Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.
How To Transition Out of Retail Pharmacy
If you’re among the community of pharmacists seeking to transition out of retail pharmacy, you’re not alone. Many of the pharmacists I connect with feel stuck because they perceive that their only job options are community-based pharmacies.
The industry seems to prefer new grads for available jobs because they can pay them less money. On the other hand, these pharmacists convince themselves that everyone around them is more qualified.
Their years of hard work feel meaningless, and many of them can’t afford to leave the industry because they can’t afford to take a pay cut. Even those who could afford the cut don’t want to opt for what feels like a demotion.
These seemingly impossible limitations led me to write the book Indispensable: The Prescription For A Fulfilling Pharmacy Career. You can grab the digital copy free with that or this link.
Establish a goal
You must have a plan to move from where you are now to where you’d like to be. Whether the issue is your pharmacy career, a desire to improve your health, or a need to pay off debt, you must establish a plan.
If you’re a pharmacist seeking new career opportunities, begin by establishing where you’d like to end up. Then, determine what you’re able to do.
It’s a broad question, for sure, but the good news is that your PharmD degree will open many doors. Many pharmacists mistakenly believe that no one is interested in their skills, but that simply isn’t true.
Evaluate your pharmacy career
Assess where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. This exercise will help you develop a realistic perspective about your current situation, and it will also lend itself to creating a great resume and cover letter, as well as interview answers for the future.
Determine your greatest accomplishments as well as those things you enjoy doing most. These answers can help you identify where you should logically go next.
Even if you have no idea where you’d like to go next, (and that’s a relatively normal part of this process) you can determine a small starting goal. Make it a realistic one, so you can move in the direction of new opportunities and build a little confidence along the way.
Identify the top three accomplishments over the life of your pharmacy career. Do they have any overlap or anything in common? Look for context that will help you determine other areas of interest or skill sets you have to offer.
Solving pharmacy problems
Consider your days in pharmacy school and whether there were certain topics that interested you more than others. Even if you chose a different path then, were you curious about other areas of the industry?
What grand problems would you like to solve? The answer to this question often points toward the subject you’re most likely to gravitate toward. It often points to a skill you have that other companies would value having.
Evaluate how your experience and your natural curiosity fits together. Determine how your skills fit in, and then figure out which career path would allow you to make the most of all of them. We’ve identified a list of more than 50 possible career paths for pharmacists, but it certainly isn’t exhaustive.
If, after all that, you still can’t identify a natural career transition, I encourage you to apply to speak to one of The Happy PharmD career coaches. Each one is a practicing pharmacist with the ability to help people identify where they can truly shine. The first one is free, and it will help us determine whether we’re a good fit for one another.
Narrow your choices
Though it’s worthwhile to consider all your possibilities, strive to narrow the field to those that are the very best fit for you. It will be much more difficult, and time-consuming, to adequately research multiple segments of pharmacy. It’s the equivalent of using a shotgun to hit a target from a mile away.
If you don’t narrow your focus, your resume will be too generic, your cover letter won’t be targeted toward the work you’re seeking, and ultimately you won’t be invited to interview.
Work to identify two to three career paths that allow you to take advantage of your skills and experience to date. Your best bet is to identify one or two career paths that blend all of your career strengths. If, for example, you have clinical experience and you love computers, informatics might be a great option.
If you aren’t sure about available career paths, APhA provides guides for different segments of the pharmacy industry.
Once you’ve identified those options, begin an intense career review. Do as much online research as you can for each career path. Include blogs, LinkedIn articles, job descriptions, and as much information as you can possibly find about existing jobs.
- Would this kind of work engage you?
- Does this career path seem challenging and fulfilling?
- Do you believe you’d feel more positive about this kind of work?
Be honest in your answers, because when you’re in a bad situation, it’s tempting to look for something that’s simply better than your current job. Avoid settling for “better” and set your sights on finding the role that would be a great fit.
Better focus will produce better results.
As you’re considering these new opportunities, seek truth in your research. Don’t overlook the uncomfortable aspects of the position because of your confirmation bias.
Consult your network to determine whether your connections have any information about the field, and try to honestly assess whether it would be a meaningful position. Talk to people who currently work in that segment of pharmacy. Ask about the problems they are working to solve and determine whether that work seems fulfilling to you.
Ask them about the negative aspects of the field along the way.
If you didn’t identify a single pharmacy career that intrigued you, consider options outside of pharmacy. More and more pharmacists are leaving the field to pursue other more fulfilling work that they likely never anticipated. I’ve worked with pharmacists who pursued sales, finance, real estate, or tech. Some have launched their own companies.
As you have these conversations, you’ll build a powerful network of people who can help you when it’s time to transition. They’ll also be more likely to tell you about job openings that aren’t posted on job boards.
Take an easy first step and grab a copy of my book, Indispensable. In it, I lay out four main sections to help you address your struggles in the pharmacy industry.
You’ve worked hard to build a valuable pharmacy career, and even if your work isn’t fulfilling now, the experience and skills you have developed are worthwhile. Begin the work of assessing your career and take the first steps toward fulfillment today.