Quote at the top: I’ve reached the height of my career. Is this what I’m going to be doing for the next 30 years?
We usually don’t become aware of something until it happens to us.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child nine years ago, I remember walking into Meijer (go Michigan!) and telling my wife, “Babe, is something in the water, because all of these women are pregnant!” She didn’t seem to take notice of my comment.
What I soon realized was that because my wife was pregnant, I, all of a sudden was seeing all these pregnant women. (This is an example of what is referred to as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or “frequency illusion.”)
It’s like it highlighted a truth about life: Lots of women are pregnant. I just hadn’t noticed it until I...well...noticed it.
Pharmacists Need a Career Trajectory
I've noticed a common trend in pharmacists: They lack a career trajectory.
We can’t rise the ranks. The only chance a pharmacist has to do so is to get into administration and manage other clinical pharmacists, and many do not want that added responsibility.
This leaves many pharmacists wondering, I’ve reached the height of my career, but I don’t know if I want to do this for another 20...30 years.
I spoke with a clinical pharmacy specialist the other day who was one of my alumni class members. He’s created an incredibly respectable career. He did his PGY1 in a well established and reputable hospital then moved on to a PGY2 in cardiology. He continued working at that institution as a cardiology pharmacy specialist. He is currently involved in prestigious research projects and trials. He has multiple speaking engagements where he is revered as an expert.
During our phone conversation, he told me, “I’ve worked my tail off, and I have three kids, the fourth one on the way, and I’m wondering to myself, can I do this for another 25 years? Waking up at 5 a.m. and coming home at 6, exhausted and not having the energy to play with my kids, then to spend an hour reading the latest trials or work on the next out-of-work project?”
Sometimes we sit so long in our comfort zone...our patterns...that they become second nature to us. When we brush our teeth, we don’t have to think about the mechanics of how to brush an individual tooth.
But every once in a while, we pause and think for a moment about what it is we’re doing. Why are we doing it? These “moments of clarity,” as I like to call them, are our internal wake-up call, prompting us to assess if what we’re doing is really the right thing to do.
For some of us, when it comes to brushing our teeth, it’s getting news that we have a cavity. Then we’re all of a sudden wondering about all that time we spent brushing our teeth. Was it actually effective?
Taking the Leap
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks is a book I read once a year. In it, Hendricks discusses the “upper limit problem.” (If you haven't read the book, check out this video that includes an explanation of the concept. Start at 1:34.) Whenever we achieve success, we have this upper limit of success that makes us feel uncomfortable if we seek to achieve any more.
Here’s what I believe most pharmacists are doing, especially those who have been successful in great careers doing work they enjoy: They don’t want to push any further because they don’t know what’s going to be on the other side. It’s scary to do new things. Maybe this sounds like you. You’ve built up all this expertise, you’ve done everything you can to get to where you are, so why change?
Here’s another way to look at it if you’re facing an upper limit problem: You’re self-sabotaging by feeling comfortable and feeling like you don’t need to try anymore. By being resigned to the mundane of what you’ve already accomplished, you set yourself up for failure in the future because you didn’t change. The big leap, you see, is jumping from one thing to the next. How you achieve massive success is by taking that big leap.
On the flip side of this discussion are all the pharmacists out there who are struggling with their careers. What I believe has happened is a mass wave of complacency in pharmacy, where we had all these people making six figures, happy with what they were doing. But now that companies are pressuring our profession—getting rid of the six-figure job title, adding far more stress than what’s reasonable, and expecting way more with way less—we have all these people who have been complacent in their careers, wondering what happened to them. Their upper limit problem was allowing themselves to remain complacent.
If you’ve noticed an upper limit problem within yourself, good. It’s time to take action and grow into your next thing. A career is hardly anything of a guideline. It’s subjective. It’s difficult to create rules or expectations.
People struggle so much with thinking about achieving something at a higher level—what they could do with their gifts, passions, curiosity, and talents. It’s heartbreaking for me to think about those things because we’d see so much innovation, and so many new jobs could be created if pharmacists simply broke out of those comfort zones into something brand new.
Take Control of Your Pharmacy Career.
If you want to know what your next thing is, are trying to break into a new field, are starting a business, or are growing an existing business, I encourage you to make a decision now. Here's a link to schedule a quick call with me or one of our expert career consultants. All of us are pharmacists, and we would absolutely love to talk with you about what you could be moving into next.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.