Day 3 at ASHP 2017 has been a little more depressing due to the pharmacist job market. I’ve been speaking to quite a few residents and students, and I seem to leave those conversations with pessimism. The pharmacist job market feels bad. Many students, residents, and young pharmacists from across the country are feeling the pinch of a surplus of graduates produced by colleges of pharmacy. In addition, retail positions are diminishing due to automation, provider status has not happened yet, clinical positions are not expanding at the rate we would all hope, there are significantly more resident applications than residency positions, and student loan debt is piling up. Future and recent graduates are bearing the burden of a challenging job market. What would I do if I were graduating this May? Here’s a few ideas.
- Figure out what you want. The classic examples that I always hear is do you want to do retail or do you want to work hospital? There a dozens to hundreds of specialty and subspecialty niches within pharmacy. Think marathon, not sprint. Getting into a specialized position that you love may take years. If you are unsure on this, try as many different things that you can and think about those days that you didn’t mind going to work or better yet, were actually excited to go to work.
- Become an expert at something. This should correlate nicely with what you enjoy. Experts are highly sought after by colleges of pharmacy as well as healthcare institutions.
- Learn how to solve real problems. Whether its clinical pharmacy problems, or workflow issues, bring solutions and ideas to the table. Anyone can identify problems, but not everyone can fix them.
- Minimize debt and expenses to the best of your ability. As you go throughout your career, you may have to move, have the potential to get cut back, or possibly want to get out of a dead end job. I’ve personally had to do this within the last few years. Having financial freedom will give you more leverage to pursue what you want to do.
- Embrace automation/technology. It isn’t going away, and if you like the technology side, I think you could make a very nice living helping institutions harness the power of some of the inventions that will be coming down the road.
- Practice soft skills. Our role as caregivers will expand. I believe provider status will happen. Technology has incredible value, but you can’t teach a robot how to empathize with a patient who stopped taking her diabetes medication because their spouse recently passed away.
- Don’t lose hope. It is so easy to get discouraged and I find myself getting down on myself from time to time when things don’t go as planned. Look back at how far you have come and recognize that any setback is an opportunity to explore and do something different.
Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP
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