Looking for tips on navigating Personnel Placement Service At ASHP Midyear? Look no further! Here a pharmacist who has recently gone through the process and successfully obtained employment provides insights from her experiences.
Authored By: Ali Vyain, Pharm.D.
[Published November 2016]
Attending American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting (i.e., ASHP Midyear) can feel quite overwhelming. This is particularly true for fourth-year doctor of pharmacy candidates and post-graduate year 1 (PGY1) residents pursuing post-graduate training opportunities.
Between coming up with the funding to make your trip possible, preparing to meet countless peers in your field, traveling to a new big city and managing the logistics (e.g.,transporting your research poster across the country and remembering to take it out of the overhead compartment as you deplane) there is much to do. Up until physically arriving it can feel like your entire future is just behind those convention center walls waiting for you – and all of this can be a lot to take in.
Although travelling can be inconvenient it is a small price to pay for the ability to participate in the Personnel Placement Service (PPS), which is offered at Midyear. After all, ASHP Midyear (including PPS) is arguably the pharmacy profession’s largest recruitment event of the year!
PPS provides both applicants and employers an opportunity to share dedicated time (typically 30 minutes) to interview one another before a decision to apply is made. It is such a well-known and widely attended event people actually refer to it as a verb, stating things such as: “I cannot meet up for lunch on Tuesday, I am PPS’ing all day.”
Whether you have signed up for Personnel Placement Services at ASHP Midyear already and have begun to request interviews or you are still on the fence about the whole process, below are some words of advice meant to help you take advantage of this special opportunity.
1. If face-to-face is where you shine, you should very strongly consider using Personnel Placement Services at ASHP Midyear
When it comes to PPS, face-to-face interaction is where I found the majority of my success.
As a P4 pharmacy student seeking a residency position I knew it was in my best interest to attend Midyear and experience the Residency Showcase. However, I had received mixed reviews on the benefit of PPS and whether it was “worth the money” as a student. In turn, I decided to forgo the cost of PPS and focus solely on meeting all the programs at the Residency Showcase.
Alternatively, as a PGY1 I went through PPS and not only benefited from the process, but sincerely appreciated it. Speaking from both of my experiences, I wish to share with you some advice that I wish someone had told me before it all began.
What I learned: If you have anything on your curriculum vitae (CV) that you feel may be a weak point, consider your personality as a counterweight.
Although it is obvious in the grand scheme of things, this is something too many students look past when evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses. Personality is huge! Getting to know you may be a memorable component to evaluators of what you have to offer; and it may be the thing that grants you an interview slot over the many strong applications that reach the eyes of those in charge.
After all, securing a residency position is as much about “fit” as anything. If the interviewers can infer from meeting you that you will be a great fit for their program, your application suddenly has substantially more traction during the evaluation process.
As I mentioned above, I opted out of PPS as a P4 student. Although I did secure the residency of my choice, I did not receive as many interviews as I expected. In retrospect, my ability to communicate thoughts and ideas clearly may have helped me bring my CV to life if I participated in one-on-one interviews at PPS.
If any of my experiences resonate with you, I strongly encourage you to consider taking advantage of PPS.
2. Do your research & come prepared!
This part is the most crucial to a successful PPS experience. You have 30 minutes with a program. What are you going to do with it?
The benefits of prospectively dissecting the programs you are interviewing with are two-fold:
- You can identify numerous questions from what you find and will be able to leave with a more honest and comprehensive understanding of what each program entails and how that aligns with what you are looking for.
- The interviewers will appreciate and respect the fact that you came with specific questions about their program. In most cases this will be their first impression of you- use this as an opportunity to show that you are a serious and professional candidate worthy of further consideration.
One strategy that helped me navigate PPS was preparing individual Q&A sheets for each program. I typed up specific questions for each interview and left space beneath each to take down notes during the interview. Adding the time of the interview, booth locations, names (if known) of your interviewers, and additional details on each sheet can also help you stay organized when things get busy.
As you finalize the list of programs in which you are most interested, coming back to these detailed notes will be helpful as you prepare your applications.
3. Remember: Personnel Placement Service at ASHP Midyear is for YOU more than anyone else
Interviewing can be a stressful experience for many people. What you must remember, and repeat to yourself if necessary, is that this experience is for you. It is your time to expand or narrow your current list of programs and opportunities.
Here are some questions that I thought about before and after my PPS experience that helped me narrow my prospects down:
- Is this program designed in a way that will bring me closer to my long-term goals?
- Can I see myself working with the members of this program every day?
- How are the current residents enjoying the program? Do they look and sound satisfied?
- Is this program flexible? If my interests shift at some point during residency, will there be opportunities to facilitate exploration of these interests?
- Where are the past residents of this program now?
- Can I find a mentor here? How are mentors selected here?
- How are research projects developed here? Are they chosen for me or can I play a part in coming up with a research question?
- Does the program know of or foresee any changes that may affect the next residency class?
- What are the residency director’s opinions of the programs strengths and areas of improvement?
- Am I excited about this program?
Hopefully, thinking about the answers to questions such as these will assist in your decision-making process. This list is by no means comprehensive; however it can serve as a brainstorming tool during your preparation.
Once again, this experience is for you and I cannot stress that point enough.
As you continue to interview, you will build confidence, energy, and insight after each one. Through the process itself, you are strengthening your interview skills in addition to networking with future colleagues. The benefits of participating in PPS reach much farther than you may realize.
4. Portray yourself in your best light at all times
At one point during PPS, I was sitting in the common area outside of the entrance into PPS preparing for my upcoming interviews. A lady walked around to the table I was sitting at and asked all of us sitting there if we would like to interview for her residency position. This theoretically could have happened anywhere at the conference (e.g., a coffee stand, continuing education seminar, networking event, you name it). It is for this reason that it is imperative for you to always carry yourself professionally. Pace yourself and enjoy your time there!
Who said interviewing cannot be fun? Midyear has become one of my favorite events of the year, and PPS truly added to my experience last year. It is amazing to meet such talented, passionate, and inspiring individuals while on the interview trail. However, at times this process can be so stimulating that it can wear you out unexpectedly.
To get the most out of PPS, it is important to regulate your time and give yourself breaks to decompress, reflect, and think ahead. For that reason, I strongly recommend the following:
- Do your best to schedule your interviews with at least a 30 minute break between them. Out of all the interviews I participated in last year as a PGY1, the one I felt least prepared for was the interview I had to immediately begin within five minutes of the prior interview. From personal experience, the time between each interview allowed me to jot down notes, regroup and re-energize.
- Take a bottle of water and a snack! All that talking accompanied by that thick suit you may be wearing will take its toll on you at some point. I recommend packing an energy bar or banana to keep your mind on track.
- Think positively throughout the day. Those nerves may be there, but this is neither an exam nor a contest. I will say it one last time: this is for you.
Best of luck to all those seeking employment through PPS! Whether it is PGY1, PGY2, or beyond, go out and get it! It is there waiting for you!!
Additional resources on Personnel Placement Services at ASHP Midyear for pharmacy candidates:
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