No one can guarantee you’ll find a pharmacy job after graduation. In fact, if you’re tracking the statistics, the supply of pharmacists has steadily outpaced demand for several years.
As new graduates flood the marketplace every year, the competition for existing jobs intensifies. New graduates have similar GPAs, similar transcripts, similar resumes, and similar career hopes.
The problem started in 2000 when the US Department of Health and Human Services predicted a shortage in the number of pharmacists in its report to Congress. The HHS pointed to the decline in pharmacy school applications and the increasing use of medications as evidence of the shortage.
In my own study of the pharmacy industry, I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to measure surpluses and shortages, but that there is, in fact, a flattening of salaries.
So how can you distinguish yourself in a crowded field of new pharmacists?
Recognize that finding a pharmacy job after graduation will demand your best effort and that you’ll have to market yourself. Pharmacy schools don’t adequately prepare most students for the idea of marketing themselves, but all the skills in the world won’t overcome shoddy preparation.
Engage with your network
Networking must always be part of your professional career development. Years from now, when you’ve gained extensive experience and successfully build a pharmacy career, you’ll still be required to network.
You should begin networking as early as possible. Build connections and relationships that will help you further your own growth and share ideas with other pharmacists.
1. Use obvious tools like LinkedIn to share ideas and explore emerging fields of study. Take an interest in what other people are doing, and share information related to their ongoing projects.
It’s ok to ask your network for help in the job search, but share something with your network before you ask for help. Connect people who might be able to benefit each other and share insights and experiences where appropriate.
2. Attend networking events that encourage personal interaction, but don’t rely solely on the large industry events. Diversify your network by attending smaller events that will allow for more meaningful connections.
Consider attending events outside your specific industry as a way to connect with others and learn about opportunities beyond pharmacy. Additionally, if you can find opportunities to speak to groups about topics relevant to them, you can establish yourself as an expert of sorts and build credibility among others in your industry.
3. Maintain contact on a regular basis so that when you need help, you won’t be asking out of the blue. As a rule of thumb, don’t allow more than 5 months to pass without connecting with those people in your business network.
Don’t overlook alumni groups or even long-time friends who have valuable connections of their own.
Think of your professional network like a 401K account: if you regularly invest in it, the payout will ultimately be greater.
Gather relevant pharmacy experience
Understand that in a crowded job market, you won’t likely walk right out of school into your dream pharmacy job. Even if your initial pharmacy job isn’t your favorite, consider it valuable for the experience you’ll gain.
As you consider your pharmacy job after graduation, be mindful that it’s always better to look for a new job while you have an existing one. Searching while you’re employed keeps you connected to your professional network and it keeps your skills up-to-date. Hiring managers may question periods of unemployment.
Residencies serve as a great way to build your network and gain experience at the same time.
If you’re connected to people who are engaged in research or other industry-related projects, volunteer to help with the effort. By sharing your time, you’ll invest equity in the relationship and you’ll gain experience that can set you apart in the job search. As an added bonus, you may discover a field you weren’t previously aware of.
Access multiple job boards
Online job boards allow you to actively search for pharmacy jobs and, at the same time, post your own information so that others might actively seek you.
Keep in mind that different jobs post to each site, so you’ll increase your odds if you monitor more than one job platform.
Consider, too, that you don’t have to be 100 percent qualified for a job in order to apply for it. Draw from your own experiences to help potential employers recognize your suitability for the position. Share experiences from rotations or internships.
As you search for new jobs, be aware that your conduct on those boards may be visible to your current employer depending on your user settings. Proceed carefully if you aren’t prepared to make your activity public.
As you’re considering future employment, learn all that you can about prospective employers so there won’t be any surprises down the road.
Google the company for any relevant news and access company blogs to see what projects the company is prioritizing. Search the Internet for SEC filings and financial reports that can reveal the company’s financial health.
Watch the company’s social media accounts to see what they are sharing and how they interact with others.
Finally, research the company’s competitors so you’ll fully understand the landscape and you’ll be prepared to answer interview questions when that day comes.
Maximize your social media presence
CareerBuilder reports that 70 percent of employers use social media to screen future employees, which means your own social media accounts provide free real estate for your job hunt.
Employers frequently use Facebook and Twitter to assess candidates’ persona outside the workplace. Furthermore, about 40 percent of employers said they are less likely to interview candidates who have no online presence.
Honestly assess your accounts to see how they portray you. Avoid overtly political statements as well as inflammatory posts.
For LinkedIn, choose a professional photo and include relevant information that might not be on your resume. Use your profile to follow different pharmacy organizations you’re interested in.
Super-charge your resume
If you’ve followed my page for any length of time, you know that your resume has about 30 seconds to grab the hiring manager’s attention and convince her to invite you for an interview.
That means your resume must be concise, effective, and compelling.
Your job search may pit you against hundreds of candidates for a single position, so you must make sure that your resume is built to distinguish you from everyone else. It must demonstrate why the hiring manager would be crazy to miss a chance to interview you.
Your resume must be crafted to perfectly match the position you’re applying for. You must use action verbs to help the reader visualize your accomplishments and abilities, and you must specifically address the roles and responsibilities of the job.
Keep in mind, too, that larger companies often use bots to screen applicant resumes, so the intentional use of keywords from the job listing can help you survive the initial screening.
Because your resume must be skimmable, only include relevant experience and skills that apply to the particular job you’re responding to.
Enlist help to find a pharmacy job after graduation
The career office on campus can help you with your job search by notifying you of career fairs and may even be able to help with job placement.
Your career office can likely schedule a one-on-one meeting that can help you identify weak areas or deficits that may keep you from getting hired.
Whatever you do, be selective when you ask for help. Realize that your fellow pharmacy students aren’t necessarily better at writing resumes than you are, so don’t put all your faith in your peers’ ability to proofread your documents.
Realize, too, that proofreading alone isn’t enough. Your cover letter must communicate your personality and your values to the hiring manager, while your resume has the daunting responsibility of summarizing who you are as a pharmacist.
Unfortunately, poorly-written documents can limit your job prospects and eliminate you from the field of possible candidates.
Because I’ve been on both sides of the decision-making process, I understand the importance of an effective resume. I’ve talked to countless hiring managers and even more pharmacists about the pitfalls of the hiring process, and I’ve assembled a course to help you optimize your resume.
My course helps people craft resumes that tell a compelling personal story. Students who enroll in my course earn callbacks and interviews by drafting resumes that communicate why they are the best fit for the position.
The course is self-paced and your tuition earns you lifetime access to the content. That means that whether you’re seeking your first pharmacy job or the final job of your career, you’ll be able to access information that will help you write an attention-grabbing resume.
You can make your job hunt less intimidating by giving yourself the best possible chance at finding a pharmacy job after graduation. Enroll in Resume Mastery today to distinguish yourself from the pack.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.