January 10, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical SciencesWebsite
Rachael Perry: For pharmacy graduates, I think we are going to see greater demand as hospitals and community pharmacies continue to ramp up the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers, and patients trust them, so community pharmacies are a great access point for vaccine administration. There is also some skepticism about the vaccine. Pharmacists are going to be essential in explaining the science behind the vaccine and the importance of receiving it to the public.
Rachael Perry: I think it is important that graduates are able to articulate their skills to employers beyond just listing them generically on a resume or CV. As a pharmacist, communication skills are essential but listing "strong communication skills" is something everyone can put on their resume. Giving specific examples, numbers, or quantifiable metrics to demonstrate that you actually have those skills is much better. You also want to be sure that your CV/resume and cover letter are pristine, free of grammatical and spelling errors, because that is likely going to be the first impression of your communication skills.
Rachael Perry: The good news for pharmacy graduates is there are jobs all over the country! There is usually a demand for pharmacists in rural or underserved communities, so there are a lot of opportunities in those areas.
Department of Pharmacy Practice
Michael Bottorff: One of the responses to the pandemic that has had a significant impact on pharmacy is the recognition of the role pharmacists can play in a public health crisis. We teach about public health and inform students of public health opportunities, but very few graduates go into this field. I expect the pandemic will stimulate more students to consider this aspect of pharmacy practice. In addition, pharmacists have stepped up to be front-line providers of the recently approved vaccines and will play a vital role in the timely administration of the COVID vaccines in the next several months.
Another lasting impact of the pandemic is the recognition that a lot of health care can be delivered in a virtual environment. Primary care medical practice has had to adapt to providing less care with in-office appointments and becoming more virtual in care delivery.
Michael Bottorff: We often ask this question of employers and members of the dean's advisory council. The response is consistently the need for communication skills and people management skills. We do try to stress these in our curriculum, which has traditionally focused on drug facts. These skills are occasionally difficult to demonstrate on a resume, but being active and taking a leadership role in a student organization is one way.
Michael Bottorff: As every pharmacy school has been offering the Doctor of Pharmacy degree since the year 2000, students need to consider how to acquire additional skills and experiences that make them stand out. Working with faculty on research projects is one way, particularly if that project results in a poster presentation or publication in a journal. Another option would be to consider graduating with an additional degree. Some pharmacy schools offer a combined Pharm.D./MBA degree. At Manchester, we offer the combined Pharm.D./Masters in Pharmacogenomics dual degree, and many students have already selected that option over the last few years. Another way to strengthen a resume is to consider post-graduate opportunities prior to entering the workforce; these could include pharmacy residencies, fellowships and a master's or Ph.D. in a specific pharmacy discipline, such as pharmacology or medicinal chemistry.
University of Michigan College of Pharmacy
Department of Clinical PharmacyWebsite
Dr. Jolene Bostwick: I hope the enduring impact will be how the general public and policymakers observe how pharmacists can positively impact disease screening, treatment, education, and prevention, aligning with our graduate-level training.
Specific to the workforce, however, I think the overall process of recruitment and interviewing will forever be changed. Specific to pharmacy residencies or fellowships, while our graduates have fared well, the competition for these positions continues to increase. With the transition to virtual recruitment, students will need to work harder to find programs that are a good fit and that meet their needs/align with their career goals - especially related to the culture of the organization, which may be difficult to determine if on-site visits are limited. Programs will need to innovate to attract graduates as well. In the virtual environment, we have seen more pre-interview virtual screening before the formal interview invitation, indicating students must make a good virtual impression. I anticipate virtual interview pre-screening will be more commonplace even post-Covid.
I also anticipate the enduring impact will honestly align with several of the services provided and skills possessed by our graduates, including (but not limited to):
- Providing immunizations
- Mental health first aid training
- Patient access to medications
- Medication adherence
- Drug shortage management
- Expanded scope of practice to meet demands of patients during pandemic
- Delivery services
- Patient education, including dispelling misinformation
- Disease screening
- Development of treatment protocols and policies/guidelines
- Patient recruitment for clinical trials
- Antimicrobial stewardship
Dr. Jolene Bostwick: I feel our graduates are currently well-prepared to enter the workforce regardless of the practice setting they decide to pursue. In the context of Covid, I don't think much has changed here. Some examples include:
- Continued focus on interdisciplinary collaboration
- Advocacy and leadership
- Verbal and non-verbal communication skills and other "soft skills" for interacting with patients and other healthcare professionals, as always
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Practicing evidence-based medicine
- Engaging with vulnerable patient populations to optimize care, including patients with mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance use disorders) and other underserved or marginalized populations
Dr. Jolene Bostwick: Research and writing - With the vast majority of our students going on to pursue post-graduate training, their experiences in designing, conducting, and in some cases, publishing their research - something they will do as part of their additional training - can certainly standout.
Broad rotation experiences
Leadership in student pharmacy organization(s) - doesn't need to be "President" - could lead an event or initiative. Best to find your passion.
Work experience - clinical internship, if possible, but not necessary - any internship experience to explore a specific field/area of pharmacy
Extra work to explore interests - it may be a special project with a mentor or preceptor that aligns with your interests or fills a gap in your experience.