Strategies for finding career success

Cover Story

Before embarking on rotations during my last year of pharmacy school, I remember asking myself, “What am I going to do with my life?” and “How will I know if I made the right choice?” These are questions you will ponder before graduating and in the years to come. With increasing competition for securing a postgraduate opportunity and the relentless desire by many to find not just an opportunity, but also the perfect opportunity, the thought of graduating can be quite daunting.

As I reflected back on my time as a student pharmacist, I realized that there were a few strategies that allowed me to find the best career path for me. Regardless of what avenue you eventually decide to pursue, these strategies will help prepare you for success as you take your next steps as a pharmacist.

Treat every day like an interview

A great pearl of advice from one of my mentors was regardless of your plans after graduation, and even if you are not sure what those are, treat every day on rotation as if it were an interview. If you come to your rotation site each day with the same level of preparation, professionalism, and sense of purpose that you would have on a job interview, then you are likely to succeed in building a favorable reputation and achieving your career aspirations.

This doesn’t mean that you should come into rotation wearing a suit each day, but rather that you should embody a mentality and attitude of excellence toward improving patient care and the organization. The characteristics your preceptor evaluates you on for rotation are similar to those you will be evaluated on during an interview. These characteristics are often integrated in questions such as, “What does it mean to be a leader?” This can be answered through stories that come from your rotation experiences, so having this in the back of your mind will help you look for and identify opportunities that suit your interests and personality.

Seize opportunity

Your actual job interview is one of the biggest opportunities to showcase who you are, what you stand for, and why you are a great fit for a particular program or organization. Interviewers are looking for people who are able to recognize and seize opportunity. Just as the profession has recognized the opportunity for pharmacists to gain provider status, you should also look for opportunities as a student that will showcase who you are and what you stand for.

If for some reason opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. Your passion will guide you toward the right opportunity. Also, think about pursuing something that does not exist, as employers often look for those who are capable of leading change.

Seek mentors …. and sponsors

I encourage you to seek mentors and sponsors, especially if you do not have one. While many of you have heard about the importance of having a mentor for periodic guidance and advice, a new term that is emerging is the concept of having a sponsor. Sponsors are individuals who guide, advise, and act to make things happen. Sponsors can almost be considered as mentors at a higher, deeper level. Sponsors decide to make a concerted investment in you and your professional success by connecting you with important individuals, assigning you to high leverage projects, or introducing opportunities that would not otherwise exist.

While building relationships with mentors and sponsors can be integral in your career, you should never forget the importance of building foundational relationships with those around you, such as your patients and other members of the health care team.

The right yardstick

While these strategies can help prepare you for success in your career, it is important to realize what success means to you and how you will measure it moving forward. Clayton Christensen, author of How Will You Measure Your Life?, talks about the concept of having the right yardstick to measure your success. If you understand what defines success in your life and are committed to living by that metric, then you will realize that the complexity of choosing a postgraduate opportunity simplifies down into what opportunity will best enable your personal definition of success.

If you worry less about making the right choice and more about choosing the right yardstick, then you will be more likely to turn any opportunity into a successful one.