Podcast Transcript: Shefali Parekh - 2017 NAPSA President

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Welcome to Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven's Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. The podcast series is being created to shine a light on the diverse and inspiring careers of Australia's pharmacists. Each episode will focus on the varied career opportunities within the pharmacy industry by exploring the career paths taken by leaders in the fields of Community Pharmacy, Hospital, Industry, Government and Professional Organizations. Careers never follow a defined path. Everyone's story is different and unique in their own way. The podcast series will help you discover the world of opportunities that exist and reveal pathways to achieve your dreams and aspirations. Whether you are a pharmacy student, early career pharmacist, or simply looking for a change at any stage of your career, the podcast series is designed to help you navigate ways into a career and a life that you love. Your host of the podcast series is Allie Xu. Allie, herself a pharmacist, is now the founder of Global Pharmacy Entrepreneurs and a passionate advocate for pharmacists to grow, innovate, excel, and make a lasting impact in the world. It's now over to our host, Allie Xu.

[Allie Xu] Hi, Shefali. How are you today?

[Shefali Parekh] I'm very well Allie, thank you. How are you?

[Allie Xu] Good. Thank you. Excellent. We're so excited to have you on the show. Welcome to your Pharmacy Career Podcast. So, tell us about your story. Where did you grow up?

[Shefali Parekh] So Allie, I actually grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, with my mom, dad, and younger brother. I did all of my schooling there primary, secondary. And then I moved to Australia in 2014 to embark on my university journey. And I graduated, then, from Griffith University in 2018, completed my internship in Tasmania at the Royal Hobart hospital last year. And now I'm in Melbourne working as a hospital pharmacist across two organizations, Austin health and Alfred health. Yeah, so that's sort of been my journey in a nutshell from home to here, and I guess you can say I'm definitely well versed in Australian geography after that. Sort of been a bit here, there, and everywhere.

[Allie Xu] Wow. Wonderful. So tell us a bit more about your fantasy journey. When and how did you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy?

[Shefali Parekh] Yes. So, I actually remember as a young girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I would turn my room into a classroom, as I'm sure many young people do. And I had me on a chair and my stuffed toys on the floor. And I had a role in one of my exercise books that I called out and ticked who was present. Or I simply just read out names of people in my real Primary School Class. Embarrassing now that I reflect back on that. But it was then in high school, where biology and chemistry were actually my favorite subjects. And then I think it was year 12, or year 11, if I'm converting to the Australian system, where we had to conduct a work experience placement. We could pick anything in anywhere and my mom had a pharmacist friend who offered to take me on as a placement student. So I agreed. I have this innate passion for helping others and a desire to make a difference and so I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, but I didn't know exactly what that would look like. So I went on this work experience, ended up loving it. I caught a glimpse into what the role of a pharmacist could look like and I really admired the respect that the community had for the pharmacist as well as the pharmacy as a whole, as a health destination. So I could essentially just see myself fitting into this profession. It felt right. So the placement combined with the encouragement of my pharmacist aunt, both of those led me to then want to pursue a career in pharmacy.

[Allie Xu] Wow. So we know that during your time at university, you have not only balanced passing your studies, as well as heavily involved with NAPSA. So what have you learned and why did you decide to join NAPSA?

[Shefali Parekh] So, I think my journey through NAPSA has been one of my highlights, actually, throughout my career. And it's sort of an opportunity that I happened to just stumble upon. It wasn't planned at all. Sort of how it started is, I started more locally with my university organization and discovered that I really enjoyed, you know, being part of a committee. I could see the impact that being part of a committee like that was having. At that level, the impact was to the students, you know, coordinating the student events, advocating for students in the wider pharmacy space. Which was really cool, I thought, for a student to be able to have that impact, you know, with people that are a lot more experienced and a lot older. And through my involvement with the local university association, I got to go to the NAPSA meeting. And, you know, that's when I met sort of the more national counterparts and I grew even more in love with the idea of being part of a national committee and, you know, being able to share the student voice on that platform. So essentially, I think what happened was me just sort of saying, “Yes” to all of the opportunities that came about and following, you know, my interests and playing to my strengths. Before you know it, one thing led to another and I had become next president. And I think, some key learnings from that time were — I learnt a lot about myself in terms of leadership. I haven’t always been, you know, this confident leader that NAPSA sort of grew me into. So I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I think another thing I learnt was the value of networking and meeting people. I think a lot of students at a university level, they're focused on their studies, and they're focused on, you know, getting the grades in order to get the job. But I think something that they might miss is, what's just as important is knowing the right people and sort of creating a reputation for yourself, almost. So, you know, go to those events. Go to, you know, all of the social events and the professional events and start networking, start building your career network of people that you can then fall back on when you need to, and who can inspire you as well.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, wow that's great advice. So we know networking is very important. In specifics, how should we grow our network more efficiently, when we have lots of studies on one hand, but still want to get to know the right people and develop ourselves?

