Every pharmacist experiences monumental transitions throughout their career beginning with which pharmacy school to attend up to no foreseeable end. Depending on our circumstances and the cards that life offers us, we can find ourselves changing professional environments as quickly, if not quicker, than the changes in landscape of pharmacy. We often ask ourselves three fundamental questions:
- Am I happy where I am now in my pharmacy career?
- What do I want out of my pharmacy career?
- How do I get to where I want with my pharmacy career?
These fundamental truths we must face may be easy to answer for some, but more often than not, young pharmacists draw blank when answering questions 2 and 3. Those that can answer all three questions are likely to exhibit ambitious goals and personalities. However, even ambition is no match for the foundational decisions we must make at each transitionary road block in life.
As a PGY-2 resident, naiveté gets the best of me. I started out thinking that if I just accomplish the necessary steps, in a systematic way, I will eventually end up in the position that I long for. But recent struggles ranging from questioning where I want to end up to doubting my own professional competency have thrown a wrench in the cogwheels of my career.
Where do I go from here? How do I reconcile the parts of me that hold me back while still maintaining a consistent progress forward?
As much as I still feel like a YouTube video incessantly buffering, here are things I am aware I need to figure out sooner than later:
- Finding a mentor – Who should I choose? How do I choose? Every leader in pharmacy is consistent in their advice to find someone as your mentor. Some of us naturally attract others with instinctive nurturing personalities. Others happen to fall into a chance encounter in which they make a personal connection to a mentor prior to a professional connection. But what about those of us who haven’t found one yet? It seems that an effective mentor-mentee relationship must be built organically. David Chen, Director of the Section of Pharmacy Practice Managers, once told me that making the commitment to pick up the phone and contacting someone you think may be a fitting mentor can be an un-considered but organic way to establish a mentor-mentee relationship. One can also make use of ASHP’s MentorMatch to find willing mentors. However, the availability of potential mentors may be limited for those looking for more specialized clinical backgrounds. Perhaps it may be time to pick up the phone and make a phone call! Now it boils down to finding someone who would be a good guide for my career trajectory, encouraging but critical, and provides life wisdom apart from career advice. Totally feeling like “The Bachelor” and I have one last rose left to give…
- Casting the Net and Being OK with What You Catch– I highly relate to the version of a more tongue in cheek meme that states, “A job…in this economy?” Many graduating students and residents relate to the feeling that even in rising competition for pharmacy jobs during these times, one or two years post-graduate training may not be enough. No matter what your qualifications are, the difficulty in landing the “ideal” pharmacy job is still influenced by more and more elements such as personality fitting for organizations, sharing a vision of where pharmacy services will be headed, and even the instinctive feel between candidate and employer. How do I reconcile the feelings of wanting to land the “ideal” foundational entry position while still considering the reality that we may need to settle for the sake of paying the bills? One thing I may need to come into terms with is that all notable pharmacy leaders have held a position at one point in their lives that they may not have planned to take. Yet, they have learned what they wanted in those positions and moved onto ones that better fit their description of an “ideal job”. The flexibility of excelling in any given situation is a mark of a successful pharmacist. Perhaps despite the fact that I am looking for a leadership position, a clinical position in a small town of Kansas might just be what I need to excel and make me better suited for where I want to end up later in my pharmacy career.
- Con the Impostor Syndrome – Confidence builds over time. Pharmacists traditionally find their confidence in either on-the-job experience over time, or through post-graduate residency programs. Leadership lessons seem to be immune to the quick learning benefits of residency training. Compacting 3 years into 1, unfortunately, is not applicable to the concept of leadership. Much like trying to fit into a pair of slim fit jeans after Thanksgiving dinner, we never truly feel comfortable with leading until we are exposed to and forced to rise above conflicts (or perhaps lay off the turkey and go for a run). On top of this challenge, we often feel inadequate to fully take charge of the situation when we are faced with our first few hurdles. This continues especially during transitionary periods as we never truly know if our past experiences have sufficiently taught us to deal with new problems faced in a new job position. Prevalent to women and younger leaders, the feeling of being an impostor despite training and preparation can be crippling. My residency director, Felicity Homsted, had taught me we must “trick the impostor syndrome”. We must challenge the thoughts in our heads that our training is not enough; our clinical skills are not enough…that we are not enough. It is a hard lesson to learn, but to be a better pharmacist and leader tomorrow; we must first allow ourselves the opportunity to grow, even if it feels like we are “faking it until we make it.”
As one that is still very early in their pharmacy career, there are many more challenges I will face, plenty more questions to ruminate over, and uncertainties to wade through. Who knows if the decisions I make in these crucial transitionary periods are the right ones? All I know is that in facing the challenges we grow stronger. By ruminating over questions, we find the best answers at the time. And in wading through the uncertainties do we manage to find our compass that leads us to our desired destination. Despite the feelings of struggle many young pharmacists share, I’d rather stumble and crawl through the fog than lay in wait hoping the sinking sand dries over time.