The world is your oyster: what are your career options after you register?
Talitha Orlandi and Kathryn Davison provide some ideas on what career options you can pursue once you have registered as a pharmacist. They also give some tips on how you can stand out from the crowd in front of employers
What should I do next? What is the next step in my career path? Where do I go from here? These are important questions you have no doubt started to consider at this point in your preregistration year.
Yes, you may not have sat your registration assessment yet. However, it is important to plan for the future. Now is a good time to decide which career route you intend to take. A positive outlook will set you in good stead to make the best of current and future opportunities.
The route you choose depends on what you envisage your future path as a pharmacist to be. However, it is evident from the recent economic climate that permanent positions are not as plentiful or widely available as in previous years. Therefore, it is vital to stay ahead of the game and begin to prepare for the future now.
Most preregistration positions are in a community or hospital and this is mirrored on registration, with most pharmacists taking up employment within these sectors. Most newly registered pharmacists continue to work within the sector they completed their training in, building on the experience gained during the training year.
But for some pharmacists their placement is only the first taste of what pharmacy can offer as a career, and so the option to experience an alternative working environment, a more clinically demanding role or further study, for example, becomes tempting. This allows the initial experience of preregistration to be expanded on, broadening career opportunities in the future.
The world is indeed your oyster, but finding that initial stepping stone to follow your preregistration year is not always easy. Use your preregistration experience to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not you are suited to that particular area of practice for the long haul. Ask yourself if the year met your expectations. Was it what you hoped it would be? Is it what you want to do with your career?
If you have had the option to have first-hand experience of other roles throughout your preregistration year via a cross-sector placement or working in a different branch or department, for example, this should help influence your decision. Nothing is set in stone and one of the benefits of a career in pharmacy is the wide career choice.
How to stay ahead of the competition
So what can you do to give yourself an edge over your competition in today’s jobs market?
Perfect your CV
Your CV is the first impression give to prospective employers. This document should showcase your skills, experiences and credentials in a manner that suits the recruiter’s criteria. It may be your only opportunity to portray to a stranger that you are the ideal candidate and that you should be shortlisted for interview. You may have an existing CV, but at this stage it can be updated to reflect the relevant skills and experience you have gained in practice to date.
Your covering letter also needs to stand out from the crowd and address your suitability for the role more specifically. It is an opportunity to introduce and sell yourself and should complement your CV, rather than duplicate it.
Simple and basic advice when sending a covering letter and attached CV is to ensure that your grammar and presentation are impeccable. This may sound easy and obvious, but applicants offer a poor first impression to employers when this is not achieved.
If possible seek feedback from your tutor and manager. First, they may have previous experience in selecting candidates at the application stage and know what recruiters are looking for. Secondly, they know you and your work ethic better than any prospective employer and can help improve areas you may feel are lacking on your CV. Furthermore your tutor should be your first referee because he or she knows your personality and strengths.
Employers will be looking for an honest and solid candidate. The content of your CV should be believable and not exaggerated. As a newly registered pharmacist, your experience may be relatively limited, but fresh enthusiasm and forward thinking can demonstrate great potential. Do not sell yourself short. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Networking is one of the most important things you can do as a trainee. It is a means of opening doors to future opportunities and partnerships. Building relationships with colleagues, employers and their connections who, in turn, have their own connections, allows you to build up a web of pharmacy contacts. This may not seem relevant at present but outside the comfort of your preregistration year you will be thankful for the contacts you have made along the way. Conversations with mutual contacts may also create more connections for you to meet prospective future employers. Networking opportunities (via local practice forums, for example) are plentiful.
It is important to stand out from the crowd and present yourself in the best possible light when networking. Be interesting but also be interested in who you are speaking to. Understand your target audience and remember to be yourself.
Go the extra mile
Anyone applying for an advertised post can simply send a CV as standard protocol. However, it is always beneficial to extend your interest that little bit further. If possible, try to arrange a site visit. This will help demonstrate your enthusiastic and keen interest in the position and the place you could potentially be working. This will not only give you an insight into the job and workplace, but also the staff and wider team. Having that prior knowledge of the team and the working environment also allows you to relax in an interview situation and tailor your responses to questions to suit the role requirements.
Shine at the interview
Prior experience is always a key advantage in any area of work, but this does not mean that you are at a disadvantage being newly registered. Remain optimistic, in the knowledge that the prospective employer has offered you an interview despite your limited time in practice. It can also be advantageous to be newly registered as you often do not have any prior expectations or demands and this can be appealing to employers.
Preparation is vital when attending an interview so you should anticipate the questions you may be asked and generate an array of scripted model answers. However, try to avoid sounding too rehearsed because a generic answer is not what the employer will be looking for. They will be looking for examples of how you will achieve the requirements of the role and work well within the pharmacy team. Remember you are offered an interview so the employer can find out more about who you are. They are not looking for a carbon-copy answer that any candidate can offer.
Remember also that your responses are not solely restricted to pharmacy-related experience. Think about previous employment experience, university life or your hobbies as opportunities to reflect on events you have handled or performed well in.
It is important to use both job offers and rejections to your advantage. In the case of the latter, do not to be disheartened but ask for feedback in order to highlight areas for development so that you can improve on these at future interviews.
Permanent positions are becoming increasingly scarce in the current economic climate so you need to take the initiative to ensure you are prepared for the alternative. Working as a locum is increasingly becoming the norm for many newly registered pharmacists and offers a good opportunity to network, increase skills and develop an awareness of the world of pharmacy practice.
It may be the case that your existing preregistration provider is unable to offer you a permanent position at the end of your year and, in this case, locum work is a viable option. It is beneficial to join a locum agency, which has the benefit of a large database of clients. If you impress employers, they may recommend you to friends and you can broaden your locum scope. Furthermore, this may lead to a more permanent position, whether as a locum or as a full-time employee.
You can also apply directly to pharmacies by dropping in a CV and covering letter or introducing yourself personally. Finally, get to know the local large multiples and their locum recruitment procedures because, often, they use their own online databases to fill locum requirements.
Finishing your preregistration year and deciding where to take your career can be daunting. Taking the time to consider your options and prepare for the recruitment process ahead will stand you in good stead for your first year as a newly registered pharmacist. Remember that your future career will inevitably change along the way, bringing with it opportunities that will allow you to embark on new ventures or even change course entirely.
Talitha Orlandi is a preregistration trainee and Kathryn Davison, MRPharmS, is a preregistration tutor.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11134211
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