[Shefali Parekh] Sure. So I think one of the main ways I got to do that was actually finding work in a community pharmacy. While I was studying, I know a lot of students in my year also did the same thing. They had a part time job. And I know that's not always possible for everyone, you know, the study demands are quite high, and finding the time for part time work can be quite difficult. But even if it's, you know, one shift a week. I remember I did three hours on a weeknight, you know, that's hardly anything, but it's just a little bit. And, you know, you get to know your pharmacy colleagues through that. And pharmacy is so small as an industry, especially in Australia, and I think, you know, one connection can lead to so many more. So that would be my first sort of recommendation, is to try and find some part time work. Or even volunteering at the hospital is something that I know some students did. And then also making the most out of conferences, you know, joining some of the bigger organizations as a student member, like the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Guild, as well. And then there's also Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia. So those are some three key organizations that offer student membership, and so I would encourage students to be involved with those organizations because they hold events where you can go and network and meet people as well. So yeah, I think it's not necessarily, you know, a commitment as big as joining a committee, but it can simply just be — become a member, go to an event once in a while. And you'll be surprised by how many people you meet recurrently. Because, you know, like I said, it's small, and people tend to go to events as a frequent flyer. So yeah, that can be a great way to meet people.

[Allie Xu] You also mentioned about leadership that your time at NAPSA has helped you to develop your leadership.

[Shefali Parekh] Yes.

[Allie Xu] So can you give us some tips of how to develop that skill? And what's the importance of having that leadership skills in a workplace right now?

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, definitely. So I think how NAPSA helped me develop was, I think it simply just forced me into that role. I think, as a NAPSA president, you know, you're sort of accountable for, you know, speaking on behalf of the students and making some really sort of tough — well not tough, necessarily, but making decisions on behalf of a wider population. So you sort of get forced to put on this role of, “Okay, it's a huge responsibility for me, how am I going to do this effectively, to the best of my ability?” And so you sort of naturally — for me, anyway — build that confidence to talk to people that are a lot older than you, are a lot more experienced than you. I found when I first became NAPSA President, I had people ask me “Oh, you know, what are the students’ main concerns?” and all these sort of big questions. And, you know, you get forced to know the facts and to do your research and to really be across all of the issues that the students are facing. And I think it's that constant communication, that constant exposure to the profession then naturally builds that confidence. I think also just believing in yourself. I never actually thought that I could seriously be NAPSA president. So when I had become that, it was a huge confidence booster. And it also, for me, made me realize that I want to do really well, I want to do this role justice, I want to prove not only to others, but also myself that I could do a really good job of this. And so all of that sort of forced me into building those skills. And it comes with practice, I think. It comes with having a support network around you. That's going to encourage you and support you there. But I think it would just be, you know, take all those opportunities when you can. Don't be afraid. You know, I mean, I think chances are, you're gonna fail if you do try, but it's gonna actually help in making you succeed.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, great. Speaking of not to be afraid, fear is, you know, surrounding us. Especially, we want to step into an area that is unknown to us. So what are some of your fears as the president of NAPSA, as well as stepping out? And how did you overcome that fear?

