Forging Your Future in Pharmacy: Your Go-To Guide For Networking & Conferences

If you want to really make an impact with something that is important to you, where do you start? You’ve put in the work to learn your craft, and are committed to consistent improvements to develop mastery, but how can you elevate your reach?

RELATIONSHIPS! Say it with me now: your network is your net worth!

Especially in the competitive market that pharmacy is today, who you know and how you provide value to them and their network will provide you with the ultimate leverage to open doors for anywhere you want to go with your career. Meeting people and presenting yourself as a brand of value is the ONE thing you can do to not only make this happen, but to truly live out your life purpose and mission! (If you don’t know where to start or what it means to build your personal brand, read this article for the core concepts and strategies to script your success)

Wouldn’t it be great to share your message with others to help those just starting out? How about collaborating with a like-minded colleague who is on the same path as you? Or better yet, learning from someone who has already achieved what you have set out to accomplish? What if I told you that there is one place where all 3 groups of people meet?! Oh snap, son- it DOES exist!

No, it’s not Narnia or Hogwarts (that’s pharmacy school, yo)- it is, in fact, conferences!

That’s right: real-life people in a physical space that you can connect with, meet in person, and even shake hands! There is certainly tremendous value and benefits to online or summit-based conferences on the web (like this phenomenal PharmacySummit created my friend Blair Thelemer), but you just can’t replace the in-person interaction!

Learning people skills only comes from building skills with people; you can read and rehearse all you want, but until you get in front of people and make the mistakes, perfect your pitch, and learn nuances of nonverbal communication, you will never truly be a master! The best way to make that happen is to get in front of people.

If you’ve never been to a conference before- or it’s been a very long time and in a totally different arena (flashback to BoyScout summer camp, perhaps?) you may feel a bit nervous, unprepared, or maybe even scared of what to expect. GOOD! That is a cue that you are headed in the right direction for 2 reasons:

1. The comfort zone is nice, but nothing every grows there

2. If you are the smartest person in the room, you need to find a new room

Moving to unfamiliar territory with untapped potential for learning something new from those more advanced from you is exactly where you should strive to arrive! Now, here is another thing to keep in mind:

Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

Looking back at my time in pharmacy school, I feel blessed to say that I ended up going to 7 regional and national conferences- and continue to attend them still to this day! I made a lot of mistakes and had some major, uh, “learning moments” along the years, so I want to share those with you now to save you the time and set you up with your Rx4Success to Conquer your Conference with Confidence!

The Pharmacy Conference Fantastic Four

1. Dress to impress.

There are two big mistakes I hear pharmacy students make when it comes to dressing professionally: either “I have to buy an Armani suit/ Gucci dress” and go over-the-top, OR “jeans are good, yea?” GREAT NEWS! Dressing professionally does NOT have to cost you an arm and a leg, and knowing the financial burden of a pharmacy student “in the trenches”, I have some great tips to elevate your style without your credit card debt:

· Join your favorite clothing store’s email list for deals

· Google “[store name] + coupon” – this works wonders!

· Use the site Honey to autoscan low prices

· Check out TJMaxx or Marshalls (note: not recommended last minute!)

· Visit outlet stores or “Backracks” – they have lots of discounts!

· Up your medical outerwear game with the sleek and super comfortable Medelita Iconic Scrub Jacket (all of their clothing feels like PJs!)

2. Know Your Target

If you are going to a conference, you should go to it with some clear goals in mind to get the most out of your time. Rather than just arriving to “see what happens”, ask yourself what you want to get out of your trip. Who do you want to meet while there? What would you like to learn? What sorts of contacts would you like to make?

Once you answer these questions, this will allow you to do a little recon to set you up for success before you arrive. Knowing those 3 key answers, you can check out the conference website for listings of who will be there. They often times will provide either professional biographies or websites/contact information for keynote speakers, presenters and vendors.

If you do some basic intel gathering- or take it a step further and reach out to the person ahead of time to begin that relationship- once you arrive and meet the person, you will sound very prepared, well-versed and genuinely interested, or have already established rapport that you can build from. Guess how many people do this? Almost nobody. If YOU do this, guess who your person of interest will remember amidst the hundreds of people they meet at the conference? Ahh, you clever master, you!

3. Fuel Up for Success

Have you ever tried to focus or be on top of your game when you were starving? Not very effective, was it! Packing some simple snacks will prevent the growling stomach takeover from your attention to your event, and will likely save you unwanted calories or overpriced conference food. Here are some favorite recommendations, field tested and approved by myself over the years:

Best snacks on-the-go while en route TO the conference:

· Jerky

· Protein Bars

· Pre-made shakes

· Self-made yogurt parfaits

· WATER- because hydration is KEY!

Food to have FOR the conference (continental/limited at event common)

· Oatmeal (lifesaver!)

· Protein shakes

· Prepped meals (if so compelled)

· Quick snacks (see above)

· Money for eating out in case

4. Sharp Body, Sharp Mind

You guys know me by now- how can we not talk about fitness?! Keeping on your fitness game while at the conference doesn’t have to be Arnold Schwarzennegger style- keep it simple and on track with the progress you’ve been making all along! Some key items to pack for workouts at hotels:

・Pack workout clothes, like this SUPER comfortable Core One Performance Tee 

・Pack workout shoes 
・Headphones/iPod 
・Water bottle for workout

These are the best tips to prepare yourself for the conference for when you get there so that you can be set up for maximal success! Stay tuned for the next article in this series where I’ll go into detail about the best tips for nailing your interactions AT the conference! There are many more excellent articles and advice at my website, my Instagram page, or you can reach me via email at thefitpharmacist@thedietdoc.com.