I believe it was Leo Tolstoy who said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This quote comes to mind when I think about the various problems and challenges facing pharmacists today. Everyone knows that the pharmacy profession [like every other profession] is far from perfect. Career challenges are many. And I sympathize with those who feel as though the pharmacy path has let them down. But in all my years in this profession, I have found only one consistently effective way to improve things: be proactive.
In his must-read now classic self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey lists “be proactive” as the first important principle to grasp. We cannot wait around for others to improve our jobs, improve our role, or improve our working conditions or opportunities. In the words of the late American radio personality and author, Earl Nightingale, “Jobs are owned by the company. You own your career.”
I have been in pharmacy leadership and management for over 20 years. It is my firmly held conclusion based on years of observation that the pharmacists who are most excited and satisfied with their careers have been the most proactive in their areas of interest within the profession.
But how exactly can you become more proactive in your career as a pharmacist? This will depend a lot upon your particular area of interest. I can’t tell you how, precisely, in your specific job you can begin to be more proactive tomorrow. But I believe there are some broad categories of proactivity that you can begin to embrace right away. If you plant the seeds of proactivity in these 3 areas today, you will likely reap a rich harvest of career satisfaction and effectiveness in the years to come.
1) Project Proactivity. No pharmacy, no operation, and no health system is perfect. And we are all great at finding the things that are wrong (usually with others). But for things to change and improve, someone needs to step forward and be willing to take on a project to improve them. You won’t ever find time to do this. You will have to make time, become more efficient, work smarter and maybe put in a few extra hours to get it done. But if the project is worthwhile, it will be worth it in the end.
2) Relationship Proactivity. How are your relationships throughout the organization? Do you take time to try and get to know people in different roles, different locations, different careers, and different companies? If you sit back and wait for the big boss to call you into her office, that day may never come. Be proactive in building relationships in your career. Ask for a few moments of their time. Get on their calendar. Buy them a coffee. Get them to talk about their career, their passion, their problems, and their future. Most people will simply not interact beyond the limited circle in which they have to move. But the happiest professionals I know take time to network both within and outside their pharmacy walls.
3) Career Proactivity. Finally, it is important that you take your career seriously and don’t expect it to progress without deliberate activity on your part. If you hate your job, take action. Find out what it will take to move toward the role that you would ultimately be happy in. Work on developing the kind of work ethic and being the kind of pharmacist that any employer would be happy to hire. Give 100% to your current job, but don’t be afraid to look for other opportunities that might exist. Reach out to places like Pharmaceutical Strategies to discuss your career goals and how to make that change.
If nothing else, the proactive pharmacist will never be bored in their job. You will always find more to do than there is time to do it. But that is okay. Just be sure to be busy with the right things. Focus on helping others along the way. Don’t waste time complaining. Better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt summarized the importance of proactivity well when she said “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”