[Shefali Parekh] Sure, sure. So I think some of my main fears at that time were, I guess, fear of the unknown. I didn't really know what this role would entail. Previous to being President, I was on the board. I was quite good friends with the president at that time, so I could see what her role sort of looked like, on the outside, but I didn't really know the specifics. I didn't really know, you know, who to expect to be in my corner, and all those sorts of things. So I think, yeah, fear of the unknown was definitely one of them. And another one was fear of disappointing people, if I wasn't doing the right job, or, you know, if people had these expectations of me that I wasn't meeting. Those were probably my main fears. And I think how I overcame them was simply day by day, just doing the work to the best that I could do. And I knew that if I was putting in my all, as much as I could, you know, any achievement was an achievement at the end of the day. And, surprisingly, through that, you know, I've got some really good feedback. And we achieved so much during that term. So yeah, I think even though the fear was there, it came down to just simply playing to my strengths and putting in the hard work, and believing in myself, really. Not letting that fear sort of consume me.

[Allie Xu] Wonderful. Did you have any role models or mentors during your time at university?

[Shefali Parekh] I do. I have plenty actually, now that I think about it. I think the first would have to be my mom. I'd consider my mom to be a personal role model, the foundations of who I am from her. You know, she's taught me how to be brave and strong. She's taught me sacrifice and loyalty. But above all, she's been my biggest source of support and encouragement. I think when I reflect on the times that, you know, I found my mom to be nagging — I now realize that they were just her pushing me to be the best version of myself because she's always seen more potential in me than I have. I also have a couple of professional role models. Someone I look up to immensely is Taren Gill. So, Taren is the current pharmacy owner of Maryborough Priceline Pharmacy. I first met Taren at a NAPSA Congress in 2017. At that time, she was the PSA early career pharmacist board director, and actually she was the first one. And I instantly fell in love with Taren’s infectious zest for pharmacy. Mostly she inspires me because of her journey. You know, she completed her internship in a compounding pharmacy and then she went rural, and then she went into hospital pharmacy, and, you know, everything else in between. She's accomplished so much while maintaining innovation in her approach. And for someone like me who gets bored easily, I'm always looking for new roles, and I think Taren is an example of someone who has succeeded despite changing roles. And yet she's remained consistently passionate about pharmacy. Now, yesterday was world pharmacists day and three very deserving pharmacists won national awards. One in particular, the lifetime achievement award was given to Debbie Rigby. Now Debbie is such a warm and reliable figure in my pharmacy network. That Women In Leadership panel that you spoke about earlier, I sat on that with her. And I have completed the GP Pharmacists Foundation Training, after which I actually spoke to Debbie about her role in that space. And last time I saw her at SHPA’s medicine management conference last year, and she was telling me about a conference that she was going to present at and it was going to be in Antarctica. So she's simply amazing, and she's always striving to do more. I once listened to a TED talk by Shonda Rhimes. I'm not sure if you know who that is. She is the one who created Grey's Anatomy. And in this TED Talk, she talks about “the hum,” and she talks about “the hum” being music, about being light and air. And she goes on to say when you have a hum like that you can't help but strive for greatness. And I think Taren and Debbie both have a hum for pharmacy. And that is why I admire them so much.

[Allie Xu] Wow. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. So in your current hospital pharmacy role, what are some of your opportunities for growth in this area?

[Shefali Parekh] So yeah, currently, I work as a hospital pharmacist, and I think I see potential for growth in a wide range of areas, one of them being the value that pharmacists have in a particular activity, which is clinical reviews. In the hospital pharmacy space, from my experience, anyhow, clinical reviews are something that I always prioritized first. So sort of daily workflow will include, you know, inpatient supply of medicines, and then discharges, and then admissions, and then clinical reviews. So by the time we get to that clinical review process, we have certain key performance indicators to meet. And so it's rushed. And, you know, often we only touch the surface and we look at high risk drugs. But to improve this, I would actually like to see pharmacists on ward rounds every day, I think, you know, we can make the best impact at the time of prescribing at the time of decision making. And that's often done on a ward round. And I know that that takes up often most of the morning, if not half the day. But I think, you know, that is a huge space for impact and value in a pharmacists role as a hospital pharmacist. And, you know, I think there are also opportunities to free up the pharmacist’s time to do that by enhancing the role of pharmacy technicians and the hospital pharmacy workforce as well. Just you know, as a bit of an aside, I think some other opportunities for growth as a hospital pharmacist could include pharmacists being more integrated in the discharge planning process. You know, just sort of thinking about how patients need to be medically cleared before they can go home, they asked me to be cleared by physio and social work. I think that pharmacists should be part of that process, you know, can pharmacists clear patients before they go? I've often had situations where, you know, a discharge script is given to me and then the nurse in charge has said, “Our transports’ booked for one o'clock,” and it's 12 o'clock. And you know that that's a huge sort of rush for time. You know, the patient's less likely to listen to my counseling, if they're waiting for transport, and I'm the last person they need to see. So you know, in an ideal perfect world, you know, I'd get the script, I'd reconcile it, I'd throw out all my issues, and then I would, you know, clear the patient and let the nurse know that I've cleared them now you can organize transport. I think that process would be a lot smoother and a lot more efficient, it would reduce areas as well. So those are a couple of opportunities for growth I see in the hospital space for pharmacy.

