The truth is, as a little girl I didn’t long to be a corporate pharmacist. I was a writer. I was a writer in the most basic, inexperienced, naïve way you could describe the 10-year-old-me who enjoyed creating poetry and typing away at her very first attempts at a novel. Like most parents, mine worried I’d starve, putting together crafty sentences and barely earning enough money for groceries. So I went to pharmacy school, not knowing at the time that I was making one of the best decisions of my life.
Along the way, I’ve come to love my career as a pharmacist. I truly value the opportunities I have to interact with other professionals in a corporate environment and the large-scale effect my work has on practicing physicians, pharmacists, and nurses. I have always longed for a fulfilling career and knew that I had to take some major risks to get one.
A few years ago, I decided to leave my stable job as a retail pharmacist and pursue a one-year industry/academic fellowship in medical information. This program offered experience in the pharmaceutical industry as well as the chance to interact with students in an academic setting and, ultimately, earn my teaching certificate. As challenging as it was, I had the drive and support network I needed to obtain my current dream job working in Medical Information. Interested in what it takes to become an industry pharmacist?
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Know what it takes to have a successful interview. Granted, anything can happen during an interview but there are certain tips you can keep in mind to increase your chance of leaving a lasting positive impression. If you’re pursuing a job as a corporate pharmacist, have a general understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and a deep understanding of the specific company you’re interested in.
The first thing I do when I’m interviewing for a job is browse the company website and gather as much information as I can, which can range from what is in their pipeline to current initiatives going on in developing countries. Recent press releases can offer invaluable information on current happenings within the company and what their main focus may be at a particular moment. You also may want to take a look at the company’s stock performance and how well they’re doing, i.e., job stability.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to acquaintances who work in the industry to gather insights from their experiences. They may be able to offer you valuable information on their role and perhaps even let you know of job openings within their group.
2. HAVE A MENTOR
I’ve had many informal mentors in my life, people who have supported and encouraged me when I was a newbie and unsure of my role. Mentors are happy for you when you’re successful and provide strength and guidance when you’re unsure of your next step. In any job I’ve had, I’ve looked at women whom I admired and thought about what I would need to do to get to where they are.
It helps to read the wise words of successful women who are established in their fields, like Kate White in her insightful book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know or Lois P. Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t get the Corner Office. Read success stories from other women making a name for themselves, like Rebecca K. Andruszka and her ProfessionGal post on the non-profit industry. I love reading these books and stories because it allows me to look at my career from a different perspective and get inspired by ways in which I can enhance my experiences and be the best version of myself.
3. KNOW YOURSELF AND WHY YOU WANT THIS
If you choose to do a fellowship (not necessarily a requirement in getting an industry job), expect to have late nights creating slide decks, grading papers, perfecting your manuscript, and meeting any other deadlines that come your way. It’s important to understand why you want this, and why you’re choosing to go this route in the first place. If you’re sure of yourself and your goals, you’ll have the drive and motivation you need to not only accomplish what’s asked of you but more importantly, to exceed everyone’s expectations. Knowing your end goal will enable you to put in the time and do whatever it takes to get there.
Though I never became a professional writer, my writing skills have helped me tremendously in my career as a pharmacist, from writing cover letters and emails to summarizing clinical studies. I’m happy to say that I wouldn’t change my nontraditional career path. If you’re thinking about taking a risk and following a nontraditional path to get the job you want, I encourage you to just do it and think about how incredible you’ll feel when you’re excited to go to work every morning.