Q&A: Can you tell me about your job search strategy?
Can you tell me about your job search strategy?
Aminat Tijani, Pharm.D.
PGY2 Internal Medicine Pharmacy Resident
Ochsner Medical Center
New Orleans, LA
When and how did you begin your job search during postgraduate training?
Starting the search for your first post-graduation job during residency training can be overwhelming. Unlike the residency search, which has a clear timeline, the timing of the job search is nebulous, with little guidance on what to expect or when to start. This uncertainty, on top of rotations, projects, meetings, and presentations, only compounds the tension of a stressful part of the year.
There is no perfect time to start searching for a post-graduation position, and the best time can vary from year to year and specialty to specialty. I used the new year to start my search, but starting later is unlikely to put you behind. Although I looked for positions at PPS during the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting, I was initially underwhelmed by the low volume of positions in my clinical specialty (critical care), and several of the positions were looking to hire in the short term rather than after graduation. Even though this in turn led me to stress about the potential job market and not finding a position before graduation, my mentors reminded me that budget cycles vary from hospital to hospital and many institutions may not know whether positions are available for the next fiscal year until after the New Year. The dearth of positions at PPS shouldn’t have surprised me, and if you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t panic!
Around mid-January, I dove into my search for open positions. This involved using a mix of resources, including the ACCP Career Center and other organizations’ career centers, general job boards, individual institutions’ websites, and social media. Finding which positions are right for you is the next most difficult step – for me, my personal goals involved continuing my research activity, precepting, and practicing in an academic setting, so my search was initially limited to larger academic medical centers. I was most interested in positions in neurocritical care; however, I also looked for other critical care positions and positions outside critical care that I felt my training had prepared me for. After assessing whether a position was right for me, I submitted applications as positions opened on a rolling basis. The timeline of professional hiring is more dilated than the residency recruitment cycle, so it may take institutions days to weeks to respond to inquiries or weeks to even months to respond after applying – however, don’t delay too long once you decide a position is right for you. Having a point of contact within the institution, whether that is the hiring manager or a department’s HR professional, can be invaluable in maintaining momentum during the hiring process.
New positions are posted sporadically throughout the year, so if few positions are available when you begin your search, make sure to update your search regularly. Some institutions may be unable to post new positions until as late as April or May, so try not to be discouraged if your search seems to stretch almost until or after graduation.
What resources did you use, and which were most valuable?
The first place I looked was the ACCP Career Center. The ACCP job board and other pharmacy organization job boards are great places to start your search for several reasons – the most important being that many of the positions are listed by the department of pharmacy directly rather than the institution’s HR department. The descriptions on these job boards may contain specific language about what the job will entail or in what clinical specialty the position will be.
If organizations’ career centers do not have a posted position that’s right for you, websites like Indeed and Glassdoor are other common places to look for positions. However, although these websites often have many positions, the postings are often general pharmacist postings and may not be fully up to date or contain details about which clinical specialty the institution is hiring for. They may also only have an HR contact rather than a department of pharmacy contact, which can make it more challenging to inquire about the position’s details. Thus, having a point of contact within the institution can help you determine which positions are worth applying for.
Another common place to look for positions are individual institution’s career pages. These are often the most time-consuming places to search, but they will contain the most up-to-date postings. Like Indeed or Glassdoor, however, these positions are often listed by HR and may not contain specific language about which specialty the institution is hiring into. Listings like “Clinical Pharmacist” or “Inpatient Pharmacist” may in fact represent a subspecialty clinic position, inpatient clinical specialist, central operations, or another specialty, depending on how HR lists positions. Listings also rarely describe an institution’s pharmacist practice model (e.g., integrated, specialist), which is always good to clarify if not described. Reaching out to individuals within the institution can help delineate what the position entails if the posting is not detailed.
