What do you want in your career?

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After deciding to pursue a residency program, no matter what year in school, student pharmacists often wonder, “Well, now what?” My answer to this question is frequently, “What do you want to do with your career?” To answer these two questions, I highly recommend participating in self-reflection activities, like taking the StrengthsFinder survey. You can do this after each semester, after each rotation, or other times that work for you. By learning about yourself and what you need/want out of your career, you will be better positioned to find the residency program that will help you achieve your goals. 

Set your goals

A good first start is to identify what your professional goals are and what you need to do to accomplish them. It’s important to break these down into short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals can focus on things you want to accomplish while you are in pharmacy school to build your skill set and increase your knowledge of the profession—they can also relate to involvement in professional organizations and other activities. 

You will also want to look further into the future, such as obtaining a PGY1 residency and even farther to the job that you would like to have after you have completed all of your training. It is advisable to write these goals down and revisit them often to ensure you are on track, and also to continually evaluate that they are still the goals you want to pursue. 

Questions to ask

  • As you are writing your goals or trying to identify what you want to do, these are some good questions you can ask yourself (these are just a start). 

  • What part of the curriculum and patient care do you find exciting?

  • What areas of pharmacy interest you but aren’t in your curriculum?

  • What therapeutic areas have interested you?

  • What patient populations are you passionate about?

  • What practice environment do you enjoy?

  • Who do you admire in pharmacy, and what type of job do they have? Could you see yourself practicing in that area? 

  • What type of practice experiences invigorate you? 

  • What are your professional strengths?

  • What do you want to continue to improve?

  • What type of environment do you learn best in? 

  • How far can you be from your support network?

  • What have been your experiences with group work?

  • How do you behave within a group? 

  • Do you want to be in a larger program that promotes resident group work?

  • What is your personal communication style? How have you learned to communicate with others?

  • How much independence would you like in a learning environment?

  • What type of mentorship style do you like? Do you have a mentor? 

  • What feedback have you gotten from mentors or preceptors?

  • After you have answers to these questions, then you can start really thinking about residency programs, specifically. Some of the first considerations are the following.

  • Which type of PGY1 program fits your needs (community practice, managed care, or pharmacy practice)? 

  • What size residency program would you like? Class sizes can range from 1 to 18 with many falling into a class size of 4 to 7.

  • What area of the country would you like to live in? For some of you, this question might not matter as you are open to living anywhere, while others of you have some restrictions on your location.

  • Do you want to pursue a PGY2, and if so, do you know the area? This can also be answered at any time before November of your PGY1 residency year. 

  • Are you interested in pursuing a 2-year management or pharmacotherapy residency? 

Once you are able to answer these first questions, there will be some decisions to make that will help you select between the many specific residency programs that fall into each of the three major PGY1 residency programs. I will address these specifics in the July/August edition of this column. 

As always, I wish you the best in your journey and am happy to answer specific questions at mille355@


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