Expanding your toolbox during pharmacy school
My roommate and I were looking over our resumes recently as we were starting to apply for internships. One of our other roommates was nice enough to review our resumes and make sure they were presentable. After reading through my roommate’s resume, he noted, “It looks good, but you’re going to have to get rid of a couple of things to keep it to one page.” He then took a glance at my resume and concluded, “It looks fine, but you’re going to have to add a few things to make it about one page.”
These observations hammered home a key realization for me: I have done next to nothing over the past 2 years. I have spent nearly all of my time studying, and my grades reflected that. I wasn’t necessarily the smartest student, I just had more time than everyone else to put into my studies. Don’t get me wrong. Classes are important and the reason we are going to school in the first place. However, despite the sheer amount of time I spent studying, I didn’t feel like I knew more than any other student, especially by the time the exam was a week in the rearview mirror. More importantly, I felt like I had no transferable experience heading into my first internship. I realized I needed to take advantage of all the opportunities that Northeastern University had to offer while I had the chance.
So I took action. I became a member of APhA–ASP, serving as my chapter’s Operation Diabetes Chair, Patient Care Vice President, and Finance Vice President. I have had the opportunity to attend two Region 1 Midyear Regional Meetings (in Portland and Buffalo), as well as APhA2019 in Seattle.
I also got more involved in my professional pharmacy fraternity. Despite having been in the organization for 2 years, I wasn’t particularly engaged. I served as community service chair for a year, but performing my position’s duties was the extent of my involvement. I didn’t attend many events or join committees. Since those 2 years, I have taken on more roles, attended most events, and gotten involved at the national level. Additionally, I took on leadership roles in other organizations, attended pharmacy conferences, gained work experience, did research, played intramural sports, and became a university tour guide.
Through these experiences, I have met a lot of students and pharmacists nationwide. I have learned how to manage teams, function in a group, work under a boss, and ask the right questions. These are the soft skills that are not always taught in the classroom. While classes are imperative to our education, it is important to supplement our academic education with work experience, professional involvement, research, self-care, and other interests.
How will you stand out?
You know what they call a pharmacist who graduates last in their class? A pharmacist. We are all going to graduate with a PharmD from an accredited university with a GPA and knowledge of medication. How are you going to stand out? How are you going to build upon your skillset, gaining soft skills and leadership abilities to supplement your classroom education? Regardless of how you choose to do so, make sure to take advantage of your time in pharmacy school to expand your toolbox before entering the profession.
Ethan Rawl is a second-year PharmD candidate at the Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences School of Pharmacy.