The job market for pharmacists has taken an ugly turn

There was a time when I could have found half a dozen pharmacist job openings in one afternoon. Now I find myself in a position where I can’t even find one.

It’s no secret that I was laid off several weeks ago; July 25th to be exact. I don’t know why I was laid off, only that my position was eliminated. I didn’t really think to ask any questions at the time as I was in a state of disbelief. I’ve been a pharmacist for just over 16 years and during that time I had never been laid off, fired, or “let go”. This is officially uncharted territory. I’m told that this kind of thing “happens in business”. Sucks anyway.

Several people reached out with condolences and words of support, but it came from people that I didn’t expect. The people I thought I’d hear from I didn’t. I suppose it’s time like these when you separate out the pretenders from the real thing. I digress.

After allowing myself a few days to get past the anger and disbelief, I started the task of finding a new job. First I had to decide whether I wanted to continue to do something similar to what I had been doing for the past 32 months, or simply go back to practicing as a real pharmacist. I liked being a product manager. I enjoyed applying my pharmacy knowledge to technology. It was a no-brainer, I would try to stay in the same field and get a job doing the same thing with a different company.

I reached out to all the companies in the pharmacy automation and technology space I could think of. Some had positions, some didn’t. Some wanted to talk, some didn’t. One wasn’t “the right fit”. One wanted more experience in “marketing”. And so on down the line. Short answer, I couldn’t find anything similar. I’m sure there’s a position out there somewhere, but like the first job I took as a product manager it won’t likely be on a job board anywhere. It’ll come through someone who knows someone. That seems to be the way things work.

With my primary objective fading, I decided to call all the pharmacy directors I knew in the area and ask for a staff position. Staff positions are easy to come by, right? Not so. There are no hospital staff pharmacist positions within 50 miles of my home. So I expanded my search grid and still came up empty. Moving on.

With a full-time position as a hospital pharmacist looking less and less likely, I decided to take some part-time or per diem work. Plus it would be a good way to get my foot in the door at one of the local hospitals. Unfortunately my timing appears to be bad. As one of my friends that works as a pharmacy operations manager in the area said, “this has never happened before, but <hospital name redacted> has nothing, not a single opening”. This is unheard of in the Central Valley of California.

With my hopes of picking up some work in a local hospital shattered, I decided to move on to something less desirable; retail pharmacy. I’m not a fan, but bills don’t pay themselves. I checked with the big chains in the area and found that they had no open positions. Unbelievable, literally. I thought there was an anti-Jerry conspiracy in play. Retail pharmacy has been the fallback position for pharmacists looking for work for years.

So now I’m looking into alternatives. I’ve started looking at positions out of state, which is complicated because: 1) I’m only licensed in California, and 2) my daughter has two years left in high school. I would hate to uproot her now. I’ve considered doing some consulting. Someone recommended it because of my background. The idea has turned into an enigma. Consulting work sounds great because it offers potential variety, but how do you get started? Seriously, it doesn’t just walk up and knock on your door. Or does it? Doubtful.

So the bottom line is this, it’s not a great time to be a pharmacist out of work. I never, ever thought there would come a time when finding work as a pharmacist would take anything more than a quick phone call. I wonder what all the new grads that just got out of pharmacy school are doing.

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