By Anjoli Punjabi, PharmD, MPH
Hi Ami! It sounds like you have had an exciting and meaningful experience at Midyear and throughout the interview process. My number one piece of advice to mentees as they go through it is “trust the process,” whether it be the Match, fellowships, or landing your first job as a pharmacist.
This can be a stressful time, with a lot of unknowns. There is no right or wrong answer for what you choose as your next step. Everyone ends up at a site that provides an important learning experience and valuable training as a part of a long and impactful career.
Evaluate personal factors
Much like you, I reached my decision by weighing important priorities. I interviewed at nine different sites for ambulatory care residency positions and made a spreadsheet comparing different factors. As you noted, some factors are likely important to all candidates across the board, such as geography, alignment with the site’s mission and vision, salary, and preceptorship. I also recommend that candidates evaluate factors that are of personal importance to themselves.
For me, some of these personal factors included considering the amount of teaching experience available, opportunity to work with underserved populations, and ability to pursue impactful practice development research. It can be very helpful to compile all your factors in one document after each site visit so that you can easily compare this information. An additional way to evaluate different programs and sites is to research the career paths of fellows and residents who have trained at these sites and to ask yourself which of these career paths speaks to you the most.
However, as you mentioned, at some point it comes down to fit. When you talked about traveling from coast to coast for interviews, it brought back memories of my travels for residency interviews. This travel time is a great opportunity to get to know the communities you may be working in. I recommend trying the local cuisine and going sight-seeing! Current residents and fellows often have great recommendations on places to check out. One question to ask yourself is, “Can I see myself living here for the duration of the program and perhaps beyond?” As you visit each site, you will get a feel for the sites that will provide you with strong preceptorship and a well-rounded experience to launch your career.
I still remember nervously entering my residency rankings in PhORCAS the day before they were due. Two sites stood out clearly as my top choices, but choosing between the two was difficult. I kept in mind that there is no right and wrong choice and that I could have an equally wonderful but different experience at both sites.
One sentiment that really stuck out to me in your reflections was that you felt humbled by your opportunities. This is a wonderful attitude to have as you meet with various programs. Student pharmacists have invested many hours in applications and interview preparation along with the hard work of their PharmD program. Likewise, sites have put a great deal of thought into designing an intentional experience that will provide a strong foundation for your career as a pharmacist.
As you interview for various postgraduate opportunities, do not forget to express your gratitude. I recommend sending handwritten thank-you cards to the interviewers at each site. These messages should be customized to reflect what you most appreciate about the site and the opportunity.
Prepare for what comes next
You also asked what other pivotal decisions I have had to make as a new practitioner. The next decision after residency or fellowship is to determine your next career opportunity. Will you stay with the same company or institution? Perhaps consider academia? Maybe you want to start your own business. As my second year of residency is coming to an end, I have been asking myself these same questions.
Knowing what my guiding principles are has been immensely helpful in this process. For me these include working with underserved populations to reduce health care disparities, contributing to the training and development of student pharmacists, and pursuing work that is innovative and advances the profession. No matter what stage of your career, I encourage you to determine your guiding principles. This can be so helpful when making pivotal career decisions.
I have not yet made my final decision, but I am confident that with my guiding principles in mind, I can make an intentional next choice for career growth and success. I know that all the student pharmacists out there will be able to do the same as they complete their pharmacy education this year. Good luck, glad you enjoyed APhA2019 in Seattle, and early congratulations to you and the 2019 graduating class!