10 tips for landing your next pharmacy job


The following comes to you courtesy of someone who wishes she’d had this list three months ago …One day you wake up and go to your job, and the next day you don’t have a job to go to. It can be that simple and that complicated, but the real question is, WHAT DO I DO NOW?

The following comes to you courtesy of someone who wishes she’d had this list three months ago. One day you wake up and go to your job, and the next day you don’t have a job to go to. It can be that simple and that complicated, but the real question is, WHAT DO I DO NOW?

1. Cut yourself some slack. Chances are, the circumstances of your sudden unemployment have less to do with you/your skill set/your personality/your knowledge/etc. and more to do with someone else’s agenda/the economy/etc. Besides, whatever may have happened is now far less important than what happens next: an arduous job search in an oversaturated job market.

2. Expand your horizons. Get out a map, draw a driving-distance radius around your house. Make a list of pharmacies within that radius that you would like to work for. One day a week, every week, make phone calls and check websites to inquire whether they are hiring. If that radius laps into a state in which you are not currently licensed, consider taking steps to gain licensure in that state in order to broaden your job prospects.

3. Use your resources. Now is the time to call in favors. If you were a preceptor, call former students who have graduated and ask whether their current employers are hiring. Call your alma mater. Many colleges of pharmacy maintain extensive alumni network lists, which may assist you in networking. If nothing else, they can tell you when the next job fair for new graduates will be held.

4. Don’t limit your options. There are countless things you can do with a pharmacy degree that don’t involve the actual practice of pharmacy. These jobs may not bring in a comparable salary, but you can’t put a price on job satisfaction. Check with local community colleges for teaching or tutoring positions. Many clinical research facilities and biomedical companies employ pharmacists. Check with locally based pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical companies.


5. Volunteer. Go to the website of the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (www.nafcclinics.org) and type in your zip code to find opportunities near you. Becoming a volunteer pharmacist at your community’s free medical clinic will have untold benefits. You will keep your skill set sharp, help those in a far worse situation than your own (and discover that being jobless is a lot less traumatic than the life situations of many of your free-clinic patients), and be far more able to easily explain any gaps in employment to prospective employers. Volunteering also allows you to meet and network with local physicians, pharmacists, and nurses who can assist you in your job search or vouch for you to prospective employers.

6. Plan. Call your financial planner. Sit down by yourself or with your spouse. Figure out what you need to do and when, and what lifestyle changes you will need to make. It is possible to defer your student loans if you need to. Trust me, you will sleep better at night knowing that you have a financial plan in place. If you are reading this while still gainfully employed, know that the worst can happen when you least expect it and let that inspire you to be more generous with deposits to your emergency fund.

7.  Cold call. I know, yikes. But you would be surprised to know how many independent drugstore owners would like a day off. Put on a suit, print multiple copies of your resume, go to an independent drugstore during slower hours, and ask to speak to the manager or owner. Our profession is fairly unique, in that we tend to take care of one another – if that particular store owner doesn’t currently need any relief help, he or she can probably refer you to someone who does. The more store managers who have a copy of your resume in their file drawer, the higher the likelihood of you gaining employment.

8. Be humble. When cold calling or even in job interviews, offer to work at graduate intern pay or technician pay until you are fully trained.


9. Take this opportunity to beef up your resume. Take BLS or ACLS. Take a certificate course (MTM, Diabetes, or Vaccination) through APhA. If you’re a hospital pharmacist and you qualify, sit for a BPS exam. Take a class in medical Spanish at your local community college. And again, volunteer.

10.  Choose your references carefully. Pick three, and assume that all three will be called, but make sure all three know you well enough to sell your skill set if only one happens to be called by your prospective employer. It may not be to your advantage to list a reference who has a very impressive job title but can’t adequately sing your praises. One of your references should be a character reference, one reference should be a former co-worker who can testify to your work ethic, and one reference should be a pharmacist who can discuss your pharmacist skill set. Make sure you ask permission of each reference prior to listing them on your resume.

Don’t lose hope. You will find a job. It may not be as quickly as you’d like, and it may not be your dream job, but you will find a job. After all, you managed to land the job you just left, so you do have previous success to build upon.

All the usual trite advice applies here. Put one foot in front of the other. Take things one day at a time. Make sure you are focused on looking ahead and absolutely refuse to look back or dwell on the circumstances of your unemployment.


Don’t even consider retaliation, it’s beneath you and it’s beneath our profession. In the grand scheme of the universe, things will balance out and you will land a job.

Kelly Howard is a freelance pharmacist living in Southeastern North Carolina. Contact her atkelly@gottsman.org.

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