If you're a pharmacy student interested in post-graduate training such as residency or fellowship, then you should be highly prioritizing involvement in student organizations! The competitive landscape surrounding residency and fellowship programs is constantly getting harsher, and failing to be involved in at least one organization can severely damage your chances of getting in. Not only that, but these programs are becoming more and more leadership-focused. They aren't just meant to place you into a full-time role, but also to set you up for leadership opportunities down the road. With that in mind, programs will be looking for candidates with leadership backgrounds, and student organizations are one of the best areas to find that experience.
Today I'll cover what I consider to be the 3 main benefits of being involved in student organizations. Let's start with networking.
You'll hear this over and over again in school, but pharmacy really is a small world. The best way to interact with that world is through networking. Being involved in student organizations is your first chance to really network with others outside of your immediate friend group. If you're really involved, those connections often turn into new friendships themselves. Once you start to tackle challenges together as an organization, you can't help but bond and become closer. Why do you think Harry, Ron, and Hermione are so tight?
As you get closer with your new connections, you'll start to watch your language a little bit less and joke around with your colleagues. Many professional formalities will be dropped as you become more and more comfortable. Once you're at that point, all the while having maintained a reputation of effectiveness and reliability, your connections will start to benefit you in unexpected ways. You'll rely on each other for introductions, experience in areas that you're unfamiliar with, and future opportunities that you didn't even know existed. That's the real power of networking.
As I mentioned earlier, leadership opportunities are abundant in student organizations. Being highly involved will give you the chance to run for a leadership position, which can be a great learning experience. Most organizations will have some sort of functioning board including presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, historians, liaisons, treasurers, and more. You don't have to be the top dog, although being the president of an organization can be extremely beneficial. Just being on the board in some capacity will allow you to provide input and direction to your team. You'll be given responsibilities and opportunities that are unavailable to others. These are very important experiences! Don't let them pass you by.
Again, post-graduate programs are looking for leaders. I highly recommend you make it clear that you fit that criterion if you want to continue your training beyond the PharmD curriculum.
Lastly, let's talk about some of the unique experiences associated with student organizations. You should be milking these for all they're worth!
Use these organizations as opportunities to travel, volunteer, and find mentors. For instance, there are massive annual conferences to attend for APhA, ASHP, IPhO, and many others! Often times these are located in cool cities around the country that you can visit as a student. These are great times to practice networking, present posters, and spend time with colleagues.
You'll also likely get the chance to volunteer at patient and public facing events. If your organization doesn't have volunteer initiatives in place, then now's your time to step in, lead, and create them! I personally focused on veterans and cancer patients when it came to organizational volunteer endeavors.
Then there's mentorship. Most student organizations will have a faculty member associated with them. Use this as an opportunity to receive mentorship from that professor! In the future they may end up writing you letters of recommendation or sending high quality students your way for hire. They'll also help you develop throughout school and beyond. Most importantly, they'll show you what it means to be a good mentor so that when the time comes to take the torch, you'll know what to do.