Just graduated pharmacy school and still haven’t found a pharmacy to work in? Here’s how to make your resume stand out.
New pharmacy school grads are entering a stable job market, but the best candidates are those with skills that directly speak to employer needs.
A recent study found that 86% of pharmacy school graduates had secured either a job, residency, fellowship, or acceptance into additional education opportunities by graduation.
"Our current ability to survey the marketplace suggests that our graduates are still getting hired at about the same pace that has been the case for much of this decade," says Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh, EVP and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).
But while the market may be stable, experts say the pharmacist drought of 15 years ago is no longer a reality. To distinguish yourself, experts recommend these strategies:
1. Become a Better Communicator
Employers are looking for more than technical ability or pharmaceutical knowledge. Solid communication skills are a must, particularly in retail settings where interacting with the public is essential.
"Grade point average didn't mean anything for me. I found a lot of the high grade point average kids weren't necessarily involved in another activities and were what I call heads down pharmacists, they didn't interact with people," says Mark Ey, VP of operations for CARE Pharmacies Cooperative, a retail chain of 75 independent pharmacies. "I was looking for communication skills."
Experts say having previous retail experience that doesn't just include pharmacy school rotations, even if it isn't in a pharmacy, is an important skill to have on a resume.
2. Be Patient-Centered
Pharmacists are assuming greater roles in patient care, whether it's through medication therapy management, adherence initiatives, or programs to improve the treatment and care of chronic conditions.
Sean Barry, director of talent acquisition for Walgreens, said ideal pharmacy job candidates can demonstrate that they truly care about patient outcomes and are able to give clear examples of ways they've helped drive patient care in the past.
"We are looking for pharmacists who are able to engage our patients and communities in meaningful ways," he says. "They need to be caring and trustworthy patient advocates who are ultimately concerned about a patient's holistic health outcomes."
3. Get Involved in the Community
Pharmacists need to be well-versed in pharmaceuticals and patient management techniques , but employers say it's equally important to demonstrate community involvement outside the pharmacy industry.
Whether it's being a member of the Greek system, working on the school yearbook, or regularly volunteering at a local animal shelter, employers want to know about the ways potential job candidates are already immersed in their community.
"You want to see a well-rounded person," Ey says.
4. Demonstrate Your Passion
Today's graduating pharmacist comes armed with on-the-job experience through pharmacy rotations-But these rotations are a universal experience for most new pharmacists and aren't enough to demonstrate your commitment to the industry.
Potential employers said they want to know why job prospects selected pharmacy and what makes them passionate about the industry they've selected.
"When you see somebody who is passionate about it and is maybe engaging in areas of healthcare and delivery and taking care of people who really need it, then there's a passion there that they bring to your job and to your business," Ey says.
5. Secure Specialized Certifications
The pharmacy industry has ramped up its efforts in recent years to demonstrate the value pharmacists can provide in improving patient outcomes and medication adherence by utilizing the unique skill set pharmacists can bring to the table.
Maine said those job candidates who can help employers achieve this mission-whether they've received APhA's MTM certification, certification as a diabetes educator, or another specialized certification-will rise to the top of the candidate pool.
"Things like that should be appealing to employers who are looking to expand their progressive service dimensions," Maine says.
6. Be Geographically Flexible
Experts agree that on the list of desired job candidate traits solid communication skills and a passion for helping patients is at the top-But being flexible in terms of geographic location or hours is another way to separate yourself from the masses.
"Layered on top of being the right fit for our organization, a willingness to be open on location and hours can only enhance a candidate's value to Walgreens," Barry says.
Maine said those candidates who have a very specific location in mind, particularly in areas where many pharmacy schools are located, may have to wait longer to land their first job.
7. Highlight Your Management Skills
Yesterday's pharmacist was responsible for every aspect of filling a prescription from taking the prescription to counting the pills and counseling the patient. Today's pharmacist often needs to delegate tasks to input clerks, pharmacy technicians, and desk clerks.
Pharmacists who can demonstrate they know how to manage a team and successfully encourage team members to work together to achieve optimum results are an appealing find for potential employers.
"I think you have to work on your management skills and encourage and make people around you better," says Bill Osborn, PharmD, president-elect of NCPA and owner of Osborn Drugs in Miami, Oklahoma.