How to Avoid Pharmacy Career Quicksand

MAY 16, 2018
Most pharmacists are well-prepared for retirement.

After all, starting six-figure incomes make saving money a little easier for people in this industry.

But what many are not prepared for is career quicksand or the sense of being stuck in an unrewarding job with no way out. This can manifest itself in various ways, including feeling discouraged by the lack of available jobs, intimidated by the number of competing applicants for positions, concerned about spending so long in a particular job that skills have become outdated, or demoralized about lacking the experience to move into a new area.

These feelings can be heightened for those who imagine themselves becoming stuck in the same job for 10, 20, or even 30 years. Those who are concerned about such a possibility need to think about more than just their retirement plans.

But pharmacists should also cut themselves some slack.
 
A long time ago, or maybe just a few years ago for some, pharmacists gambled on a career in this industry. Many enrolled in pharmacy school with no idea of how much it would cost and no idea they would face hundreds of dollars in student loan payments each month after graduation.

So, what should pharmacists do if they do not like their jobs?

First, let themselves off the hook, at least a little bit. Most pharmacists were probably 18 when they decided to go to pharmacy school.

Next, even those who are incredibly busy, with bills to pay, and a family, should try to find a way out. Do not accept career mediocrity, and take control of the situation.

During my residency, I used to roll my eyes at people who preached the “gospel of associations” to me. They insisted that we should maintain our memberships in professional associations and invest our time engaging with the people in them.

I was convinced that I did not have the time or money to take part.

I had a family and a mortgage to think about. When was I supposed to figure out what kind of work I wanted to do and network with other people?

Fortunately, my wife and I have been blessed with financially wise people in our lives, and their influence helped us achieve financial freedom. That gave me a little bit of breathing room to evaluate my career and decide what my next move would be.

As a resident, I made $40,000 annually, with meant I netted about $2700 a month.

My wife stayed home with our daughter, and we were working to pay off an $11,000 car loan. We did not have a lot of extra money in our budget.

I had a desire and passion to teach, but I did not want to teach in academia. I wanted to teach people on my own terms, so, I spent $500 a month to hire a coach to help me make it happen, which amounted to almost 20% of my income.

If that sounds like a lot of money, imagine staying in a job that is not enjoyable, getting burned out, and feeling stuck, because of a lack of experience, network, or skills to move on to something new.

Pharmacists who feel this way should consider spending money on a monthly basis to help give their careers a boost. This money can pay for things like a business coach, conferences, or additional certification or education.

It is the same idea as a 401(k), except that they will realize the return on investment more quickly and be in a better place personally.

The money I spent as a resident was the best investment I ever made. It positioned me to find work that I enjoyed, and it was 1 of many smaller steps that helped me gain control over my finances and my life.

Pharmacists should invest in themselves now, and this even includes those who are happy in their current jobs. Spending money on one's career helps prepare for the day when it is time to transition to something else.

It is important to take the time to discover what we want from our careers and then identify the path to get there. If we want change, we have ot invest in something valuable. We are all worth the investment.

Take the time to discover what you want from your career, and then identify the pathway to get there.


 


Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
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