AACP teaches graduate students how to market themselves

July 19, 2009

As the 2009 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Annual Meeting started July 18, one of the first issues on the agenda was pharmacists who plan on entering academia and how graduate students can make the transition into a faculty position.

At the opening of the 2009 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Annual Meeting July 18, one of the first issues on the agenda was the subject of pharmacists who plan on entering the academic world and how graduate students can make the transition into faculty positions.

Self-marketing skills were central to the overall theme of the annual meeting as young pharmacists attended sessions designed to help them learn more about opportunities in pharmacy. Among other subjects, students and faculty at the session “Graduate Student Program: Positioning Yourself for Success,” discussed networking opportunities, options and ideas for growing portfolios, and the role marketing plays in positioning pharmacists for academic jobs.

Jan Kavookjian, MBA, PhD, associate professor, Auburn University School of Pharmacy, told the session’s attendees, “It’s important for you decide what you want in a position.&rdquo She pointed out that an academic setting is not for everyone, but neither is the practice of pharmacy. After each student identifies the job that would be ideal, she said, “The next step would then be networking to help you get noticed for the job you want.” She recommended that graduate students exploring their career choices first make a “wish list” for a job along with a list of “deal-breakers.”

These lists can include any elements of a job that are favorable, such as location, pay, research demands connected with the position, and number of teaching opportunities. She said that once the list is made and a job becomes available that is a good fit for the student, networking at meetings can provide an advantage when it comes time to apply for positions.

The next step, she said, is to put together a cover letter. Telephone calls are also an option for networking, as is e-mail. But, she cautioned, it’s important to make sure that follow-up e-mails and telephone calls retain the professional formality of the first impression.

Kavookjian recommended that students begin practicing a 15-second speech they can make when asked about their specialty by colleagues at conferences. “It should be something that you can deliver articulately, with confidence and within a short time,” she said.

“It’s really important to create a demand for yourself when putting together a cover letter,” Kavookjian added. “I can’t tell you how many cover letters I’ve seen that go into detail about how our institution can meet the needs of the applicant.” She recommended that applicants instead take the approach of communicating how their own qualities can help meet the need of the pharmacy school.

Kavookjian and fellow speaker Alan Spies, RPh, JD, MBA, PhD, assistant professor, pharmacy administration, Southwestern Oklahoma State University College of Pharmacy, spoke about the importance of finding a mentor in the industry.

“Your mentor doesn’t have to be at your pharmacy school, Spies said. “But they should be someone you trust and can turn to with your questions, concerns, and ideas you want to bounce off them.”

Spies said that creating a list of expectations of a mentor can help when seeking someone to assist a transition into academia. Spies said that students should remember to take initiative, and he emphasized the importance of networking when it comes to entering the academic world of pharmacy.

“Two out of the three jobs I’ve had in academia are the direct result of networking,” he said. “That’s just one of the benefits of networking - it can help take you where you want to go.”

Tips:

The following are tips for students who decide that a career in academia is ideal for them:

Remember to network while attending meetings and conferences.

Find a mentor who can help guide you through your career choice and help explain the dos and don’ts of the profession.

Make a wish list to help you determine the ideal job.

Keep e-mails and telephone calls formal to maintain a good first impression.

Be clear about your expectations of a mentor and communicate them effectively.

Develop relationships with as many people in your profession as possible.

Be sure and clear about your reasons for entering academia to ensure that it’s the path for you.

When writing a cover letter, be sure to explain how you can fit the needs of the school of pharmacy and not vice versa.

Know how much research and/or teaching you would like to do before you apply for a position.

If you're going to be attending a meeting, plan networking opportunities in advance.

Be aware that social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are checked by potential employers - avoid posting inappropriate material.