It hasn’t been that long since I graduated from college, but it certainly feels as if it’s been a lifetime ago. I swear…the pharmacy workload I deal with on a regular basis is aging me at an exponentially accelerated rate. However, when I’m blessed with one of those rare slow moments at work I sometimes look back on my former pharmacy-internship days and compare myself from then and now.
The first thing that forces me to reflect are the optimistic looks on the faces of current pharmacy interns. It hasn’t been that long since I was putting on my white lab coat and trekking to my rotations. It was the year that I thought would never end. Stepping out of my door before the sun rose (having slept for 3-4 hours), most times returning after the sun had set, and not getting paid for a single minute in between.
At times it was horrible, but fortunately there were good experiences along the way. For example, I made some great connections with preceptors and still communicate with them today. Some of the best career advice I have ever received were from former preceptors after I had completed my rotations and while I was actively searching for a job. This is one of the reasons why I’m such a strong supporter of networking, because you never know when it will come in handy (see How to Build Your Job-Hunting Network).
Now I’m on the other side of the pharmacist spectrum: a full-time pharmacist answering the questions asked of me by eager-to-please, anxious interns. I remember when I too would show up early each day to my rotations and stay longer than necessary in hopes of impressing my preceptors. Like many of the pharmacy interns that come through my pharmacy today, I looked forward to helping the staff, customers, and patients. Now I mostly concentrate on the many, many, many, many years I have left until I can retire.
Since I won’t be retiring anytime soon, I try to make the best out of my days. For instance, I enjoy speaking with interns, hearing about their experiences, and learning about their upcoming rotations. Each of them has a different background, different goals, and different expectations.
We all know how stressful it can be to find a job, especially for interns who hear cranky pharmacists complaining about the job market on a daily basis. Therefore I try to give as much supportive advice as I can without sounding repetitive or bossy (or cranky).
I feel that the best advice I can give to future pharmacists is to be true to yourself. Sure, you may have a job lined up after graduation (ex. retail pharmacy where you currently work as a tech), but if you’re not happy there now then you won’t be happier there as a pharmacist.
Use your rotations as a learning experience. Not just a learning experience in regards to drug information, but also for yourself and your future. For example, I had a number of horrible experiences during my retail pharmacy rotation. It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life working in that type of environment. If you enjoy your hospital rotations, retail rotations, or any other rotation, then take that into consideration while you’re planning for your career after college. That job you have lined up after college may be guaranteed, but you may have second thoughts after you begin. It’s at least worth the time and effort to look into other opportunities before your rotations are complete. Paying the bills and student loans is obviously important, but keeping your sanity in check is no less of an importance.