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It was a happy accident.
My colleague and I traded assignments at work – she became the course director and I became the rotation director. In pharmacy education, this means that my rotation would be one of their last stops on their journey from ‘pharmacy student’ to ‘pharmacist.’ Before I realized it, I found myself sitting across the table from college students who were graduating in just a few months. What guidance could I offer?
As a Professor I interact with students year-round. I thought I had a good handle on knowing their wants, desires, challenges, pain points, and favorite professor (spoiler alert: wasn’t me). But what I learned from this group, and the following group, and the following group, is that they didn’t feel great about the transition from student to pharmacist. They asked questions about networking, resumes, interviewing, career paths, and workplace culture.
So I dove in to learn more. I asked questions like I was an outside consultant. I loaned them a book, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College by Alexandra Levit and we discussed the chapters. I brought in different alumni to discuss concepts from the book and offer career advice. This experience showed me that there was a gap in our profession. Students were craving this type of content; yet, I couldn’t find a go-to resource to refer them to.
I started a website! It took 6 months of thinking about it and many false starts before it went live. In the pharmacy world, we don’t have many entrepreneurs. This is ironic, of course, because our country strongly supported independently-owned pharmacies on every Main Street for decades. As those doors closed, so did a lot of innovation and spark. I didn’t have many blogger/influencer examples to draw upon, especially within my own organization. All I knew was that I had an idea to help bridge the gap from student to pharmacist.
Much like raising humans, as I’ve learned, there’s no blueprint to starting your own business. With both motherhood and careerhood, it’s trial and error, learning from the pros, listening to podcasts, joining groups, speaking proudly of your efforts, and letting go of perfection, and calling your mom on a bad day.
For me, I started from a place of wanting to learn more about myself:
One helpful step was joining a mastermind group. It was full of female professionals who all had a ‘side hustle’ (well, except me). I listened to their questions. I cheered them on from the Midwest sidelines. I heard about email lists and blog posts and social media engagement. And I thought: If they can do this, I can do this! But I needed a thing. A side hustle. Something that would keep me awake at night creating lists of ideas and topics and speakers and events.
My mind wavered. “You have a day job,” it said. “And let me remind you how busy you are,” it chirped. But I knew I needed something more, professionally. I knew there was more for me in pharmacy education. I knew I had something to offer. But I also knew I had no idea what I was doing, no idea how to package this, and no idea if my ideas were worth any likes.
My day job, academia, is often held back from innovation due to a long lag time from idea to actual event. Ideas, even the excellent ones, take months and sometimes years to come to fruition. In a world of excessive documentation, required signatures, and very little funding, there weren’t many examples of bloggers, creators, and game-changers. Who was I to think I could create this online community to positively impact our profession? Who would follow me, “like” my out-of-the-box ideas, and share share share? Lucky for me, I’m not a perfectionist and I don’t buy into negative self-talk, so I had those things on my side.
I shared my idea with people who I trusted, I asked a local lawyer/mom for some legal advice and paid her back in wine, I asked another local graphic designer/mom to design a logo and paid her back with $100, I used a website template for dummies, and made a list of blog ideas. One of the many books I read suggested that if you have more than 25 topics then you have a ‘thing.’ My list was double so I thought I was in good shape. On go-live day I emailed 200 of my closest colleagues and people I barely knew to ask them to check it out and share with their students (“Never ask THEM if they’re interested, ask them if they KNOW SOMEONE who would be interested,” a wise Yoda-like mentor once told me).
I told myself that if I help one person, then I’m ok with that. When the messages started coming in from students thanking me and showing their support, I thought, maybe there IS something here. When I create blogs and vlogs, I’m showing up for them: my small tribe. I am almost a year in and still need a lot of help. The Founding Moms came into my life at a great time to help me with the next steps.
I stopped relying on other people to set my expectations and career goals. I stopped waiting for external validity to confirm my strengths. I started something without knowing the final destination. I started something knowing I would fail and have to get back up.
In academia, we take calculated risks. As professors, we love data-heavy pilot projects, rubrics, and blazers. Rarely is something posted ‘on a whim’ or ‘just for fun.’ It took major guts to launch this! I think one day I’ll look back and say, ‘You tried, babe, and look how you grew.” I found an area within my profession that was untapped. You probably see one, too. I’m exercising my creativity to build something from a little ol’ idea. You have ideas, too. Moving from concept to action without asking for anyone’s permission is without a doubt rewarding and terrifying. But isn’t that why we’re all here?
Brooke L. Griffin, PharmD, BCACP is the founder of 21st Century PharmD. Her family and dog are awesome amazing double thumbs up explosion and we have a secret code word that cheers us all up. She dislikes coconut but loves piña coladas on vacation.