As a pharmacy student in pursuit of a post-doctoral fellowship in the pharmaceutical industry, you are probably feeling like attending ASHP Midyear and interviewing well was the be-all and end-all of furthering your career. However, not all P4 students hoping to land an industry position have the opportunity to fly out to the conference and only a small amount who do attend actually land positions during midyear. The bad news? Competition is fierce and it only gets more brutal every year. The good news? I am here to tell you that ASHP Midyear is not the only way to get your foot in industry’s door so that you can begin your fellowship the summer after graduation. There are other opportunities waiting for you just around the corner, but you must be prepared to take advantage of every single one that comes your way in order to establish yourself professionally.
Last year, I returned home from the happiest place on earth (Orlando, ASHP Midyear 2017) having secured a few on-sites, but was devastated to learn that I did not actually secure a fellowship position. I had been hoping for a fellowship since my P1 year and it felt like all my chances to do what I really wanted in my career were eliminated. My hopes were shattered and I had no idea what to do next. It felt surreal and it took a lot of motivation and courage not to give up right then and there.
Instead, I decided I would work to establish myself as the best candidate left on the market. I knew that not all fellowship programs recruited at Midyear, and those programs were still looking for top talent. I reached out to people I knew in industry—past managers, rotation preceptors, university professors, networking connections I made throughout the years, etc. — and let everyone in my network know that I was available and looking for a position. Next, I reached out to Jim Alexander, IPhO Executive Director, with whom I worked closely while establishing my school’s organizational chapter, and asked for his recommendations on next steps.
That’s when I was introduced to FellowMatch, a tool that is dedicated to highlighting open fellowship positions and making it easy for students to apply directly on the IPhO website. What many students don’t realize—I know I didn’t—is that while some students are left without fellowship positions, many fellowship positions go unfilled! Some fellowship programs do not even fill their seats at Midyear, and others (like mine) do not even recruit until after the conference.
Talking to some of my role models helped me reinvent my letter of intent to focus more heavily on my past industry and leadership experiences. I emphasized everything that made me unique on my CV, as well as in my cover letters, because they allowed me to really set myself apart from the crowd. You have to find your own voice and highlight your greatest strengths—both past experiences and soft skills (i.e. effective communication, a strong work ethic, time management ability, flexibility, and problem-solving). Above all, focus on honesty and integrity and develop authentic and memorable responses that will stand out to your interviewers.
Yes, Midyear is over. But if you are searching for a fellowship, you still have time and you still have opportunities (and good ones). I secured my current fellowship position in April, months after Midyear. Once I got past the initial shock, I made the decision to believe in myself, walk with confidence, work my networks, reach out to colleagues on LinkedIn, speak with past preceptors and managers, check FellowMatch and LinkedIn job postings daily, reposition myself, accept that everything happened for a reason, and fight for what I knew I wanted.
Your fellowship is waiting for you—go out and find it.
Authored by Irina Katz, BioNJ Entrepreneurship Fellow, 2018-2020