A Career Beyond the Counter:
My experience transitioning from retail pharmacy to the corporate world
By Ursula Chizhik VP of Quality and Regulatory Affairs, FLAVORx
I was a retail pharmacist for 11 years before joining the FLAVORx team. Never in my life did I envision myself working in a corporate setting, where I would be sitting in my very own office, wearing a nice outfit with high heel shoes, taking a lunch break, and working less than 12 hours standing on my feet! I was so used to a lab coat, my comfortable Clarks clogs, eating quickly while standing, and arriving and leaving the pharmacy when it was dark outside- That’s simply what I thought the life of a retail pharmacist was destined to be. But that all changed when I called FLAVORx out of the blue and asked if they needed a pharmacist on staff.
There was no job posting, only my desire to seek out a new opportunity and my familiarity with the company name, since I used to flavor prescriptions when I was a pharmacist. I was ready for a change and while I didn’t know exactly what I had to offer to FLAVORx, I knew I was a dedicated pharmacist with a lot of experience and, surely, I could bring something valuable to the table.
Fast forward 7 years and I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I love my job and the fact that I can integrate my many years of practical pharmacy experience to bring an element of “real world pharmacy” to the company I work for and the people I work with. I know what it’s like to be a pharmacy student. I have experienced the peaks and valleys of being a pharmacist behind the counter. I tap into those experiences every day as we discuss effective ways to reach out to pharmacy students, encourage technicians, and connect with pharmacists and other health care providers.
Working for a small business, I feel especially valued and valuable for the credentials I’ve earned and the experiences I’ve gained, which is tremendously rewarding and a big difference from some of the retail pharmacy jobs I held.
As some of you may be considering a career move at some point in your future, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that I learned after getting out from behind the counter:
This was probably the biggest adjustment for me during my transition from retail pharmacist to business person. In the pharmacy setting, everything has a sense of urgency. We need to get prescriptions ready quickly and patients out the door as soon as possible, if we want to keep customers happy. This fast pace was simply an integral part of the job. On the contrary, in the office setting, I feel like you are constantly waiting for someone to respond to an email, a unanimous decision to be made, a delivery to arrive, a colleague to do their job. This waiting game is quite different from the constant scrambling and running around at the pharmacy, but most of the time this is a welcome change.
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! Business people like to spend a lot of time talking about ideas- collaborating or brainstorming as they call it. While in theory it seems like a great idea to get a group of bright people in a room to determine the next big thing for your company, the next direction, the next initiative, there is generally more discussion than decision-making! Although if you have a meeting that runs into lunchtime, there will likely be a free food!
Just like in every work environment, you must learn to deal with many different personalities. Although, behind the counter you are typically dealing with people of the same educational background- all pharmacists and technicians who speak the pharmacy language. In a business setting, you are dealing with a variety of people from broad educational backgrounds that do not speak the same language. At any given moment, you may find yourself working with the sales team, the marketing team, the finance team, the engineering team, and maybe even the CEO. Needless to say, every individual or team has their own perspective and priorities, which don’t always align. I’ve learned that you can’t always make everyone happy, so its best to stay in your lane, but remain open minded and flexible.
My role at FLAVORx has evolved over the years, and with every passing year, I have taken on more responsibilities and have truly enjoyed the opportunity to create such a unique, flexible, and rewarding job that works for me and my family. Best of all, working at a company like FLAVORx allows me to still be part of the pharmacy world, even though I am no longer in a traditional pharmacy setting. If anyone is considering a career beyond the pharmacy counter, I would be more than happy to give you some advice. Feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn.