Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rolling in the Deep: Preparing for Life Beyond Rotations

Posted by Adam Loyson at Sunday, April 06, 2014

I hope everyone has been staying warm these past few winter months and ready for spring! Since last writing about my rotation with the U.S. Indian Health Service, I find my rotation experience taking a twist. I am currently in the pediatric emergency department, preparing applications for postgraduate opportunities and beefing up my interviewing skills. As an attendee of the recent American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Midyear Clinical Meeting, I’d like to share my tips to help those who are pursuing residencies and fellowships and planning to attend next year’s meeting. For those with postgraduate training, entry-level job, and summer internship interviews looming on the horizon, I also provide valuable advice on networking skills and how to prepare for an interview.

Successful networking
   As a student pharmacist looking into nontraditional career paths, I found great networking communication skills a cornerstone for discovering unique opportunities and resources. The primary tool I used when reaching out to individuals outside of the college and at ASHP Midyear was my elevator speech as a personal introduction. I found that creating a 30-second summary of who I am, what I can contribute, why I wanted the position, and my future goals, was a very time-effective way to share my interests with others. It also gave those listening a helpful backdrop for providing advice. After creating an elevator speech, practicing with my pharmacy preceptors was a great way to receive valuable feedback and perfect my initial presentation. 

You’ve introduced yourself using an elevator speech; now what? I preplan my conversations by researching the individual’s background and outlining specific points I want to cover. After an elevator speech, I remember to keep the person I am talking with engaged in genuine conversation to show that I care about what he or she is saying. I do this by making good eye contact, using professional language, and periodically confirming I am listening by asking thoughtful questions. At the end of the conversation, I offer to exchange business cards for follow-up later. I receive the person’s business card with both hands and express my gratitude. This act displays respect, since in some cultures business cards serve as an extended representation of the person.

ASHP Midyear
    The networking skills I described above definitely helped me out at ASHP Midyear. At a conference where more than 20,000 attendees from more than 80 countries are competing to talk with representatives of postgraduate programs, every second of communication counts. Whether you attend the residency showcase, interview through the Personal Placement Service for residencies and fellowships, or seek entry-level positions at the exposition, the single most important thing is being prepared.  

Research the programs you are most interested in, find out where and when the program representatives will be available to talk to interested students, and bring a few copies of your updated CV. Don’t forget to dress business professional and prepare a few intelligent questions to ask of your own. Remember, you are also trying to find out if they will be a good fit for you.

Preparing to interview
    The key to getting an interview is an excellent CV. However, after you get the interview invitation, what do you do? My best advice is to be prepared (sense a theme?), be on time, and be professional. Based on my own experience, I can tell you that practice makes perfect. During an interview, demonstrate your interest in the position, show enthusiasm, be confident, and relax. Be yourself—the interviewers just want to get to know you better. Searching online for commonly asked interview questions beforehand can give you a feel for what to expect. If behavioral interview questions are asked, my recommendation is to answer using the STAR approach: describe the Situation, the Task, the Action, and the Result. After the interview, don’t forget to follow up by acknowledging your appreciation, your interest in the position, and reaffirming your qualifications with your interviewer. 

The next step
    Following the nontraditional pharmacy career pathway, I am seeking positions within the U.S. Public Health Service after graduation. After reaching out to individuals at FDA and Bureau of Prisons, reflecting on completed rotation experiences, and reviewing past shadowing opportunities, I have decided to apply for entry-level positions within both agencies. As future interviews approach, I will be following my own advice and hope my recommendations are useful for you as well.

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