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Azita Alipour, PharmD, BCPP, CGP
Regional Behavioral Health Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States

Around this time of year, current PGY-2 psychiatric pharmacy residents are halfway through their training year and are looking to secure their first post-residency job. Not too long ago, during the 2008/9 residency year, I was one of those residents completing my PGY-2 psychiatric pharmacy residency at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. At the time, the global financial crisis created a very challenging job climate. Hiring freezes limited job availability and some employers even asked employees to take furloughs in order to save jobs. As if it was not challenging enough, I had the added obstacle of being geographically limited in my job search, due to family reasons, to an area saturated with psychiatric pharmacists. With no psychiatric clinical pharmacist positions available, I had to explore other job options.

The only clinical position posted in the area at the time was for a primary care clinical pharmacist. My PGY-1 residency in an ambulatory care setting had qualified me for the position, but my PGY-2 in psychiatric pharmacy gave me an edge over other applicants. Networking enabled me to communicate to the potential employer the value I could bring to the organization with this added training. My preceptor connected me with a psychiatric pharmacist who works for Kaiser Permanente in a different region who gave me great advice on how to market myself over other potential applicants. He provided me with examples of the impact of a psychiatric clinical pharmacist in his region, and I was able to use these examples during the interview to market myself and emphasize what I could potentially bring to the organization. He was also instrumental in providing guidance to prepare a presentation more specific for a managed care organization. Overall, networking and gaining the valuable advice for preparation for my interview allowed me to be successful, as I was offered the position soon after my interview. Then, after a couple of years as a primary care clinical pharmacist, a psychiatric pharmacist position was created at my institution, which I applied for and have held since.

The 2015 CPNP Residency Program Director (RPD) Survey results shows the majority of recent residents were able to secure a psychiatric or neurologic clinical specialist position post-residency. I reached out to program directors for feedback from their recent residents regarding their job searches. I received responses from four of them and summarized these responses below.

Helpful tips from four recent PGY-2 Psychiatric Pharmacy Residency Graduates:

  • During your job search – network, network, network! Focus on building a network during residency training and at the CPNP Annual Meeting. The connections you build by networking can help you be considered for posted jobs and find out about some positions that are not posted. Most started to look for jobs during Fall/Winter. One recent resident recommended utilizing Personal Placement Services (PPS) at the ASHP Midyear Clinical meeting and looking out for the ASHP job manager tool.
  • Application and Interview Materials/Preparation
    • Consider consulting with several of your preceptors to review your cover letter. Have your preceptors review and provide feedback regarding the interview process and help with preparing for interview questions.
    • Make sure to follow-up with the writers of your letters of recommendation frequently so they are done in a timely manner.
    • Some jobs may require a presentation during the interview. When preparing a presentation, try to make it applicable to the position which you are applying. You can also use your previously prepared presentations to your advantage. Because of the extensive literature review that was performed for a grand rounds presentation and, ultimately a manuscript, one resident found using this presentation helped her to be very prepared for the question and answer session after her presentation.
    • An added touch is to create a professional portfolio to take with you to your interviews. It can help showcase the quality of work you produce. It can also help serve as a useful reminder for you to be able to flip through during the interview if you get stumped by a question regarding a detail of your work/past project(s) that you cannot remember. Customize your professional portfolio to include the best examples of your work and highlight the knowledge and skills you possess for the job that you are applying. Also, consider having your preceptors review and provide feedback regarding your portfolio before you finalize and take it to the interview.

Acknowledgement: I would like to extend a special thank you to the following recent residents for sharing their job search experiences during residency for this article:

  • Christopher Noel, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at St. John Fisher College
  • Imran Qureshi, PharmD, Psychiatry Pharmacist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Jason Y Wong, PharmD, Clinical Psychiatric Pharmacist, San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Kristen N. Gardner, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist – Behavioral Health at Kaiser Permanente Colorado
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