While there are many strategies and tools available to help pharmacists and pharmacy technicians find great jobs, maybe none is more important that your list of contacts and references. And yet, I would say, this is probably the most widely neglected area by those who are looking to find a job or change their career path. The importance of your contact and reference list cannot be overstated. In this article I’ll share my own strategy for keeping this list of people fresh and ready to activate should you need their help.
The first thing I tell pharmacists to do when contemplating a change in jobs (or if they have already lost their job), is to sit down with a pen and paper and write down the name of every pharmacy-related person who has crossed their path. It is usually easiest to do this by going through previous jobs in your mind, but don’t forget other pharmacy contacts you may have encountered at school, rotations, conferences or professional associations. If you prefer to do this on your computer, open up a Word document and create a table, or better yet use Excel to organize the list.
The next step is to gather contact information for as many of these individuals as possible. Ideally, you want their email address, but a phone number will do to start. This will usually take some research if you haven’t been actively in touch with these pharmacy contacts in a while. Use online social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram to try and locate these people if you cannot find them any other way. You may feel awkward asking for their email, but simply explain you are interested in updating your friends about your career plans, and most will be curious enough to help you out.
Once you have gotten the email addresses of as many people as you can, you need to begin the process of emailing them about your career goals. It is important to do this in the right way. Many of these people may be individuals you have not spoken to in a while. Don’t just ask for help. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them about their own career and family. Then briefly explain that you are looking for your next great job and ask them if they are aware of any openings that might be a good fit for you. But keep the overall email brief – no more than a paragraph or two. And don’t send out an email blast to the whole group. Contact them individually.
If you have paid to have your resume professionally produced, you can share that fact with your contact. Tell them about your experience working with the resume writer and what you learned through the process. Then ask your contact if they would like to see the resume. Most will be curious and say yes. This keeps the conversation going. Don’t just send the resume with the first email. And don’t share who you used to write it just yet. Hold these back as part of the continued conversation that may evolve.
The last thing to do with your contact list is to identify at least 5 potential references. These are individuals that you have worked for or closely with. They can also be contacts outside your professional circle such as a close friend or a member of the same organization, charity or church. Most employers will want at least 2-3 professional references. You should reach out to these contacts and ask their permission to use them as references as you continue your job hunt. Once permission is granted, thank them and be sure to notify them any time you use their name. And if you get the job, consider sending a token (maybe a gift card?) of your appreciation to any reference that was contacted.
Contacts and references are critical in your job search process. So is respect, appreciation, and professionalism. Do the right things for your contacts and they will usually do the right things for you.