There is a world of difference between just being a pharmacist and building a meaningful pharmacy career. To be a pharmacist you need certain academic skills. You have to study, retain information, perform reasonably well on tests and have the minimum social tools needed to hold down a job in a complex workplace. But many who have successfully climbed this mountain have been unhappy with their view from the top. I get emails every week from pharmacists who are tired, burned out, unhappy and stressed.
In a Harvard Business Review article on meaningful careers, author Amy Gallo refers to career expert Nathaniel Koloc who outlines 4 areas that everyone needs to focus on if they want more from their career than 40 hours of drudgery and repetition. These 4 areas – Legacy, Mastery, Freedom and Alignment – are worth focusing on in your pharmacy career as well.
Legacy. What are you leaving behind? Is there a particular type of patient that you feel especially connected to? Are there ways you can promote your focus on these patients in order to help them with the challenges of their particular conditions? For some this might include writing articles to help educate the public on a particular disease or maybe giving local seminars. Another way to provide a legacy is to get involved in training the next generation of pharmacists as a preceptor or mentor. As Stephen Covey has put it, “begin with the end in mind.” Whatever you want said about your career when it is done…focus on that today.
Mastery. What are you good at that you also enjoy? I recall a piece of advice I was given early in my pharmacy career. Someone said to me “work on your strengths. Your weaknesses can take care of themselves.” That has actually turned out to be pretty valuable. We all have certain natural talents that give us a jump start over others. Work on those, and you can quickly achieve a type of mastery that is valuable. But as Koloc pointed out “The key is that you are using these strengths in a way that you find rewarding.”
Freedom. Most people are craving some sort of freedom in their careers. For some, it might just be the freedom from financial worries that comes from achieving a good salary and managing your expenses. Others may crave the freedom of autonomy to work independently. Believe it or not, all sorts of freedom is available in a pharmacy career. For example, as someone moves into leadership positions they have the freedom to be creative, develop original programs, build winning teams and set exhilarating goals. Thucydides, the Athenian historian, said “The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage.” It may take some courage to take the next step in your career, but the freedom you enjoy will be worth it.
Alignment. What you do and where you do it has to align with your values and purpose in life. Those that you ride with need to be driving the same highways and heading in the same direction. Your company needs to embrace the values that you embrace. I personally work for a company whose core values include accountability, collaboration, customer focus, innovation, integrity and passion. These are ideas that resonate with me. I want to live them myself, and I’m proud to associate with others who do also.
Building a meaningful pharmacy career is possible. Thousands of pharmacists have done it. You can to. This may involve looking at new opportunities within your own company, or beginning to explore options at some of the other great employers in your area. Whatever road you choose, just be true to your dreams and don’t give up believing a fantastic career is within your reach.