Starting over again … and again

Career Manager By Brandi Hamilton, PharmD, MS

The life of a newly minted pharmacist is certainly fraught with change. New degree, new financial situation, and new responsibilities. The list goes on. Add to that the pressures and challenges of relocating, and you essentially have the New Practitioner life … blindfolded. I want to share my experiences with starting over in a new place as a single New Practitioner and establishing a new life.

Headed west
I am mostly going to skip over my move from Little Rock, AR, to Houston, TX, where I did my residency. That move was pretty easy, since I had a built-in APhA family either already there or moving there, and making friends in a large residency class is sort of a breeze. While Houston was a city I had never even visited, this was like wading in the kiddie pool of relocating and starting over.

The real challenge was in relocating after my residency for my first “real” pharmacist job last year. I was completing a health-system pharmacy administration residency and looking for a management position. I cast an incredibly wide net, applying and interviewing from Los Angeles to New York and several places in between. This can be a big personal risk, but if you have the flexibility to relocate and know what kind of work you want to do, I recommend branching out. I applied for a clinical pharmacy manager job listed on as “near Los Angeles” and found myself interviewing in Bakersfield, CA. The town was not on my radar initially, but the position was exactly what I was looking for. The people turned out to be very much the kind of team I had hoped to work with, and despite my only friend in the area (who grew up in the Central Valley) telling me this town was not for me, it passed the gut check. I was offered the position and started packing my bags.

In July 2016, a close friend and I took a road trip from Houston to California. A few days later, I dropped him off at the airport, and I was officially on my own. I was in a brand new town, and my only friend anywhere close was nearly a 2-hour drive away. Honestly, though, the first couple of weeks were pretty nice. After the nonstop hustle of a 2-year residency, I didn’t particularly mind floating around the pool every day by myself. Then I started my job, which is challenging in and of itself. Relationship-building is key to success in any job, and it is also paramount to your success in your personal life in a new place.

Just keep leaping
It is difficult to make friends at work when you are one of the bosses. The people I work with are definitely people I would hang out with, but navigating that as a new manager was odd. I can compartmentalize, but a lot of people cannot, so I had to keep up a bit of a firewall. I soon made a friend within the management team, but I definitely had to find other ways to meet people. In Houston, I had begun working out at a small place where I met several great people, so I quickly sought out the same in Bakersfield. My options were extremely limited, but I grabbed the one I found.

I soon met a woman who had also just moved from Houston—small world! She is an engineer and we hit it off immediately. I met several others, all in non-pharmacy careers (you need your non-pharmacy friends), especially after a new fitness studio opened, and these women are my people. Brunches turn into impromptu pool parties, and I love it. This is what you have to do when you take the leap and move to a new place, especially on your own. Just keep leaping.

Embrace the weird
Especially in a smaller town, you have to actively pursue opportunities to meet people. Many places will have meet-ups or community events that you can attend. Small workout classes are a great way to meet people without a ton of social effort. So show up! Get up. Get dressed. Go do something. Meet some people. Keep up with your established friends, too, of course. I say all that to say this … you won’t be the first or last person to take a chance on a new adventure, and it can be so very worthwhile. At times it will be weird, for sure, but embrace the weird and enjoy your new home!