The pharmacy industry constantly evolves, so much so that we can’t afford to be flat-footed.
Over the last few months, Amazon entered the marketplace by acquiring a small startup called PillPack. Kroger subsidiary, Harris Teeter, announced it would cut pharmacist pay and hours. Several mergers and acquisitions have changed the pharmacy landscape.
Coupled with technological developments and changing needs, the pharmacy outlook is certain to continue changing.
The truth is that even if you’re happy in your current job, you’ll eventually look to change to something different. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2016 that the average employee spends about 4 years in a single position.
The other truth is that change often happens quickly, so your best bet is to stay vigilant. Keep yourself actively engaged with your network, so you’ll have a ready supply of contacts and information when the need to change jobs arises.
Realistically, your network is your most important career asset. Networking is essential to finding new opportunities, scoring promotions, and gaining insider knowledge within a particular industry.
There’s a caveat, though, and it’s this: prioritize valuable connections over random ones. Invest the time to create value for people and they’ll reciprocate for you.
My coaching client was transitioning to a totally new field, and he started the way many people do: by sending connection requests on LinkedIn. I challenged him to focus on having conversations with people and building value for the people he connected with. When his connections realized he was looking for a job, he landed himself several meetings that led to job offers.
Instead of simply adding numbers to your profile, grow a network that will be mutually beneficial to both parties.
1. Use LinkedIn well.
If LinkedIn was a party, most of us would never be invited back.
The problem is that we tend to make contact with a person, hand him a virtual business card with no introduction, and then walk away. No small-talk. No explanation.
When you initiate a connection on LinkedIn without introducing yourself or your intentions, it’s the same thing. Most of the people who seek to connect with me on LinkedIn never explain how they found me, why they are interested in connecting, or what their intentions are. As a result, they make no impression.
Your LinkedIn networking goal should be to truly connect with people.
2. Engage your first-degree network.
- If you haven’t spoken to your contact in a long time, do not demand anything. Find a relevant reason to re-engage with your contact, like maybe an article that made you think of him or a recent connection with a mutual friend. Don’t ask for a favor in the first interaction.
- Don’t ask a bunch of questions without first asking permission. He may not have time to engage with you this way.
- Offer something in return for his time and his input. Offer to buy him a cup of coffee or dinner, and recognize that it’s a small price to pay if it leads to the opportunities you’re seeking.
- Provide a way out. When you get to the point in the conversation where you ask for a favor, create a graceful exit strategy. “I’d love to ask you a few questions, but if now isn’t a good time, I completely understand.” Even if he can’t help now, he might be able to help later.
3. Build your outer network.
- Ask your existing network if they know people who work in the industry you’d like to know more about. In most cases, your network will be willing to provide an email introduction to the people you’re hoping to connect with.
- Be referable. Be professional, appreciative, and humble so the people in your network will feel comfortable introducing you to other people.
- Send a video message to those outside your network that you’d like to connect with. I know it sounds crazy, but video provides rapport that isn’t possible in email. It humanizes the sender, and people are much more likely to watch a video than to read an email.
4. Attend a conference.
I recently attended an American Pharmacists Association midyear conference, where I sought to build relationships with people instead of making connections that would lead to opportunities. I looked for ways to help other people instead of benefiting myself.
I connected with vendors and sought common ground with the people I met there. I ate meals with people and talked about things beyond business.
Interestingly, despite my decision to focus on people rather than opportunities, I left the conference with four new professional possibilities:
- A trip to Scotland for an international conference
- A state association publication
- A long-term paid writing gig
- A speaking opportunity in Chicago.
Conferences allow you to connect with pharmacists from a variety of industries and a variety of experience levels. They expose you to emerging technologies and developing fields in the industry.
You should absolutely make it part of your professional budget to attend at least one conference a year.
5. Associate with like-minded people.
Business philosopher Jim Rohn famously said that we’re all the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
A past coaching client wanted to leave the pharmacy profession, but he wasn’t sure how to move forward. We talked at length about other pharmacists who had made the same decision, and he lamented the fact that he didn’t personally know any people who had transitioned out of the industry.
He sought introductions to those people because he understood that spending time with people, who had gone before him, would help him make more informed decisions.
Engage with people who have the same job you do, who share the same interests, or who work in an industry you’d like to pursue.
6. Embrace networking
No matter where you are in your career, networking is always valuable. Even when your own career is exactly where you’d like it to be, networking allows you to help others who need to transition.
Regardless of the circumstances, the key to networking is building value for other people. Though you may not need help from your network now, your situation could unexpectedly change tomorrow. If you have maintained your connections by helping other people, you’ll be able to readily call on those people when it’s your turn to transition.
Use LinkedIn to grow your network well and to build strong relationships. Seize the power of conferences to learn more about your industry and connect with other people that are connected to pharmacy. Position yourself to spend time with people who share the same history, interests, or pursuits you do.
If you never need those connections, you’ll still have a network of strong bonds that will allow you to strengthen your industry by helping other people. If you do need them, you’ll appreciate the time you invested in building relationships ahead of time.
Alex Barker is a full-time Pharmacist, media company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He is also is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps busy professionals build successful side businesses.