Your career copilot
Nedra Geddes-McCarthy is a third-year PharmD candidate at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy, Fort Lauderdale/Davie Campus.
If you asked me during my first year of pharmacy school to summarize my pharmacy journey in one word, my reply would have been “tumultuous.” Pharmacy school is not meant to be a walk in the park, and even though I knew that, navigating it felt like a turtle running a 100-meter dash against Usain Bolt. Doing this virtually during a pandemic made it even worse. I was excited to start a new journey; but at the same time, I was a bit anxious as I didn’t know what to really expect. Although trying to unravel the mystery of pharmacy school to maximizes one’s experience is a necessary learning process, it can be quite daunting to do it alone. That is why a mentor is so important.
A source of direction
Currently, as I negotiate pharmacy school, a great deal of my growth came from seeking external guidance from someone who has experience in my field of interest. My mentor brought focus and clarity into my life. With her guidance, I was better able to put my goals into perspective. She highlighted the need to be intentional with whatever tasks I undertake so that they align with my career path. Choosing to do things in an arbitrary fashion and grasping every opportunity that arises is like throwing 10 balls into the air and hoping to catch them all. Believe me, even the best of jugglers will sometimes miss a few! With that in mind, I deliberately devote my time and attention to what will assist me in achieving my long-term goals.
Additionally, she helped shape how I project myself in interviews. I am a nervous wreck when it comes to interviews. However, she elucidated the point of making every experience count, whether good or bad—to take a mental picture of them and create stories. Approaching experiences as stories to share during interviews gave me an edge and helped prevent rambling. Now I am more prepared for any challenge that typically intimidates me, as my confidence has grown.
My mentor also serves as a source of direction. She even guides me in areas where I can volunteer my free time and give back to my community; it did not even occur to me that volunteering at a soup kitchen would be an option. She encourages me to acquire certificates outside of my school curriculum, such as being a Mental Health Aid. This not only serves to expand my scope of expertise but can also be used to advance patient care.
Emboldened to take risks
As I update my resume, I realize that I have accomplished a lot because of the relationship that I have fostered with my mentor. Through her constructive feedback, I learned how to overcome my fears by failing forward. This has emboldened me to take on risks, such as writing this article.
Do not feel disheartened if you have completed your first year of pharmacy school without a mentor. While some students are lucky to be referred to mentors from day one, sometimes you must reach out to one. Start now and be intentional! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.