Want to Find Your Passion in Pharmacy? Do This
This article originally appeared on The Happy PharmD.
“You’ve got to find what you love.”
Steve Jobs, 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford University
Few people choose pharmacy because of a passion for the industry.
Although there are likely an occasional few who truly understand what they are signing up for and who are passionate about their work, most choose it for other reasons.
Passion and pharmacy seem completely unrelated to most people.
If you were to review Jobs’ career, though, you’d eventually discover that he didn’t necessarily follow his own advice. If he had, he would have become a Zen Buddha instructor, because he was enamored with the practices. Or a dancer. He wasn’t initially passionate about business, technology, programming or product design.
Cal Newport, in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You (affiliate link), argues against the idea of chasing your passions to discover your ideal career.
Cal suggests that pre-existing passions don’t make great careers. In fact, pre-existing passions usually amount to little more than hobbies, like dance or sports.
Instead, he argues, passion is born out of hard work, which can inspire a passion for what you do. He believes that developing a skill is the key to developing a career, but he laments that most people never choose that path.
I recently took part in Seth DePasquale’s podcast Pharmacy Inspection, where we discussed how he launched a career in compounding. He began his pharmacy career in retail and hospital settings but never saw those as his passion. Seth recalls that when he took a part-time job at a veterinary compounding clinic simply to be closer to home and to support his family, he discovered something new that he enjoyed.
Seth also said if he had the chance, he would encourage his younger self to try new things in an attempt to find a true career. Like others before him, he discovered that passion often emerges when you try new things, and when you’re willing to risk looking stupid.
I stumbled into my own love of teaching when I realized in my final year of pharmacy school that my CV was scrawny and lacking. I hadn’t built the kind of relationships that would help me bulk it up, and it seemed to me that my only option was to volunteer for presentations.
When I did, I found that I loved teaching.
Articles that incite you to “follow your passion” are only telling part of the story because the world rarely rewards people who do so. The truth is that succeeding in your passion is a mixture of factors.
The Japanese have it figured out
Like the Japanese concept of ikigai, finding meaningful work is a combination of four elements: what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be paid to do, and what the world needs.
Ikigai teaches that when you find the overlap between all four elements, you will find the work you were meant to do. On the other hand, if you pursue only what you’re good at or what you love, you might find temporary passion, but you won’t find fulfillment. Eventually, you’ll become complacent in your work.
Many pharmacists feel this way about their own work. They’d like to be doing something bigger and more meaningful but they aren’t sure what that is.
Discovering what you love and how it fits into your pharmacy career demands getting messy and trying new things. It means volunteering for new projects and learning about things that other people are working on.
Begin by networking with people in industries you have no business knowing anything about. Volunteer your time. It’s how Collin Lafayette got involved in Roman, a men’s health company to combat erectile dysfunction.
Getting started doesn’t have to be hard. The Happy PharmD Summit is specifically designed for pharmacists who feel stuck in their careers but aren’t sure how to move forward. The summit features pharmacists just like you who found a niche in non-traditional pharmacy; pharmacists who tried something different and discovered fulfilling work along the way.
The Happy PharmD Summit is absolutely free, and it will address some of your greatest fears about salary, networking, and transitioning to a new job.
The inaugural Happy PharmD Summit taught me the importance of building relationships with other people in the industry who can share their knowledge, and the importance of including entrepreneurship in any discussion of non-traditional pharmacy options.
The summit is a perfect opportunity to explore new possibilities. There’s absolutely no risk involved. You simply sign up and show up to hear the stories of pharmacists like you who were unfulfilled in their careers. Their stories, together with our knowledge about transitioning to a new job, will position you to find fulfilling work and avoid the burnout plaguing so many pharmacists.
Jobs also said this in his commencement speech:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”
Your search begins with The Happy PharmD Summit.
Alex Barker, PharmD, is a pharmacist by day, a pharmacist career coach by early morning, and family man at night. He’s helped over 100 pharmacists find new jobs and start new businesses. He's a fan of freedom and minimalism. He paid off his house 27 years early and became 100% debt free 5 years after graduation. He pursues self-experimentation like a 30-day rejection challenge and reading one book every day, but also loves Japanese anime, coffee, and all things Star Wars.