Walking away from a pharmacy job isn’t usually an easy decision. Ours is one of the few professions that pay us really well right out of college.
We’ve invested time and money into our careers, often pursuing residencies and other opportunities to improve our job prospects.
We’ve spent so long living as financially-strapped students that we quickly live up to our income. Before we realize it, we’ve accumulated personal debt along with our school debt, and we find that we can’t live without that income.
So what happens when, in the face of all this, you find yourself doubting your desire to stay in pharmacy?
Begin by realizing that you aren’t alone. Multiple studies report that about 50 percent of pharmacists have considered leaving the profession.
Next, recognize that you aren’t trapped, even if you feel otherwise. You have opportunities you haven’t even considered because your perspective is skewed by your current situation.
Here’s how to keep your career moving in a positive direction despite your uncertainty.
- Assess where you are.
Many people have discovered the hard way that pursuing your passion isn’t always enough.
While it’s good to pursue work that you enjoy, the Japanese developed a concept called Ikigai that combines four considerations to help you find the most meaningful work possible.
Think of a Venn diagram with four circles representing what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. The overlap of all four categories in the center of the diagram represents your Ikigai.
The Japanese believe that the overlap represents the work you were meant to do.
Before you jump ship from pharmacy, though, consider whether your career satisfies one of the four categories. Allow for the possibility that you aren’t in the wrong industry; simply the wrong specialty or the wrong setting.
Gather as much information as you can before making any important decisions.
Your current job might not be great, but you’ll regret the decision to jump out of a bad job into something worse simply because you’re trying to escape.
- Put your ideas to work for you.
My own journey out of traditional pharmacy began when I found myself in a toxic work setting surrounded by people I didn’t trust. I feared that I had chosen the wrong profession and I was convinced I was going to have to turn my life upside down to escape it.
Over time, I discovered that there were a lot more pharmacists just like me, and I discovered that I had the skill set to coach them through their career uncertainty. I built a side-hustle helping pharmacists find fulfilling work in new areas of pharmacy as well as outside of traditional pharmacy jobs.
In fact, I recently left my traditional pharmacy job to pursue the venture full time.
Throughout my work with pharmacy clients, I’ve discovered that many of them have opportunities available to them; they simply need help recognizing them.
- Pay attention to existing opportunities.
I frequently ask people to take stock of the work they are already doing for people, many times free of charge.
One previous client was editing research papers for foreign exchange students, and she turned it into a paying side-hustle that gave her a creative outlet. Many of my clients have found side-hustles completely unrelated to pharmacy, while others have found opportunities that dabble in new and emerging pharmacy fields like informatics.
Engage with your network to find out about projects your peers are working on and new ideas that are developing.
Stay curious. Volunteer for projects in fields that are interesting to you, even if they are unrelated to pharmacy.
- Find a new career path.
Like every other industry, pharmacy constantly changes, driven by emerging technology and changing needs.
Emerging fields like informatics, which focuses on medication-related data, combine multiple skill sets like computer science and pharmacy, and they create great opportunities for those who are willing to try something new.
Consider your interests beyond pharmacy to see if there is a way to combine multiple skill sets, even if they don’t seem like they overlap.
Many people who land new opportunities get them because they were open to the idea, and they were actively seeking new projects.
Be thoughtful as you consider your own situation. You’ve worked hard and invested a lot of time into your career. Don’t rush into any decision simply because your current situation is especially bad.
On the other hand, don’t be paralyzed by the fear of leaving the industry. Though you’ve invested a lot in becoming a pharmacist, your health and mental well-being are important considerations as well. The price of staying in a job that leads to unending stress and even burnout may well be too high.
Whether you stay in the industry or leave it, your time in pharmacy hasn’t been wasted. The lessons learned will go with you wherever you land.
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.