Landing a pharmacist job is painless and simple for some, while frustrating and grueling for others. So what can be done to position yourself for finding a job as a pharmacist? Here a young pharmacist discusses her experiences and identifies a few tips for those soon to be looking for employment.
Authored By: Gloria Huh, Pharm.D., BCPS
As pharmacy students and residents complete their training, the daunting task of finding a job inevitably comes to the forefront of their to-do list. So, where does one start?
As a recent pharmacy school graduate, and post graduate year one (PGY1) and PGY2 resident, I have faced this task a few times and can empathize. Below I have listed a five key points I learned along the way and hope they can help you in your journey through these next professional steps.
Please keep in mind that your job search will highly depend on how competitive the market is in the particular geographic location you are targeting. My perspective comes from experience focusing on a very competitive and saturated area (southern California).
1. Literally write down your five and ten year goals
Your short and long term goals should help guide your job search. I recommend adding both professional and personal goals, because commonly during school or residency people have placed their personal goals on pause. Now is a good time circle back to those as you attempt to achieve a healthy and whole life for the future both at work and at home.
While you may think you understand what your goals are, it really does help to write it all down and examine the product as a whole. Knowing what you want is key to finding happiness.
Personal experience: Once I wrote my goals down, I discussed them with a trusted mentor. This helped me to gain further insight and better understand my position.
2. Seek out references and keep lines of communication open
Identify your references early whenever possible.
To be safe you should plan to find three to four references and seek a mix of individuals (e.g., mentors, supervisors, faculty). Some institutions require that you have a certain number of references who have served as your direct supervisor, so keep that in mind.
It may come as a surprise, but people will agree to be a reference and not provide a favorable recommendation on your behalf. It is better to be safe than sorry, so always make sure to verify the reference is willing to provide a favorable letter of recommendation.
In addition, it is important that your references have a reasonable relationship with you and the lines of communication remain open. From my experience, your future employer will do one or more of the following: call your references to get a verbal referral, email a questionnaire for the references to fill out, or request a formal letter of reference. As you go through your search process, it will be important that you respect the time of your references by keeping them aware of what may be requested of them.
Personal experience: For every four to five institutions I applied to, I emailed my references updates that included the following information: company name and location, job title, and action that the reference had to take (e.g., expect a phone call in the future). This worked well to keep my references in the loop, while not sending too many emails their way.
3. Be patient and stay organized
Be patient. Depending on the job market that you are targeting, you may hear back in a week or it may even take up to a few months! Check your junk mail and contact human resources if you think it is appropriate, but many times you just need to be patient with the process. These things take time and there are a lot of factors beyond your control or the control of the pharmacy administrators looking for new employees.
Stay organized. Oftentimes job applications require the same basic information. Your curriculum vitae will be helpful to have on hand, but I recommend for you to create a document or folder that contains all the other pertinent information so that you will not have to keep looking it up. For me, this was a huge time saver. Here are the things you may want to include:
- Names, titles, emails, and phone numbers for your references
- All the addresses you lived at for the last 10 years
- Information on your last two or three employers, including…
- Date started and ended
- Hourly and yearly income
- Institutional address
- Supervisors name, title and email address
- A few sentences describing job responsibilities
- License numbers (i.e, pharmacy license, BLS, ACLS) with expiration dates
- Driver’s license number
Note that being licensed is a deal breaker for some job applications. You will want to be licensed and qualified to work in your state as early as possible, so do not waste time preparing for the NAPLEX. You can find tips for preparing for the NAPLEX here and some common reasons why people fail the NAPLEX here.
4. Take advantage of online job posting
There is an enormous amount of online resources you can utilize to find a job. In turn, it is worth taking the time to explore what services and options exist.
First, a few general sites that come to mind are: Jobs.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com and Beyond.com. Consider creating a profile and subscribing to a few of these so you can get familiar with the market in the area.
Second, go to the institutional websites of the companies you want to work for and try searching their “jobs” section. You can even identify hospitals or community pharmacies using Google Maps in the city where you want to work. Sometimes you will find things here that are not posted elsewhere. The Department of Veterans Affairs is one to check out given the large number of pharmacists they employee and they list pharmacist jobs here.
Third, use professional websites. The American College of Clinical Pharmacy has a jobs search engine here. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy has a jobs search engine here. There are several others and many specialty groups also have websites for jobs. For example, the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists lists pharmacist job openings in this specialty here.
Online job postings should not be your only method of identifying positions for application. You should also be doing number 5, see below!
Personal experience: I cannot tell you how many times I applied to an online posting only to receive an email weeks later that the job had already been filled. A recruiter told me that human resources usually have a cap of how many applications they can review so the sooner you apply, the better. I downloaded the app and applied through my phone as soon as I saw a new post I was interested in and I was able to land a few interviews through that method.
5. Network, network, network, network, network… and then network some more
This is by far the most important point to keep in mind as you set yourself up to get a job!!!
I used to think networking meant having a stack of business cards and handing them out appropriately during a professional conference, and although yes, that is absolutely considered networking, that is certainly not the only nor most effective means of networking.
First, try talking to your fellow coworkers and ask: Does anyone know how the market looks like in __(insert city)__? Pharmacy is a small world, you will be surprised at the connections you will find with little effort.
Second, update your LinkedIn profile. You may discover that an old colleague is in the same field as you and you can connect to gain insight. You can also network with recruiters (from my experience, they will probably find you first once you update your LinkedIn profile).
Third, consider emailing an administrator directly. Usually job applications will first go to human resources and there it will get screened and can potentially get stuck, never making it to the people you really want to see it. You can bypass this step by writing a well-constructed email directly to the hiring manager or director, making your intentions known and briefly making a case for your candidacy. This can be risky and is best done in conjunction with a recommendation from a colleague who has provided you with the contact information for the administrator. If done wrong, this approach can backfire, so do not be too ambitious with this technique or you may end up black-listed. I would definitely recommend having a mentor review the email before you send it.
Personal experience: Keep networking even after you have interview offers! Ask around to see if anyone knows people who work at a particular company that you could talk to. You can gain some great insight from a 10-minute phone call with someone who already works at that company.
Final thought… what about my dream job?!?
For a number of reasons, the job that you end up getting may not seem like a “dream job”. Well, the best advice I ever got during my job search was: “if it’s not your dream job, turn it into your dream job.”
Every job has unique potential. I am confident that if you maintain a positive attitude and take initiative in a professional manner, you can turn your job’s potential into a reality. They say that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but you know what, the grass is also greener where you water it.
I hope these points helped you out, good luck!
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