Light at the end of the tunnel

I did it.  I finally got a job offer.  I even accepted it!  And I’m happy about this opportunity, I really am.  But to my surprise, the happiness is not unbridled.  There are also some feelings of ambivalence.

For a new pharmacy graduate, the traditional career paths are community pharmacy or hospital/institutional pharmacy.  Then there are “alternative” career paths in managed care, academia, federal agencies, and pharmaceutical industry.  My plan during pharmacy school was to go into hospital pharmacy, but for reasons that I still don’t really understand, the stars never aligned with that plan.  And because I was unable to secure residency training or an entry-level job at a hospital, it seems unlikely that I will ever find employment in a hospital setting.  Of course, I may be proven wrong; the job market may shift, and a good opportunity in hospital pharmacy may eventually open up to me.  But right now, I’ve set sail as an industry pharmacist, and that’s probably where I will find opportunities in the future as well.  This isn’t really a bad thing; I’ll benefit from a traditional work schedule with regular holidays.  I’m excited to contribute to drug development in a team environment.  I think that project-oriented positions suit me better than community pharmacy positions that are primarily concerned with customer service.  Clinical research probably also suits me better than the position of a hospital staff pharmacist.  Although I really enjoyed my clinical rotations at Baystate, I didn’t always like working in the shadow of prescribers… looking for medication errors but always deferring to the opinions of MDs.  At the time, I just trusted that I would feel more valued and productive after obtaining my pharmacy license.

From the opposite perspective, if I didn’t gain a position in industry right out of pharmacy school, it would probably be difficult to transition into industry later on.  So perhaps things worked out for the best?  Deep down, I’m just not convinced that this truly is the “best” path; I spent so much time during pharmacy focused on securing a residency at a large academic medical center that it’s hard to feel like this is the perfect opportunity, the one I have been eagerly waiting for.  But realistically, there probably is no such thing as a “best” path.  At this point, the “best” career path is the one that offers gainful and logistically feasible employment.

Maybe I’m just weary and jaded.  I had no less than 23 live interviews for 20 different positions over the past year.  Even if you ignore the residency/fellowship positions, I had 11 live interviews for 9 positions.  I’m happy that I finally landed a job offer, but I’m still haunted by the opportunities for which I ended up being the second choice candidate.  I’m even more bothered by the opportunities for which I was near the bottom of the list of candidates.  Yes, I now have a very respectable job offer from a very respectable company, but why haven’t I been invited for any fellowship interviews?  Why hasn’t the owner of the independent pharmacy followed up with me?  Why didn’t the CVS district manager for Sudbury  invite me to interview after the other district manager transferred my file to him?  My final victory was sweet, but it has come in the wake of so many disappointments, and I have some trouble grasping why securing a job has been this difficult.

Of course, it mostly boils down to (lack of) work experience, geographic constraints, and a very, very competitive job market for new graduates.  I guess I was naive.  I thought that an immaculate academic record, extensive professional involvement, extracurricular scholarly activities, and multiple honors and awards would be worth more.  Granted, everyone tells me that I have an impressive resume, but that wasn’t enough to quickly land me an entry-level job.  Being flexible and mild-mannered wasn’t enough, either.  And as the months passed, the fact that I hadn’t already found employment was beginning to be a stigma on its own… a red flag with no basis other than bad luck and a bad job market.

I wish I could just put it all behind me, but now I feel anxious that I won’t be able to keep my job and that I’ll end up at square one after my baby is born.  I have no legal right to maternity leave.  I just have to trust that I’ll be able to work out an arrangement for some sort of unpaid leave when the time comes.  Given the nature of my work and size of the company, it seems unlikely that I would be fired simply for needing a medical leave, but I have no guarantee, and that scares me a bit.  I don’t want to spend another year of my life looking for employment.  I’m an ambitious, results-oriented person, and job hunting was not a very fulfilling endeavor for me.  I did appreciate the time I was able to spend with Peter and with my extended family over the past 8 months, but even Peter has grown weary of being a stay-at-home only child.  He wants to play with other kids and participate in different activities.  I’m happy that he is able to return to his old day care; it should ease the transition to kindergarten.

It would be nice to have a few months to stay home with the baby after she arrives, but I mostly want to keep my career progressing now that it is finally getting off the ground.  So bake, Baby, bake!  I need you to be nice and big and healthy before you arrive.  I need cold and flu season to be over before you have to start day care.  I really, really want to complete my graduate certificate in clinical trial management before you take your first breath of air.  Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why that can’t happen, but it’s still hard to shake my memories of Peter’s abrupt arrival, and it’s hard to shake my memories from last March, when my best-laid plans fell through.

At this point, I guess I just have to trust that 2015 will be different.  I have to trust that good things come to people who work hard.  My academic advisor at Vanderbilt – an early baby boomer – reassured me that there would always be good opportunities for good people, and in his opinion, I was pretty good.  I lost faith in that reassurance in 2014.  My generation obviously doesn’t have the wealth of opportunities that the early baby boomers benefited from.  But hopefully, I can regain some faith in 2015.

So here’s to PAREXEL, the organization that finally decided to capitalize on my skills and experience and talent!  May we have a long, fruitful relationship within the laboratory logistics department!

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