Strategic planning for your career

Career Manager By Cortney M. Mospan, PharmD

As a New Practitioner, I often find myself struggling with work–life balance. One of my top strengths from Strengths Finders is “competition.” I am driven and desire to achieve everything now, a trait of being a Millennial. I often struggle with pacing myself in my career and forget that it took my mentors 5, 10, or 20 years to accomplish amazing things in their careers. I came across the topic of strategic planning for your career while I was brainstorming ideas for a pharmacy practice course. It made me realize I needed to listen to my own advice and that my own career could use some strategic planning too!

Learn to say “no”
During my first year as a New Practitioner, I was a community care resident at the Ohio State University. New opportunities presented themselves almost daily. They were all exciting and I felt the need to say yes to all of them.  I was afraid I would miss something and I was convinced that I needed every experience on my CV. As I struggled with burnout, I quickly learned the importance of selecting opportunities that made sense for my post-residency career goals. This led to an increased sense of work-life balance.

Applying strategic planning to your career
Strategic planning is the process that organizations use to determine and establish their long-term goals while taking into account relevant internal and external environmental factors. With a little adjustment, this can be a highly valuable professional tool. The first thing you need to do is to identify your career direction. What is your dream job? How are you going to get there? A strategic analysis or SWOT analysis, can give you a clear view of your professional direction and factors that will influence your success.

Develop goals and keep yourself accountable
The most common pitfall of strategic planning is lack of keeping track of your progress and being accountable. As patient care providers, we frequently try to get our patients to implement the SMART or SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time-Based, Extending, and Rewarding) technique to improve their health. Why shouldn’t we use this advice for ourselves with professional goals? 

Obtaining certifications such as a Certified Diabetes Educator can take a long time and require significant effort and accountability. Breaking it down into several smaller goals may make it less overwhelming. You should also develop some type of monitoring system to keep yourself accountable. This may include monthly review and documentation of progress, annual review with your boss, etc. There should be some specified time frame in which you revisit your goals, track your progress, identify areas of focus, and can revise if needed.

Seek advice
All pharmacists have a unique path to their current career opportunities and role as a pharmacist.  Talk to your pharmacy mentors to help clarify your career goals. Once you figure out your dream job, find someone who is already practicing in that role. Ask them detailed questions about their career path and the necessary education or certifications.  What is your dream role as a practitioner? Find someone else who is practicing in that role.  How did they get there? What education and certifications were needed?

While it may seem a little unusual, strategic planning is a critical tool for New Practitioners navigating the pharmacy career world. From personal experience, I have seen the dividends this method pays versus being the “yes man”: experiencing burnout and accumulating knowledge and experiences that don’t suit my professional goals. Best of luck with your career planning!

Cortney M. Mospan, PharmD, is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the East Tennessee State University Gatton College of Pharmacy.