Murphy’s Law says that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Sod’s law says “if something can go wrong, it will.” Finagle’s law says “anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.” These laws are usually cited in scientific discussions, yet I feel they can also apply to your career. Unless you are planning to retire soon, you should be prepared for your NEXT pharmacy position because your job situation can change tomorrow.
Here’s a short-list of what can go wrong:
- Mergers and acquisitions – Your pharmacy job is eliminated.
- Employee turnover – Your best pharmacist or technician leaves. Your boss leaves or is promoted to another department.
- Employee Relations – Your success is hindered by others’ actions.
- Reorganization – You experience a reorganization that negatively impacts your role via the reporting structure.
- Salary – You’re asked to take a pay cut or you are underpaid.
- Benefits – Your benefit package is slashed or is suddenly much more expensive.
- Job role changes – You’re asked to change what you do or how you do it.
- You are overworked – Few things will decrease your happiness and performance quicker than burnout.
- Recognition – You aren’t acknowledged or rewarded for your efforts.
- Mistakes – Let’s be frank, pharmacists are people and people make mistakes. Sometimes your employer will support you, other times they may not.
About a year ago I was emailing with a fellow pharmacist. I remember telling him that “I had the ideal pharmacy job” and that “I had no intention of ever leaving.” He wisely cautioned me that the pharmacy job market isn’t what it used to be and that I should be open to new experiences. While I didn’t listen at the time, now I see the value in his career advice. I know multiple pharmacists who have been laid off in the past 6 months.
Here are some ideas to make yourself less vulnerable to problems at work:
1.Make sure that you have a current, updated resume.
I’ve seen job postings pop up one day and expire the next. If your resume isn’t maintained, then you might not have time to apply for new job postings. Try to update your resume annually. I usually review mine every January as that’s easier to remember. Make sure to send it to a colleague or trusted friend for honest feedback about the content and the formatting.
2. Interview regularly.
They say “practice makes perfect” and I can tell you from experience that each interviewing process you go through builds confidence. I’ve interviewed several times over the past 2 years. I felt more confident after my most recent interview than I did after the first one. There are also new ways to interview such as web-based video recordings which can be disconcerting if you aren’t familiar with using a web cam. Each interview you get gives you an opportunity to learn more about an employer and network with the company.
3. Identify where you could work if you lost your job tomorrow.
Ideally you would have a list of at least 3 other potential employers. Read up on these employers and find out what they do and where they are located. If you know anyone that works for these employers, reach out and ask them about their jobs. If you don’t know anyone, try to network through friends and family. I have a friend who recently lost his retail pharmacist position due to a store closing and I strongly suspect he hadn’t thought through this step.
4. Think from your employer’s point of view.
Is your company profitable? Is your workday busy or do you have ample downtime? The truth is that your employer is monitoring you (and every other employee) to determine if you are worth your salary. Employers only want to pay for employees that are bringing value to their company. Thinking from the employer’s point of view can help you anticipate mergers and layoffs. A good friend and mentor of mine was laid off last year but she paid attention and anticipated the change in advance and was in a much better place to adjust.
5. Network on LinkedIn.
I constantly tell people to sign up for LinkedIn but I’m surprised at how few people ever do. Facebook and Twitter are fun but they won’t help keep you employed. LinkedIn can help you network with other pharmacists and be accessible to recruiters. Do show restraint with invitations to connect with people you don’t know. If you’re trying to connect with a stranger, attaching a personal note about why you’d like to get to know them better will go a long way.