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Advice to Pharmacy Students Interested in Consulting or Non-Pharmacy Avenues

As a pharmacy student in the mid 90’s, it wasn’t abundantly clear what my career prospects were beyond retail or hospital pharmacy (maybe I wasn’t paying attention). Residencies, fellowships, and the like were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now. All that said, my path from pharmacist to consultant was not linear. While the clinical aspects of pharmacy were always interesting to me, I quickly began to gravitate towards financials, operational improvement, regulatory policy, and technology.

To paraphrase Mark Cuban, “One of the great lies of life is to just follow your passions.”  In reality, you might not always excel at what you’re passionate about. Instead, I believe it’s important to pay attention to those things you devote time to. Looking back, I devoted a lot of time to learning about how financials and financial markets work, how to manage complex projects, and how to decipher regulatory text and apply this all to the real world through self-study and graduate education.

If I had to identify my biggest regret, it is that I was always looking for a safety net. After I became a pharmacist, I played tug-of-war between a pharmacist’s salary and opportunities that “lit me up”. It wasn’t until I graduated from business school, shortly after the financial crisis, that I swallowed my pride and took on roles that paid far less than what a pharmacist might earn, just because the work was interesting.  This single paradigm shift shaped the rest of my career. My path is a perfect example of taking two steps backwards in order to move ten steps forward. 

The purpose of my story is to highlight a few key pieces of advice for pharmacy students interested in consulting or non-pharmacy avenues:

1. Notice the things that you are drawn to. Where do you choose to spend your time? 

2. Immerse yourself in the areas you are interested in, and learn about them as much as possible.

3. Get involved in things that you’re excited about, and learn by doing.

4. In order to accomplish #3, don’t be afraid to take steps that might feel like you’re moving backwards. It will all make sense later on.