Pharmacy Career Advice

Many pharmacists don't get any satisfaction out of their careers. For some, their careers are the greatest source of discontent in their lives. Whether you find yourself in this position or you're a student about to graduate, here's some advice to hopefully help you along your career journey!

Pharmacy Career Advice
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Pharmacists have a lot of options after graduation. From clinical residencies to industry fellowships and retail pharmacy to nuclear specialists, PharmDs can pursue just about anything they're interested in. That's one reason why chasing a PharmD is such a compelling option for students starting college (at least historically).

Having said that, many pharmacists get stuck in their careers. They often find themselves in positions without any upward mobility. Some discover over time that their day-to-day work makes them feel miserable and even depressed. I know many pharmacists that don't get any personal satisfaction out of their careers and are looking to transition. For some, their careers are literally the greatest source of discontent in their lives.

Whether you find yourself in this position or you're a student about to graduate, here's some advice to hopefully help you along your career journey.

brown and red wooden barricade
Photo by Tim Collins / Unsplash

The Obstacle is the Way

If you're into stoicism at all, you've likely heard the phrase "the obstacle is the way" which was popularized by author Ryan Holiday. It's his interpretation of a famous quote by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, "The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way".

My interpretation? Don't let a difficult journey prevent you from pursuing what will make you truly happy. This is a very important lesson to learn early, preferably while in school. Frontloading the hard work will open so many doors for you once your career really kicks off. For instance, residencies and fellowships will open worlds of possibility for you upon completion. They allow you to become competitive for positions that are hard to get, higher paying, impactful, and potentially more fulfilling. The problem is that residencies and fellowships are hard to do and take a lot of time; they're serious obstacles. Don't let that stop you.

Already graduated and find yourself in a s****y job that you hate? No worries! You can still make it to your desired destination, but it will take work. Start by networking with folks in the positions you want to transition into. Reach out to them on LinkedIn, try to get 1:1s to discuss what they do, attend local conferences to meet new people, and make sure to leave good impressions as you go! You may need to take a lower-paying job at first before eventually finding the role you want. These lower level positions allow you to accumulate the required experiences to actually become competitive in the job market. It's a tough road, but it's also been well traveled by hundreds before you. The sooner you accept that this difficult path is the one necessary to take, the better off you'll be!

man on rope
Photo by Loic Leray / Unsplash

Work-Life Balance

As you start your career, you'll develop a gauge for work-life balance and what works best for you. At the same time, you'll get insights into more prestigious roles related to your function (think pharmacy manager, residency director, executive director of medical affairs, c-suite positions, etc...) You may even decide that you want to pursue one of these higher-level positions as you gain experience.

For those ambitious folks, I submit to you the "40-hour rule", which is based off of a normal work week in the United States. It's a rule I created for myself and helps me keep my career in check as I prioritize time with family, time to exercise, time to have fun, etc...

The "40-hour rule" states that you shouldn't try to attain the highest paying job possible or the one with the most power/responsibility. Rather, you should climb the ladder as high as you can while maintaining a 40-hour work week on average. People with type A personalities, which pharmacists tend to be, can be easily swept away with work and forget what really matters. This happens to me all the time, so I'm constantly keeping an eye on it. If I find myself working a 60-hour week, alarms start blaring to slow the hell down. I'll work less than 40 hours the next week, assess why I worked 60 hours (was it unavoidable like a conference or was I being ambitious with scheduling?), and take corrective actions for the future.

No one wishes that they worked more on their deathbed. They regret not traveling more, not spending more time with their kids, not prioritizing their health (mental & physical), and not having more fun. Don't be the person with these regrets at the end. Follow the 40-hour rule!

people sitting on chair with brown wooden table
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Money & Stress

One harder to measure consequence of a more prestigious job is stress. As you make more money, you often sign up for more stress! Even if you still work a 40-hour week, you may find yourself thinking about work more often. This is true even for times when you should definitely not be thinking about work (vacation, kid's soccer games, Thanksgiving dinner, etc...)

Stress management is a skill that you learn over time. Don't let stress be the reason that you don't pursue higher-paying jobs or roles with more responsibility, but make sure that you prioritize figuring out how to disconnect. If you do all you can to manage your stress and find yourself unsuccessful, make the hard decision and take a step down. Your 80-year-old self will thank you for it! Even the lowest-paid pharmacists are well outside of the poverty zone, so don't worry about making a ton of money if doing so drives down your quality of life.

boy on ladder under blue sky
Photo by Armand Khoury / Unsplash

Climbing the Ladder

Assuming you follow the 40-hour rule and keep stress management a top priority, how do you actually climb the ladder? Simple.. exceed expectations.

Go above and beyond at work. Ensure your normal duties are taken care of, then do something additional. Impactful side projects, leadership positions within your organization, volunteer opportunities, meaningful contributions to meetings, etc... While you're doing that, be a pleasant and fun person to work with!

When leadership determines who to promote, they'll consider if you're well-liked by your colleagues. If you're not, the chances that you'll be an impactful leader at your institution are slim (though there are exceptions). If people like you, they'll be much more likely to recommend you when opportunities come up! Your goal is to create personal advocates in the rooms you're not in.

*Information presented on RxTeach does not represent the opinion of any specific company, organization, or team other than the authors themselves. No patient-provider relationship is created.