Demystifying Networking for Students: Why These Skills are More Important Than Ever

By: Haley Whitehair, PharmD and Jaclyn Boyle, PharmD, MS, MBA, BCACP, BCPS

Networking. We all know this word, however, do student pharmacists know why networking is so important? When thinking back to when I was a student pharmacist, I remember my professors telling me I should “network.” However, I didn’t fully grasp the importance of this advice until I was pursuing a residency. As I continue in my career and reflect on the networking I have done, I regret not starting earlier. When networking, one shouldn’t think of only reaching out to potential employers. Meaningful connections should be created with classmates, faculty, pharmacist preceptors, and other medical professionals. By networking with these individuals, and doing this early on within your career, it allows you to create meaningful links that can help you both achieve your personal and professional goals while also discovering ways that you can serve others. So, how can we help student pharmacists with this endeavor?

  1. Professional organization involvement. We should explain how being involved with college-associated or work-associated organizations allow student pharmacists to meet and work with a diverse population. By working within these organizations, it allows others to get to know the student pharmacist and their work ethic, which is an important aspect when being considered for a job.1  There is also an added benefit of developing leadership skills that will contribute to professional growth and marketability upon graduation.
  2. Professional conferences. State, regional, and national conferences bring pharmacists from various backgrounds to one place. During this time, it is a great opportunity for student pharmacists to learn about different career options, practice informational interviewing, and get their name and face out there.1 
  3. Social media. In today’s society, social media now plays an important role in networking. To name a few, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been used as platforms to facilitate networking. It is important for student pharmacists to learn how to properly use these platforms to their advantage. Additionally, it is important to learn that if not properly used, these platforms can hurt career progression.2
  4. Mentorship. Mentors play an essential role in networking. Mentors show the student pharmacists the networking ‘ropes’ and assist them in meeting the people that may be able to influence their career goals.2  By having a strong connection with your mentor, an added benefit would be having access to their vast network. 

Network = Net Worth 

Aside from how & what, reinforcing the ‘why’ behind investing time and energy in the process of networking will help student pharmacists see the continued relevance of this practice to their futures. Several benefits can result from developing meaningful connections with other professionals: 

  • Gaining professional visibility: Having a broad network of connections both inside and outside of pharmacy can help an individual grow both professionally and personally. Gaining insight from various perspectives and collaborating on professional issues can increase one’s professional efficacy. 
  • Navigating a competitive job market: Developing meaningful relationships with other people will increase your mobility and allow you to find out about open positions before they ever reach the masses on a job board. 
  • Professional growth/learning/collaboration: If you want to emerge into a different area or specialty of pharmacy, meeting other professionals in that area is going to be beneficial in getting guidance on “how to break in.” If you’re weak in one area of pharmacy (i.e. pain management) but you connect with a pain pharmacist, you now have a contact to ask for a second opinion.
  • Developing non-clinical communication skills: You should consider how developing interpersonal skills now will benefit your entire career. Yes, it is important to establish strong foundational knowledge in communicating recommendations related to clinical care, but communication skills related to the affective domain should be given the same level of attention and consideration. 
  • Be seen as a helpful resource in the profession: You should consider how providing value to others will allow you to be seen as a helpful resource in the profession and a valuable person to have in one’s professional network.

Best Practices in Networking?

Aside from extra-curricular activities, student pharmacists should also be provided with the framework to develop effective networking skills during their academic careers. The Academy should consider developing tools or guidance around “best practices” in developing communication skills in networking situations. Colleges and schools of pharmacy can host networking simulations/events to allow student pharmacists to practice networking skills that are built into curricular, co-curricular, and/or organization opportunities. The Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) outcomes 3.6, 4.1, and 4.4 could easily be demonstrated and evaluated through simulation and/or reflection on these activities.3  

What other networking tips and benefits do you discuss with student pharmacists? 

References:

  1. O’Shea T. How to Network Within the Pharmacy World. Pharmacy Times. 2014-11-24.
  2. Jannsen M. Social Networking and e-Professionalism. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2009;66(18):1672.
  3. Medina MS, Plaza CM, Stowe CD, et al. Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education 2013 Educational Outcomes. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(8):162. 

Haley Whitehair is a PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center. Educational scholarship interests include mentoring and precepting students, professional engagement, and interprofessional education. In her free time, Haley enjoys traveling, learning, and experiencing new cultures and being social.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/h0I2jGwKO6xJIaTxnYOEfHNCMLQv3ynHoGdF7c6DlU_w-60bLYIRqQZSlvryphV_4X3K-CjWcRp3ep9QupPopR0NmrQO2NN1u9nBhM1acCYPuBC6tMkePU3a8tqYrTpiO9BDgvKUmOO_ry4aQQ

Jaclyn Boyle is an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include professional development, preparing learners for careers in academia, and evaluating novel teaching and assessment methods. Jaclyn is very active in professional pharmacy organizations. In her free time, Jaclyn enjoys spending time with her family & friends, spinning, and yoga.


Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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