Planning the unplannable

Preceptor Feedback

“Brandon,” congratulations on entering the last stage of your student pharmacist career. Your final year as a student pharmacist is flying by and before you know it, you will be walking across that stage to receive your diploma. With all of the excitement and anticipation of this incredible journey coming to the end also comes the fear and uncertainty of the ever-daunting question, “What are your plans after graduation?”

Preparing for life after pharmacy school can be very overwhelming. For many, a life outside of school is a foreign concept. You have spent the last 18 to 20 years preparing for one momentous occasion: graduating pharmacy school. Throughout this journey you have been exposed to many career paths and you may find your head spinning as you try to determine which path may be best for you.

After reading your entry for this month, I took some time to reflect back on my final months as a student pharmacist. I resonated with many of your emotions regarding the reality of an uncertain future. The uncertainty is inevitable, and for us “planners,” this might be one of the hardest concepts to come to terms with. I hope that some of this advice will ease your uncertainty and allow you to enjoy your final months as a student pharmacist. Before you know it, you will be worrying about fun things likes taxes and loan payments!

Communicate with your preceptor

Completing rotations is a full-time job and your preceptor is your boss. Searching for a job or residency during this process can become overwhelming, especially if you don’t have specific time to dedicate to the process like on off-block. In order to make this process more manageable, it is vital to communicate with your preceptors about your intentions. Most preceptors will work with you throughout the process, but you also must be willing to work with them in return. To me, it always shows initiative when a student offers to make up time missed while on rotation, whether it is by working extended hours or completing an extra project.

Reflect on your career goals

In the early stages of planning for your future, the most important thing is to truthfully reflect on where you see yourself in the future. Seek guidance about your decision from mentors you trust. Having an open dialogue about your career goals can bring new perspectives to the situation. You should know that is a decision you must make for yourself. The more time and effort you put into reflecting on your career goals, the easier it will be to plan for the process.

Embrace change

Know that it is okay for plans to change. I didn’t officially decide to pursue residency training until a few weeks prior to the ASHP Midyear, after completing my ambulatory care rotation. If you had asked me at the start of rotations if I would pursue a residency, I would have confidently responded no. Keep an open mind throughout the process because you never know what type of opportunity you will be presented with.

Seize those opportunities for nothing less than a learning experience because they may impact your future in ways you never knew possible.

Trust your instincts

You may not be able to predict exactly what career choice or specialty is right for you at this time, but you will have a long career ahead of you to figure that out. When it comes to choosing your path, trust your instincts and pursue a career in the area of pharmacy that makes you the happiest. Don’t be surprised if this changes a time or two along the way!

Everything happens for a reason

What happens when all the time and effort you spend planning doesn’t amount to achieving your goal? I can empathize with this fear all too well. After going through the entire residency search process and having confidence that I had found the residency program where I belonged, I received the news on Match Day everyone dreads: I did not match. Looking back I can confidently tell you that even when life doesn’t go exactly as we planned it, it has a funny way of working itself out. Contingency plans are hard, as people don’t like to think of their failures. But if I were to leave you with one last piece of advice, it would be never close a door on an opportunity because you never know where it might lead you.