Another resource to consider during your job search is social media. The pharmacy networks on Twitter and Instagram are robust, and pharmacists often post about a position before it is even listed on their institution’s website. In fact, I first learned about my ultimate position as a neurology and neurocritical care pharmacist through Twitter! I was able to ask questions about the position, get a link to the job, and apply directly through the ACCP Career Center. When someone posts a job through social media, the poster also immediately becomes a point of contact within the institution to answer questions, give you updates on the process, and help relay your information to the hiring manager. In addition, posting on social media that you are looking for a position may help other pharmacists put you in contact with individuals who have the right position for you.
I personally found social media and professional organization career centers like the ACCP Career Center the most valuable. Social media provided a real-time reflection of what positions were becoming available and the individuals I could talk to about them, and the ACCP Career Center was the most specific aggregate source of job openings specific to clinical pharmacy. Leveraging all available resources is essential for your job search to be successful!
How do you think searching for a job in 2021 was different from in the pre-pandemic years?
The pandemic has affected the job search in innumerable ways. The virtual recruitment space challenges your ability to make a personal connection with the people you will work with and the institution itself. During my residency interviews, I found that seeing the hospital, meeting my potential future coworkers face to face, and observing the nonverbal communication of the individuals interviewing me were invaluable to understanding how I might fit into the culture of the institution. Virtual interviews tend to be shorter, have less face-to-face time with the people in the department, and cannot provide the intrinsic feeling you get by walking through your potential new institution. Despite the many limitations, however, there are benefits, too – virtual interviewing offers a flexibility and financial liberty that was not possible with in-person interviews. There is no need for expensive hotel rooms and flights, and interview times can be scheduled to work with the complex schedule of a busy resident. What I felt I lost in being able to assess the intangibles of an institution’s atmosphere, I gained in being able to interview within the comfort of my own environment and the ability to meet people virtually face to face in an equitable and time-conscious way.
Is there anything in your job search that you would have done differently?
The virtual aspect of interviewing can make it easy to schedule interview slots during a normal workday. For several of my interviews, I scheduled portions or all of my interview times in the afternoons after the bulk of my clinical activities on rotation were over – however, what I quickly learned is that virtual interviews are just as exhausting as in-person interviews. So if your program offers the flexibility, take the days of your interviews off work – you’ll thank me later!
What advice do you have for PGY2 residents looking to start their career in clinical pharmacy?
First, be patient, and don’t stress too much. The job search process can be overwhelming. The weeks to even months it can take from applying and interviewing to ultimately hearing back with good or bad news can feel like an eternity during residency. However, whether you’re offered a position in February of your residency year or months after graduation, all of your training has been preparing you for this moment. Everyone runs the race at their own pace, so avoid comparing yourself with others.
Second, it is crucial to remember that your first job will not be your last – if you have trouble finding a position in your ultimate desired area of specialty, taking a position at an institution where you can ultimately see yourself being successful can help set you up to be considered for future open positions in your desired specialty. Moreover, getting set up at an institution with the resources to allow you to achieve your goals can give you time to establish your practice; become involved in committees, research, and preceptorship; and allow you to demonstrate your value so that you are a natural choice when an internal position opens in your desired specialty. Things change quickly, so you may be surprised by how soon that opportunity appears.
Although the timeline can seem eternal, you may in fact receive an offer before you have completed all of your scheduled interviews. Although this can feel stressful, especially because we are so used to the streamlined decision of Match Day, the HR departments of institutions are used to candidates being in this pickle. If you find yourself in this scenario, don’t hesitate to ask for 1–2 weeks to make the decision. You don’t need to disclose that you have competing offers or pending interviews – they should understand that these are big decisions and that big decisions take time.
My last piece of advice is, take some time off after your residency! Institutions hiring a new residency graduate understand you’ve just gone through two rewarding but exhausting years and should accommodate your request for time off. I requested 4 weeks, which was accepted without question – do that for yourself, too!
Andrew Webb, Pharm.D., BCCCP
Clinical Pharmacist, Neurology/Neurocritical Care
Massachusetts General Hospital