[Allie Xu] So if you would change one thing in your current pharmacy career, what would it be? 

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, that's interesting. I almost feel like my career is just starting. You know, I'm my first year out. I feel like there's probably so many more things that want to change later. But I think everything I've done, you know, within my pharmacy career to date, from university to internship to now, I think everything has served a purpose. You know, even the bad decisions that I've made, they've taught me valuable lessons. And so I'm not even sure I would change anything. I believe I'll grow into being the best pharmacist I can be because of my career as a whole, you know, highlights and failures. Yeah, so I don't think I would change anything really. At least not yet.

[Allie Xu] So what is the successful pharmacy career mean to you?

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, that's an interesting question. When I thought about this, I thought, I think success looks different for everyone. I think, you know, what a successful pharmacy career for me might not be for everyone else. For me, I think, you know, I'm really enjoying being a hospital pharmacist. I'd love to grow in this space and sort of take on more leadership roles and that sort of thing. But I don't really have, you know, the classic five year plan. I don't really have that quite yet. I think if I continue to just do what I love and continue to make impacts, and continue to advocate for the profession — which is what I love to do — I think I'll have a successful pharmacy career. I think it comes from the feeling of the work that you're doing rather than hitting certain milestones. Because I’ve found that a lot of the opportunities I've said yes to, they haven't been planned. I'm sort of just said yes, because they've come up, or I think that that's interesting. And then the success sort of comes afterwards. You know, the bigger picture comes afterwards. And so I think if I continue to follow my gut, if I continue to have passion for what I do and the drive to work hard, I think my personal journey of success will follow. And that would be my advice to others as well, I think don't look for a particular person's journey that you want to copy or that you want to aspire to. Sure, there might be certain things of that person's career that you'd like to also do. But create that successful journey for yourself and just continue to do what you're good at. And what gives you that sense of purpose, I think.

[Allie Xu] So what's your advice? I know you've already shared so many advice you have for our aspiring pharmacists or pharmacy students. Is there any other tips or advice you could share with us on the way to pursue a successful pharmacy career or prepare for a successful pharmacy career?

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, I think for me, my biggest advice would be to say yes to everything. It's almost a disability of mine, I don't know how to say no. And not even just professionally, but anything, you know. I'm a very adventurous person. I will say yes to literally everything. And I think that that's actually done me more good than it has bad. So my advice would actually be the same. Say yes to every opportunity that you are presented with. And even if it's not handed to you on a silver platter, I think go out and grab it with both hands, because those are the opportunities that lead to wonderful outcomes. And coming back to this idea of fear, I think a lot of students in particular might not want to grab onto opportunities because of fear. But I think, you know, try and let that fear go and try to embrace the unknown and embrace that, you know, any opportunity you do say yes to is already going to be a success. Because it's something different, it's something unique. It's something you've said yes to, and someone else hasn’t. So you're already one step ahead in doing that. And I think another bit of advice would be, don't be afraid to fail. It's something that I wish I had known as a student. I've learnt now that chances are you will fail, but you'll grow and succeed as a result. So yeah, don't be afraid. Just just stick to your guns, I think, would be the main crux of my advice.

[Allie Xu] Right. Wow, thank you. So just follow up on what you said about Debbie and Taren.

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] Can you share a bit with us, what are some of the qualities that you see that you really admire? Or what inspired you from those two mentors that you mentioned?

