“Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere, wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.”—William H. Sheldon
This motivational quote sits on my desk and embodies the “go big or go home” mentality that I love so much. It also speaks to the pursuit of happiness in the journey that is your life and your pharmacy career. At this point, you may still be figuring out what you want to do when you graduate or you may know exactly what career path you want to pursue. And either way, that’s okay. I would like to share with you my own pharmacy journey, lessons learned, and some advice for your pharmacy career.
In college, I was determined to be a manager in a community pharmacy. I worked as a pharmacy intern, participated in a pharmacy management summer internship, and networked with local community pharmacy leaders. However, a handful of experiences in pharmacy administration combined with my leadership positions on campus convinced me to pursue postgraduate training. I went on to complete a residency in health-system pharmacy administration and never lost my fondness for community pharmacy practice.
Around the same time, I was introduced to the field of medication safety. It was interesting to me as it combined pieces of pharmacy practice and process improvement strategies that were more administratively focused. I continued to pursue both community pharmacy and medication safety opportunities in my residency training, while expanding my professional perspective through the larger lens of health-system practice.
Little did I know that these interests of mine would ultimately lead me to my current role as a project manager at the Center for Medication Safety Advancement. I now spend my time operationalizing medication safety initiatives for my organization, including ones focused in community pharmacy settings. My other responsibilities include conducting national research studies, leading projects with pharmacy partners, and teaching medication safety and process improvement courses.
Throughout my short career, I have learned a few lessons that I would like to share for your consideration.
Know your strengths and play to them. I now appreciate that statistical analysis will never be my strong suit. You can’t be good at everything. Each individual brings a core set of strengths to the table and should know how to capitalize on them. If you have never read Clifton’s StrengthsFinder, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy. My top strengths are harmony, empathy, developer, input, and achiever, and I am always discovering new ways to leverage them to accomplish my goals.
Network, network, and then network some more. The age-old adage is that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Although it’s important to have a concrete knowledge base, it is also important to get to know others in your profession. And you can start building your network as a student pharmacist. Meet with professors, attend pharmacy meetings, apply for pharmacy internships, and join pharmacy organizations. It can be a little intimidating at first, but after you know a handful of people it becomes easier and easier to connect.
It’s okay if you don’t end up where you originally planned. Life is full of twists and turns. I did not end up being a manager at a community pharmacy like I had originally planned. Plans change. You might need to select a job based on location. You might find a new professional passion. You might change your mind. That’s okay. I just encourage you to pursue that new path whole heartedly without reservation. Be thoughtful about where you are going, but be open to new opportunities, too!
Being selected as the 2017 APhA Distinguished New Practitioner is both an honor and an extremely humbling experience. If nothing else, this award speaks to the highly talented group of individuals I work with every day and the mentorship I have received throughout my own professional journey. I work with a great team in a job I love and I am so glad that my pharmacy journey has led me here.
So my final thought for you is this: know your strengths, leverage your network, accept you might not end up exactly where you planned, and pursue happiness by wholeheartedly enjoying your professional journey without regret or reservation.