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I Can’t Find A Pharmacy Job! – An Email From “Jane”

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Angry, Frustrated Woman

A few weeks ago I got into an email conversation with a new pharmacy graduate who was experiencing difficulty obtaining employment after graduation in the now saturated pharmacist market. She (let’s call her “Jane”) came to me, as many others do, seeking advice on her career (or lack thereof). Here is what Jane had to say:

I can’t find a pharmacy job! I graduated from pharmacy school in May and there are like half a dozen other schools in my state, so I didn’t think it was big deal that I didn’t have a job right at graduation. But, I did not expect to be unemployed for so long. I have friends from school but I don’t really “know anybody” who can put in a good word for me. Plus, the idea of using someone to get a job feels really fake. I would feel a lot better if I could get a job on my own merit, but there doesn’t seem to be anything out there. I’m open to relocating, up to a couple states away, but I can’t really afford multistate licenses right now. And most employers want at least 3 years of experience right now, which I don’t have. Being unemployed is really limiting my options… 

The above email, while one of the most emotional I’ve encountered (I cut out the rest because things really got heavy after this paragraph), is not unique. In fact, it is no longer uncommon for new graduates to be unemployed after graduation. As a career and communications consultant, this is not the first contact that I have gotten from a desperately unemployed pharmacy student. It is becoming increasingly common.

The feeling of being unemployed is a hopeless feeling. If, your’re like most new pharmacy graduates, you’ve invested 4 really good years of your life, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, into what you hoped would be a stable, lucrative field. But, when you’ve been unemployed, many months after unemployment, fear starts to kick in.

When will you get a job? Will you get a job? If you don’t get a job, how will pay back your student loans, and the interest that accrues on it daily? You certainly don’t want to default. All these thoughts, and more run through your brain as you surf the internet for the latest job postings. But wait, what’s that you say? You need “5 years of experience” for the retail management position? Well, I most certainly don’t have that. Well, what about this hospital staff pharmacist position? ” 6 years of hospital staff experience or 2 years of residency and 3 years of experience?” Disappointment soon sets in as you realize that, like Jane, you may possess the skills that the employer wants, but you don’t have enough experience to warrant an interview.

So, if you’re like most new graduates out there and you want to set yourself apart in the cookie cutting recruitment process, here are 5 things that you can do:

1. Focus On Your Skills

Don’t let other people dictate to you what options you should pursue. While experience is necessary, skills are just as important. I have met numerous professionals who have years of experience, but a limited set of skills. I know many HR professionals who recruited sustainable talent by hiring professionals who did not have the 3+ years of experience that they were seeking. The professional did not have years of experience, but they were able to articulate their skills in a manner that resonated with the employer.

2. Get Additional Training

You don’t have to get an another degree (Masters, Ph.D.) or commit years to a residency/fellowship to obtain additional training in pharmacy. Certifications in diabetes, geriatrics, and medication therapy management (CDE, CGP, and MTM, respectively) do not require residency training at all. If you are interested in informatics, there are associate degree programs and certification programs available at community colleges and other institutions. As a Career Specialist, I encourage post graduate training because it make you specialized and more retainable as an employee.

3. Change Your Lifestyle

Be willing to make lifestyle changes in case the job that you desire pays less than expected or requires an unexpected move to a different locale. Downsizing your lifestyle will be difficult; trust me, I have done it in the past. But being unemployed and not being able to pay your bills is a lot worse. When you do get a pharmacy job, it may not be in the location that you originally intended. As a new graduate, chances are that you will begin as an entry level or part time employee. So, please be flexible enough to live on an entry level salary. Don’t buy that SLS AMG just yet!

4. Be Geographically Flexible

One thing that Jane definitely has going for her is that she is willing to move to a different state. Can you say the same for yourself? Are you willing to go to any state in order to fulfill your dream of practicing pharmacy? Geography is very important to pharmacists. Most conversations with pharmacists that begin with the discussion of relocating often ends abruptly with “I don’t want to move!” But, if you can’t find a job where you are, seeking out smaller, less saturated, and less competitive markets may be your only viable option.

5. Understand Trends

Understanding trends in the pharmacy job market will help you to align your skills to possibly acquire a job. Are employers wanting more MTM expertise? Then you may need to go get an MTM certification. Although reports by economic professionals predict that by 2020, the pharmacy job market will be fully saturated, there are still opportunities in areas such as healthcare reform. Your Pharm.D. may be able to open the door to other opportunities in lesser known sectors.

What are some tips you would like to add? Are there any experiences you would like to share with new graduates?

Want to share your career experience? Email info@pharmpsych.com. Your experience will be shared anonymously. 

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F. Zaria Chinelo is an internationally recognized award winning writer, artist, scientist, and entrepreneur. She holds multiple degrees in Pharmacy, Molecular& Cell Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. As a Pharmacy Law Expert, Zaria helps professionals and organizations avoid potential liability. As an Organizational Management Expert, Zaria helps businesses recruit and retain sustainable talent. Zaria also helps individuals positively impact their career. Dr. Chinelo writes passionately about various topics.

5 responses to I Can’t Find A Pharmacy Job! – An Email From “Jane”

  1. theres only one way to avoid unemployment and obsolecence in pharmacy–dont apply to the pharmacy school industry, 140 schoolds and counting

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion. You are right that “not going to pharmacy school” at all would prevent the debt. But, not going to pharmacy school at all would also stop some people from bettering their lives. Going to school is not the problem. What one is to do afterwards is.

      • cp said on June 16, 2015

        I am an older pharmacist who took some time off to raised my daughter. I have a Rph, a PharmD, certifications etc
        If there are too many schools pumping out graduates then no one is better off—because the market puts pressure on salaries and working conditions–which spells awful slave like conditions for pharmacists.

        My job prospects are thin—my salary has gone down $20.00 PER HOUR from 5 years ago and there seems to be only per diem or part time work left for anyone. We really need to start pulling ourselves together people!

        • The laws of supply and demand also apply to pharmacy, and it is time that everyone pharmacist starts to understand this. The more supply of pharmacists that exist, the less of a demand there will be. In addition, employers will be more likely to mistreat employees, if there is a large amount of people who are willing to take their place.

          We are sorry to hear that your job prospects are thin. This seems to be a common issue that we hear from our readers nationwide. Our fans send us messages, indicating that pharmacists are having a very hard time finding work. Unfortunately, most popular Pharmacy magazines and websites continuously avoid this discussion (as well as others). In writing certain articles, our Chief Communications Officer continuously contacted Pharmacy leaders for major, NATIONAL pharmacy organizations. So far, all leaders have declined to comment on the controversial issues that we examine. This brings into question the type of leadership and representation that pharmacists have.We hope that you can find a way to reinvent yourself and pursue other career options.

          On a side note, one of our readers mentioned this Pharmacy Petition, that concerned citizens are signing on Change.org. Perhaps you will consider signing it too: https://www.change.org/p/accreditation-council-for-pharmacy-education-acpe-do-not-allow-new-schools-of-pharmacy-to-open-until-there-is-a-market-correction-to-the-supply-and-demand-of-the-pharmacist

        • @cp I agree with you that salaries have gone down. Like you, I know many pharmacists whose only employment prospects are per diem opportunities and part time work. Contract work with staffing agencies are paying less than $35 – 40 / hour in many states.

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