[Shefali Parekh] Yes. So I think with Taren, for example, when I saw her, I think it also comes down to — so Taren and I are both from like similar ethnic backgrounds. And so seeing someone that I felt connected to on that personal level be so successful and be so confident in her approach, I think that really inspired me. Because at that time, you know, I was NAPSA president, and so I was still trying to be better and do better and navigate through that role. And so seeing her in a role of leadership really sort of inspired me to keep going. And, you know, I took some insight from her as she was so passionate and she was breaking the ceiling. You know, she was the first ECP board director. I remember we had a conversation about, you know, being daughters in our family and we sort of connected on that personal level. And so to me, she was breaking the ceiling in both the professional and personal light. And so that was what really inspired me from her. And again, just coming back to the fact that I don't feel like she's had a plan throughout her career. She's always just done what's come up. She's taken all the opportunities that she's been presented with. She's chopped and changed her career But her passion hasn't gone. And I think that that's really inspiring for me, too, because I see that being a similar situation for myself. And with Debbie, I think just thinking back now to some other things that I read people saying about her yesterday on Twitter, and that was actually so deserving. She's always been an advocate for pharmacy and for health care and for bettering health outcomes for patients. I remember last year as an intern, I did a health promotion project on asthma. And Debbie had, you know, supported me through that. You know, she had posted on Twitter that, you know, this is what I was doing. And that really meant a lot to me just to have that support and to know that what I was doing was being appreciated, almost. And I think, you know, Debbie's another one who, she's done so much in her career, but she's still got time to sit down and talk with someone like me, and she's got time to be a mentor and to be a role model. And she's always looking for something new to do. She's always striving to do more, and she's very caring in that sense. She’s very humble. Very, very humble. Yeah, so those are sort of qualities that I admire. Those are qualities that I resonate with, and yeah, that's why I look up to them.

[Allie Xu] Wow, wonderful. Thank you for sharing that.

[Shefali Parekh] No worries.

[Allie Xu] What are you most proud of in your career to date in pharmacy and why?

[Shefali Parekh] Oh, so I think I've spoken a lot about this already. But I think my term as NAPSA President has got to be something that I'm most proud of so far. I think just because it was something that was so out of my reach and so when I did become president and sort of went through that term, I was really proud of myself and proud of the work that my team had done. And I think another thing I'm really proud of is my network. I think, you know, I'm really proud of my ability to be able to network really well, and to, you know, talk to people of all ages, and to sort of have that level of communication that I think is so important in pharmacy. And, you know, through building my network, I have also built resilience, and I've built leadership and confidence. And all of those qualities that I've developed, I know are going to make me a really good pharmacist. And so yeah, I'd have to say, my network and my role as NAPSA President are what I'm most proud of,

[Allie Xu] So for those who are not involved with a student association such as NAPSA, how can they grow that network and how can they build their leadership and the skills towards that successful pharmacy career

[Shefali Parekh] Sure. Yes, not everyone can join an association, but I think that's not the only way. I think, you know, thinking outside of the box, you might have a friend, that's part of an association, or you might have seen a post on social media about, you know, a networking event that's coming up. So I would say, look, you don't have to be part of an association to still be able to attend those activities and those events. Or, you know, tag along with your friend who is part of that association. Coming back to, you know, finding part time work and finding connections that way. And I think also leaning on your lecturers at uni. Often your lecturers are also pharmacists on the side. You know, they might work in a community pharmacy, or they might be involved in research. If research is something that you're interested in, that could be what your successful pharmacy career looks like. So have a chat to them, let them know that you're interested in, you know, extra opportunities to get involved with research. Or I think just letting the right people know what you're interested in and what opportunities you would be willing to say yes to. People are going to remember that. And then when something does come up, people are going to be like, “Oh, I remember, you know, he or she was saying that that's something that they're passionate about. How about I asked them if they're interested?” So I think it comes down to, find out what you are passionate about, find out what you like, and then go out and pursue the people who are already successful in those areas. Yeah, just lean on your support network and continue to build from there.

[Allie Xu] Wonderful. And if you were counseling a student about to graduate from their course, and not sure where to do their internship, or what field to go into, what advice would you give to them?

