No. It’s not your battered copy of Goodman & Gilman, nor your fancy new white smock (it won’t be white for long!). It’s not even your painfully earned immunization or BCPS certification. The most valuable career tool that you own is your personal list of pharmacy contacts.
I wish I knew this 20 years ago. Why didn’t they tell me this in school? I would have managed my opportunities to network and connect with other pharmacy professionals very differently. Today I get it. I view my relationships as far more valuable than I ever have in the past. Contacts are people whom I might be able to help and who, sometimes, might be able to help me.
But let me take a step back for a moment.
If most of you are like me, you have taken a relatively passive and casual approach to your contacts in your pharmacy career. You’ve met people. You remember a few classmates when you go to an event at your alma mater. You vaguely recall the names of a few of your professors. You might have the home address of a few co-workers that you still exchange Christmas cards with. But if I told you I would give $10 to you for every pharmacy contact you could personally notify (by phone or email) in the next hour…how much money would I lose on you? Fifty dollars? Eighty dollars? The average pharmacist I have spoken to about this would be hard pressed to be able to personally notify more than 10 pharmacy-related contacts. And that is often after decades of employment.
According to research done in the 1990’s by British scientist Robert Dunbar, the human being is capable of maintaining about 150 personal contacts on average based upon the size of our neocortex. His research looked back at such things as the average size of the Neolithic farming village and the typical size of the professional Roman army. Over and over the size of these and many other communities hovered around the 150 mark. Thus “150” became known as the “Dunbar number.”
Based upon that fact I would suggest that there is room for most of us to improve the number of pharmacy-related contacts that we maintain. Sure, some of those 150 will be personal friends and family. Some may be from other social settings, neighbors or church. But surely after all those are exhausted you are likely to have room for 50 or even 100 pharmacy-related contacts, don’t you?
The fact is that pharmacy-related contacts are more important than almost anything else when it comes to finding a great job, getting a better job or even maintaining job security. Do the research. Study the relationships between jobs and contacts. What you will likely discover is that your career typically rests much more on WHO you know as WHAT you know.
What is a pharmacy-related contact?
I define a “pharmacy-related contact” as a pharmacy professional (pharmacist, technician, pharmacy owner or employer, pharmacy recruiter, etc.) whom you can reach out to by means of a personal phone number or active email address AND with whom you have had some interaction beyond a simple social media interaction. In other words, if our only connection is simply that we are “friends” on Facebook or “connected” on LinkedIn – that’s not a “contact’ in the sense that I mean.
Where do you find contacts?
Contacts are everywhere. They include classmates and professors and pharmacists with whom you did an APPE rotation. They include every pharmacy professional that you have ever worked with in your career. They include individuals in your professional associations with whom you have had some level of communication and have exchanged contact information. They might include members of the Board of Pharmacy in your state. And they certainly CAN include other pharmacy professionals you have met online (like on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook) and have had some ADDITIONAL communication either by email or otherwise.
Since, by our definition, a pharmacy-related contact requires that you have their phone or email (preferably both) – the easiest way to get pharmacy contacts is to offer to share some information with them. Have you read a great article? Offer to email it to them. Seen something hilarious? Offer to email it. Know about a job offer near where someone lives? Offer to forward them the information via email. When doing so, be sure to include YOUR contact information in the email and ask for their phone # for your records.
How do you ORGANIZE your pharmacy contacts?
Here is the part where there is definitely no hard and fast rule. There are hundreds of contact management systems out there. Many digital versions are FREE and can be synced with your phone. However, I’m a personal fan of using a simple Excel spreadsheet to organize all my pharmacy-related contacts. It is fast, free (assuming you have Excel), transferable, compatible across virtually all devices, easy to backup and won’t crash or become obsolete.
Simply setup your columns to include the fields you want to capture, being sure to include all the obvious ones like first name, last name, address, home phone, cell phone, email, etc. I also recommend that you have a column called “Category” so that you can sort your contacts by any category that might be important to you (e.g. Professional association, Academia, Student, Recruiter, Pharmacy Tech, etc.).
In fact, if you want, I will EMAIL you for FREE the exact Excel template that I use for managing my own pharmacy related contacts! Not only that, but it will be pre-populated with my contact information – I would be honored to be the first contact on your new list.
JUST FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW FOR A FREE COPY!
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