Traci Turner Cole, PharmD, BCPP
Mental Health Clinical Pharmacist Practitioner
Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Chillicothe, OH

Dr. Cole earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy degree from Midwestern University-Chicago College of Pharmacy in 2012. She completed both her PGY1 pharmacy residency and PGY2 psychiatric pharmacy residency at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center. Post-residency, Dr. Cole practiced at the George E. Wahlen VA Health Care System in Salt Lake City, UT, focusing on the treatment of substance use disorders and concomitant psychiatric conditions in a residential setting. Since returning to the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, she continues this line of work in their Mental Health Residential and Rehabilitation Treatment Program (MHRRTP) while also providing support for the outpatient substance use disorders treatment team.

When and how should you alert your current employer?

It can feel very awkward to announce to your supervisor that you are interested in applying for employment elsewhere, especially for a new practitioner. Rest assured, this is an everyday occurrence in the workforce. Because supervisors appreciate knowing their employees’ intentions, I recommend talking with them early in the application process. For some people, this is while applying for a new job, and for others this could be once you have accepted an interview invitation. It is worth noting that some people may be more comfortable waiting until later in the application/interview process to have this discussion – and that is still acceptable. With increasing productivity demands and worsening staff shortages, interest in different employment may come from a person’s desire to leave an unfavorable work environment. Nevertheless, maintaining a professional relationship is important throughout this process.

I recommend requesting to meet with your supervisor face-to-face (when possible; via video may be an option for those who telework fulltime) to discuss future employment opportunities, as well as your current job satisfaction (unfortunately, there is the possibility that you may not be selected for the job in which you are applying.) In this discussion, it is helpful to share the reasons for why you are interested in transferring elsewhere, as well as your short- and long-term career goals and development plan for personal growth. Some supervisors will be more receptive to this type of meeting than others. It is important to balance the risk that a current employer will not look favorably at employees looking for new jobs with the benefits of potentially creating more growth within your current position.

Most people choose to tell their current peers or team at work about their transfer to a new job after they have been offered a position. I recommend planning to share this information with all of your peers, teammates, and trainees within the same day or two, as this type of news travels quickly in most workplaces. Use this opportunity to share your future career aspirations, while also thanking them for the learning, support, and growth that you have experienced in your current position. Be sure to provide specific examples and experiences from your time in this role to help leave a lasting, positive memory.

Who should you ask for references? 

It is worth remembering that you should always ask a potential reference if they are agreeable to providing you with a favorable recommendation if contacted by your prospective employer. Your references should be able to accurately reflect on many aspects of your work, so it’s important to make sure this person feels capable of and comfortable doing so. It is also courteous to give this person adequate notice and time to prepare for a phone call or write a letter of recommendation.

Consider selecting references who will be able to showcase what strengths, skills, and attributes make you the best choice for this prospective position. This person should be able to comment on your interactions with patients and peers, critical thinking skills, communication skills, leadership style, organization and time management skills, involvement at your current facility, and your dedication to the advancement of pharmacy practice. Some optimal choices for a professional reference would be your current supervisor or another clinical pharmacist peer; current and former residents would benefit from asking their residency program director and program preceptors.

How should you manage your time with interviews and a full-time job?

Activities, such as researching potential job opportunities, updating your CV, contacting and having discussions with potential references, and preparing for interviews, all take time. Understand that time at home will likely be spent doing these activities, given that your current work day is still full with responsibilities. You should not use your current employer’s internet to look for a new job and if you need to take calls related to your job search, use your personal phone and step outside the building or office to do so. Though this can be difficult and take time away from family or other obligations, it is important to stay organized, diligent, and focused on your goal: the opportunity for growth and experience. Because a career change can be a big decision, I recommend setting aside uninterrupted time outside of work to research new potential positions. Strive to learn more about the prospective organization’s goals, and consider if the job posting provides enough details to meet your expectations. Networking can also be a powerful tool when considering a career change. Try to make time for networking opportunities as well. Most importantly, save time for self-care by finishing your day with an activity that brings you relaxation and peace.

What are some recommendations for maintaining professional relationships?

We’ve all been told that “pharmacy is a small world,” but it becomes even smaller when you practice in a sub-specialty. Similar to transitioning into a new role, maintaining relationships with your previous co-workers and organization will take some effort too. Listed below are some best practices for achieving this.

  • Give advance notice of your resignation! It is recommended to give a minimum of four weeks’ notice in most clinical positions, though the standard 2 weeks is utilized frequently.
  • Remain focused on your current work up until your last day. Ensure that all actionable items are completed or delegated prior to your departure.
  • Write a letter of resignation that shows genuine appreciation for the time you spent at the organization/facility.
  • Be involved in professional organizations. This is an easy way to stay in touch with co-workers who have similar interests and goals. You never know when you could work together again in the future!
  • Social media can be helpful on both a personal (Facebook) and professional (LinkedIn) level.
  • Send a yearly holiday card to your previous team. Use it as an opportunity to provide an update and let them know how meaningful your previous experiences continue to be.
  • Request an exit interview if it not offered. This can be a good time to have an open discussion with your supervisor while still maintaining a professional relationship.