and eventually create the ideal future you desire.
You will also be able to develop a strong work ethic that you will need to thrive in whatever role you will assume later. Martin Luther King Jr. puts it this way, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
Current State of the Profession and Future Prospects
We can liken the pharmacy profession to a big house with many rooms in a city. And the truth is that some rooms are more filled than others – retail, big pharma, and hospital practice. Long term, this is not sustainable. Our generation has witnessed many technological advancements within the last 100 years, and more professionals need to join. Most pharmacy students should explore their other interests outside of pharmacy during the course of their training. There are still links between pharmacy and other areas that have not been explored yet.
What are the skills that you can learn to aid you in contributing maximally to the world? Remember, on this journey, you will need courage and audacity to build anything worthwhile. If you consider your career as a building you are creating or as the blacksmith forging a weapon, you will be more willing to put in the required effort. Not everyone will create something new. But if a small percentage does so, while everyone else does the best work they can do, it will make for a more stable ecosystem with enough skilled and committed workers going about their roles to the best of their abilities. More people will also love their jobs because they have developed mastery in it – a product of time and persistent effort. They are also adequately compensated for the value they bring while having an end goal in mind. When the focus is on value creation, it is easier to go through difficult spells than when the focus is on how I benefit from the role.
While all these may look so far out in the future and beyond you, remember, you can start from where you are. Have you done a career assessment guided by a professional? What are the skills you currently have? What point are you in your career now? What roles should you be applying for? These are some of the questions a career coach will walk you through. You can immediately book an appointment with one at the Happy PharmD and begin your journey to a world of limitless opportunities.
Obaseki Emmanuel, PharmD is an experienced pharmacist and career development enthusiast. He is fascinated by the human mind and loves nature. He enjoys writing medical articles and essays in his spare time. He is the founder of Kingsquare’s Ink, where he helps clients achieve their graduate school dreams.