It’s such a simple word, but yet so incredibly important at the same time. Whether you’re aiming to be a brain surgeon, or an Olympic Champion, it can be very difficult to aspire to something when you don’t even know it exists and thus don’t know the steps to take to get there. Furthermore, it’s difficult to picture yourself doing something when you’ve never see anyone who looks like you doing it.
Thankfully, this was not the case for me growing up as a young girl envisioning how I wanted my adult life to look. And now as an adult, I understand how much of a privilege it was to not have faced those specific additional barriers in life.
My dad is a retired physician, and I have several aunts, uncles, and cousins who are physicians, or other types of health care providers. Couple that with the fact that I’m Nigerian and growing up many of us are told that we must be a doctor, engineer, lawyer or *insert any other “prestigious” career choice. My feelings on the overwhelming pressure some Nigerian parents place on their children to succeed is complicated, but that’s a different conversation for another day. Maybe another blog.
But let’s stay on track.
Growing up I was the kid that my parents always told would be a doctor, and I embraced it. I loved math and science from a young age, I was gifted in school, I loved helping people, and I’ve always been a very hard worker. Perfect combination for a child on track to fulfill her dreams. That is, until I took a deep look inward and realized that becoming a physician was my parents’ dream for me, and not really one for myself.
Now let me preface this by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for physicians, and the commitment they make to give us the care we all appreciate. But when I learned more about Medicine, and took the time to really evaluate what I wanted in life, it was very clear that being a physician was not for me.
So how did I land on pharmacy?
I knew I wanted a career that would give me a lot of time outside of work for family. The idea of being “married to my job” was never an attractive prospect.
I knew I wanted a career that was stable and would allow me the ability to find work easily after graduation.
I knew I wanted a career that paid well. We are keeping it real right? Money isn’t the most important factor to me, but financial freedom has always been a goal of mine.
I knew I wanted a career that allowed me to help people and directly impact the quality of life for others. Even in my younger years I knew that I was called to serve people.
I knew I wanted a career that had flexibilty. This aspect of Pharmacy, in hindsight, has been the most impactful in my life. Having the ability to work part time allowed me to simultaneously explore other endeavors like being a professional athlete for over twelve years, being a real estate investor, as well as an entrepreneur. Track changed my life (read this blog) and I am grateful that Pharmacy gave me the space to tap into my other interests.
Pharmacy is a combination of all the aspects I listed, plus more so I knew it would be a great for me. After researching extensively about the profession, I was locked in and began devising a plan.
I reached out to the dean of admissions, the Late Valeneer Perry, at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy the summer before my freshman year. Yes guys, I was that high schooler. She provided me with a list of admission prerequisites, advice on class schedule, and became an invaluable resource during my jounery. Without her guidance and exhibition of “tough love” I know my path to Pharmacy wouldn’t have been as smooth as it was. May she rest in peace. With Dean Perry’s help, and a lot of hard work, I was able to finish the undergraduate requirements in 3 years (while most people do it in 4) and gain admittance to U of M’s college of Pharmacy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Advice for someone considering Pharmacy
If you’re considering going into pharmacy, I suggest doing your research, trying to shadow in various practice settings, and when the time comes, use your pharmacy rotations as a way to truly figure out what practice setting you love.
While many people immediately think of retail as the main area where pharmacists practice, there are several different types of pharmacists. You can work in the clinical (hospital) setting where you may round with physicians and nurses, or even in Industry Pharmacy where you can work in marketing and/or research of drugs, just to name a few.
I personally knew I wanted to go into retail pharmacy from day one because the setting really caters to my personality type, and I also love the patient interaction opportunities. Conversely, I have colleagues who are amazing pharmacists, but wouldn’t be caught dead working in retail pharmacy. Every person is different, and this goes back to figuring out what works for you.
Would I choose pharmacy if I could do it all over?
As with everything in life, no profession is perfect, and Pharmay is no different. There are a lot of my colleagues who regret choosing Pharmacy. Many critics also complain of the work conditions we endure, which was especially challenging during the height of the pandemic. With pharmacy technician hours being cut, vacation requests being denied, saturation of pharmacists, and new grads being hired at record low salaries, I understand and appreciate the critiques.
I do, despite all this, still love my job. If I could redo college and had the choice to choose another profession, I genuinely do believe I would still be a pharmacist. I am grateful that my good days far outweigh my bad days at work, and many of my patients comment on how my passion for pharmacy is displayed in how I interact with them. Those are the best compliments.
Things to consider when choosing a career
Every person is unique, we are all motivated by different things, and there’s beauty in our differences. That being said, when you’re trying to figure out a career, here are a few things I’d encourage you to consider:
1) What are your talents/natural abilities? Are you an outgoing person? Do you love leading teams? Are you great at public speaking? Are you great with your hands? For instance, I am a math/science person, so trying to force me to create abstract art would not come naturally to me. We all have God given abilities and a key to figuring out what job you’ll be happy doing is to identify what you’re good at.
2) How important is money to you? This is a tricky question, because we all know money is needed to survive, and most people have an appreciation for it. However, there are people who are motivated solely by money in their career choice, and I genuinely don’t think there’s anything wrong with that (within reason of course). If you know that the goal is to make as much money as possible, then lean into that and approach your career choice with that in mind. Figure out the salaries of different jobs and unapologetically use your findings to help guide your decisions. For example, having the ability to work part time may not be an incentive to choose a career if you know that you would be happy & fulfilled averaging 60 hours of work per week.
3) Are you willing to relocate/travel for work? These are aspects of career selection that I think can often be overlooked when you’re early in your journey. For example, if you know you aspire to be an actress/entertainer and an opportunity presents itself in Los Angeles or New York City, will leaving your hometown to chase your dreams be a problem? There is no right answer, it’s just important to consider questions like this when picking a career. For instance, my husband, who is an Associate Athletic Director, knew from the beginning that an openness to relocate for work is imperative for upward mobility in his career field, and he was ok with that. As his wife, that was a conversation we had early on, because that obviously directly impacts my life as well.
4) Are you passionate about the work you would be doing? This may sound like a silly question, but there are many people who choose a career based on other people’s opinions/expectations and end up miserable. Shoot, I was almost one of those people. We all know life is short, and peace of mind is priceless. Don’t make the mistake that many people do by going into a job for the wrong reasons because no paycheck or title is worth your peace.
I hope this was helpful, and I’d be happy to be a resource to anyone who has questions, or would like guidance. You can reach out to me in the “contact me” portion of this website, or leave a comment below.