What are your plans after graduation?
Get the most out of your rotations and don’t stress about the future, advises Susan Dembny.
The question asked most often to students on APPE rotations is, “What are your plans after graduation?” This question is well meaning, as it is asked so a rotation can be tailored to building skills that will prepare the student for their future career. For students like me who do not know what they want to do after graduation, this question can feel incredibly stressful.
To every APPE student feeling the pressure of uncertainty, I empathize with you. It is stressful. I have had many a sleepless night worrying about the future. There are 100 other things to be stressed about right now, so I am here to offer some advice on how to get the most out of rotations when you don’t know what you want to do after graduation.
Keep an open mind
There is a reason ACPE doesn’t allow you to do all your rotations in one area. The whole point of rotations is to experience new things. You will never have an experience like it again, where you are able to try an area of pharmacy with no commitment. Even if you think you may not like the rotation going in, keeping an open mind will allow you to get the most out of it. When you don’t allow pre-conceived notions to get in the way of your learning, you will be shocked with how much you can enjoy a rotation.
When your preceptor asks the dreaded question, “What are your plans after graduation?” don’t just give an answer for the sake of giving an answer. The best answer you can give is the honest one. My go-to answer is something along the lines of: “I’m not sure where my future career will take me, but I am interested in (e.g. pharmacogenomics), and I hope in this rotation to see how I can possibly use my interests in this field of pharmacy.” This answer allows the preceptor to help tailor the rotation to your interests, and they may be able to provide insight on where they think your talents and interests fit.
Always say yes
Be willing to take on projects other students don’t want to take on. The more projects and experiences you take on, the more insight you gain on what you want to do in your future career. Who knows, maybe a project you do on rotation will introduce you to a passion you did not know you had.
Enjoy the learning experience
Being unsure about the future can be incredibly frustrating. Rotations can show that being unsure is not something to be ashamed of, it’s not abnormal, and “I don’t know” is not a dirty phrase. Instead of stressing about the future, try to enjoy the experiences you are having and treat it like it is: a learning experience.
You have a 40-plus-year career ahead of you, so not knowing at this exact moment what the future looks like is not going to define you.
Susan Dembny is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy and the 2020–21 APhA–ASP Speaker of the House.