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, so I think the beauty of pharmacy is that it's so versatile, so if you do end up choosing a place for your internship, or going into a field that you later discover isn't right for you, go somewhere else. You know, pharmacy is so broad. I think as a student, you're sort of only really exposed to community and hospital but there is so much more. Like, you can go into industry. You could work for a drug company. We've mentioned research already. You could go into, you know, more academics like teaching. Now there are opportunities to work for a GP clinic, there's opportunities to be a consultant pharmacist and do, you know, home medicines reviews. There are so many things you could do. And I believe that a lot of the roles that will end up being haven't even been discovered yet, just because there's so much growth in this space in the world of health care. You know, now with E-Prescribing, E-Prescriptions. There's just so much growth and so much potential that we have as pharmacists, you could choose what you want to do, essentially. So I think, don't feel like you're stuck in one pathway because that's where you've started, continue to research your options, continue to branch out, and don't be afraid to change your workplace or your work setting. Because, yeah, I think there's often a notion that, “Oh, you know, I've done my internship in a community so now I can't get into hospital.” That's not true. There are so many, you know, pharmacists who've completed their internships in a different setting who ended up in hospital or vice versa. So I don't think your place of internship dictates where you'll be for the rest of your life. It's simply a starting point. And, you know, you might decide that you've had a really rough intern year, and you don't want to work in that setting again. And that's okay. You know, that's actually part of the growth. Now you know what you don't want. So yeah, I would say that, don't believe that that's your final destination. Pharmacy is so linear that you could go anywhere that you wanted to

[Allie Xu] Great. I know that you've shared a lot of opportunities that you've gone through in your pharmacy career, as well as while you're a student. What are some of these opportunities again, you had throughout your time and how did you get those opportunities?

[Shefali Parekh] Sure. So, I guess if we're starting at the beginning, simply my opportunity to study in Australia, Again, never part of the plan. I was all set to study in Auckland, but, you know, ended up getting into an Australian University. So that was probably my first opportunity that I took. And, you know, I always think to myself, “Look at how that’s turned out.” You know, then from that came the opportunity to be involved with, you know, the student association side of things. And from that, you know, opportunities to be a mentor in the university space, and then the opportunity to do an internship in a hospital setting. And I think a lot of those opportunities have come about because I've tried and tried again, and, you know, if I wasn't successful the first time around for a job, for example, I would try again the next year. Or, you know, if I was interested in a particular role at university, if I wasn't successful the first time I would try again. And I think often that the trying again says a lot more about how dedicated you are to that particular role or that particular job. And it speaks volumes, it shows that you're persistent, and you really want this and you've listened to feedback from the first time and you're going to try again, with that feedback on board. Yes, a lot of the opportunities I've sort of just gone for and it's worked out, but others, you know, I've tried and tried again because it's something that I've really wanted. So I guess that ties into another piece of advice is just to — if it's something that you really want, and you weren't successful the first time — ask for feedback, ask for why you weren't successful and what you could do to improve and actually take that on board seriously. And then try again. And then you never know if it could work out the second time, or the third time.

[Allie Xu] Totally agree. I think, you know, as pharmacy students, a lot of them — everybody has different personalities.

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] They still want to pursue a successful career. But they didn't go out or are too afraid. They feel like they missed opportunity when they're at uni. “Now it's 4th year, I have to go through an internship or get a job,” you know, so they feel that they don't have the luxury of trial and error.

[Shefali Parekh] Yes, yes.

[Allie Xu] They need to find a job to complete internship, you know, get a paid job.

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] And I think that's a lot of people's mentality. And once they find that job, they feet stuck, and there's no hope in this and either quit pharmacy or are feeling left out. And they keep hearing everyone saying how wonderful pharmacy —

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah. But they're not feeling it.

[Allie Xu] They’re not feeling it. So what are your advice to those pharmacists? And what can you see, what's your vision for pharmacy in general?

