Soft Skills and How They Can Position You for Career Advancement
By: Ileen Kooyman
Good technical skills are an essential aspect of growing your career as a pharmacy technician. Technical skills are those that are developed through education or work experience. But, are technical skills enough to position a technician to advance in pharmacy? Developing and practicing a high level of soft skills can provide the advantage you need to advance and set yourself apart from others. Soft skills are the personal traits that shape the way you approach work. These would include communication skills, the ability to work as a team, and integrity. In the fast-paced environment of pharmacy, the following soft skills are important in creating a cohesive team and providing great care to their patients and each other.
- Working together and helping all team members succeed helps everyone focus on the ultimate goal in a pharmacy; providing the best possible patient care.
- Ability to pivot and change your priorities are essential. Fulfilling the needs of one critical patient can change the routine of a day. Adapting and meeting those needs are just as critical.
- Problem solving:
- Identifying barriers and communicating solutions to those obstacles can help a team provide more efficient and cohesive care.
- It is easy for us to follow the existing “plan” on how a process should be accomplished. But, allowing yourself to view the process in a creative way may help to improve it.
- Work Ethic:
- Hold yourself accountable. Provide the care that you would want you or your family to receive.
- Be purposeful. Strive to do your best in all you do.
- Be honest.
- Interpersonal Skills:
- Caring for each team member and showing empathy for others are important interpersonal skills. Support your team. A simple gesture that doesn’t seem impactful to you, may mean so much to the recipient. If you finish your work, ask if you can help a team member.
- Time Management:
- Keep in mind who is impacted if you do not manage your time well. Ultimately, it is our patients. They are counting on us the most.
- Effective Communication:
- Listening is an important component of effective communication skills. Do not jump to an assumption. Instead hear what is being said. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Be concise when speaking to others.
- Know your audience. It is important to communicate respectfully.
- Non-verbal communication must be considered.
- Your body language can give others additional insight to your sincerity and receptiveness.
- Written communication can be interpreted differently than what you intend. Proofread the communication prior to sharing it with others.
I have had the opportunity to grow my career in pharmacy. I started out as a clerk in a retail pharmacy ringing out customers. I was fortunate that a pharmacist I worked with started to train me as a pharmacy technician. After a year in retail, I transitioned to a hospital inpatient pharmacy. I viewed each skill that I was being taught as free education and was thrilled to keep learning and expanding my knowledge. I was given the opportunity to work as a regulatory technician, performing unit surveys at the Cleveland Clinic in the ambulatory physician clinics for compliance with Joint Commission standards and Ohio State Board of Pharmacy rules. I am now the Regulatory Coordinator for the Cleveland Clinic community pharmacies.
My secret to advancement has hinged on being able to perform the soft skills mentioned above. I have worked on developing these skills by participating in trainings, taking classes, and listening to others. As you progress in your career, some of the best teachers you will find are your teammates. I have worked with pharmacists and technicians that shared their knowledge with me. I will be forever grateful for the example they provided and their dedication to their profession. Be open to what others share with you and always keep your focus on why you went into pharmacy. Opportunities have a way of finding those who are open to them.
Technical skills are very important to obtain as a pharmacy technician. These learned skills can build a foundation to complete the necessary work. Soft skills, such as teamwork and effective communication are also important skills when working in a pharmacy. Ensuring that you have well-developed technical and soft skills may give you an advantage if you choose to pursue an advancement in your career.