[Shefali Parekh] Hmm, that's tricky. Yeah, look, I do agree that everyone's got a different personality, and not everyone's going to be as — I guess —driven to, you know, get out there and put themselves out there. Like, I know that the you know, there's this notion that. you know, “I have to get into a good intern, you know, position. Sort of tick off that milestone, and then I can be a registered pharmacist.” But then at that point, they feel stuck, because all they know is where they've interned. So it's almost like — is it because they've not been exposed to anywhere else or are they scared of trying something new? So I think maybe it's that fear of, “This is what I know, this is what I'll stick to. Because, oh look, I'm getting paid. It's a stable job. You know, it's secure.” But I think in order to have that success, in order to find that notion of, “Oh pharmacy is so wonderful,” you do actually have to step out of your comfort zone and not be afraid to do that. Even if you don't have that bold personality, you can still find another work setting, you know. Even if it's not something that you've thought of if you're in community, you know, apply for a hospital position. If you're in a hospital setting and you don't enjoy it, apply for a community setting. Or go completely left field, apply for a drug company. Or, you know, just apply for something different that you notice, even if you don't know what it looks like, even if, you know, all you know at that moment is that you're not happy with where you are. And I think just by coming out of your comfort zone, you'll notice that pharmacy is so wonderful because it is so flexible and so diverse. Even the people in it. You know, if we look at the pharmacists in Australia, we are so diverse as a group. And we're all doing something unique and different to help serve our communities. We found what our communities need, and we've done something, you know, to hone in on that. So yeah, I think it's about — I mean I know intern year is stressful, and it's often not the time where you want to think about a change. But after intern year, when essentially, your career does start and you have to think about where you want to be for the rest of your career, yeah, don't be afraid to try something new. I think you can only do that when you are young, and you are sort of newly registered or your early career, you're still sort of figuring it out. But yeah, just step out of your comfort zone, just, you know, take a leap of faith. And if it doesn't work, you know, try something else. Like there is a lot out there, you just have to either find someone who is in that position already that you can lean on or just you know, go on SEEK or any job website. Yeah, I think just do your research to branch out, really.

[Allie Xu] Mmm. That reminds me of something a student asked me about: how do they know your career trajectory? How do you know that this job is great for now and then move on to the next. Who did you ask about your career trajectory? 

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah, that's interesting, too. Well, I think I discovered that I wanted to work in hospital from placement. So I know not every uni offers a hospital placement, which is something in my term of NAPSA we had advocated for because I think it's so important that students get exposure to as many different facets of pharmacy as a student. So like, for me, being able to have a placement in hospital, that's what led me to want to do hospital, you know, later on, because I really enjoyed my placement. Equally, you know, as a student, I worked in the community pharmacy, and I really enjoyed that, too. But I just knew that I wanted to do something a little bit different. So I think in a university setting, getting exposed as much as you can is important. So if you're not getting a placement opportunity, maybe speak to your lecture about you know, “What other careers at pharmacy, do you know of? Do you have a connection that I could speak to?” Simply asking that question. Because you'll be surprised by how many people know other people. And even just, you know, having that one conversation with a lecturer that you trust, or a friend that you trust, or you know, your employer. Then they'll remember when they do come across someone who's doing something a little bit different. They'll link you up, hopefully, you know. Ask your friends where they work, you know, “what do you enjoy about your workplace?” But I think, yeah, even from like, you know, second, third year uni before placements have even started, try and get that exposure. So when you are in placement you know what questions to ask and what opportunities to say yes to.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, definitely. Totally agree. Sounds like fear is a big theme that holds us back. So once we can overcome that and step out of a comfort zone, start talking to people, networking with strangers,

[Shefali Parekh] Yes.  

[Allie Xu] — after lectures. People, you know, look for a part time job in pharmacies, look for other opportunities, then we're more likely to find the answer we're looking for.

[Shefali Parekh] Exactly, exactly. Or you're more likely to, yeah, find inspiration in something or you know. Yeah you might not necessarily know all the answers about your find out the steps to get there.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, totally agree. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time.

[Shefali Parekh] No worries. Thank you. That was actually a lot of fun.

[Allie Xu] Thank you so much. And, yeah, hopefully, you know, what we discussed will definitely help more pharmacy students offices to create a successful pharmacy career or just helping them to give them that strength to step outtheir comfort zone,

[Shefali Parekh] Definitely,

[Allie Xu] — to start their journey, yeah.

[Shefali Parekh] Yeah. And I'm very happy if that's what happens.

[Allie Xu] Thank you so much. 

[Shefali Parekh] No worries. Thanks, Allie.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven’s Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. If you enjoyed this episode and know anyone else who you think would benefit from it, we would be grateful if you could share it with them. Together, we help even more pharmacists develop a career and life they love. If you have any questions or suggestions about future podcast episodes, please reach out to us via email,

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