May Zhang, a former Career Intern at the Center for Career Development, completed a BS in Pharmacy Studies and a minor in Biology in May 2020. On track to obtain a Pharm D, May shares her story and talks about valuable experiential learning opportunities, creating a support network based on shared interests, advice to others aspiring to work in the pharmaceutical industry, and more.
Were there any experiential learning opportunities that contributed to your current success?
My first internship was during my first few summers of college when I interned at a local independent pharmacy. That was my first real pharmacy experience, and it sparked my interest in the field.
Another internship that meant a lot to me was my time as a Career Intern at the Center for Career Development! I loved being part of the Career Intern team, and I gained so many useful skills. My favorite part was giving one-on-one résumé critiques and getting to help students. It’s because of those critiques that I realized I enjoy counseling and education, so I’m now looking into pharmacy careers that involve patient counseling.
I currently work as a pharmacy intern at Backus Hospital, where I work in the central pharmacy and the emergency department. This job has allowed me to apply what I learn in pharmacy school to a real-world setting.
What are some skills or competencies you have found essential to your career success?
Organization is critical for success in any role, but I’ve especially needed it during pharmacy school. With many classes, activities, and rotations to keep track of, staying on top of it all can be challenging. Good organization and a calendar has helped me stay on track.
How did you overcome academic, career preparation, or job search obstacles during your time at UConn?
Career preparation was challenging to me as an undergrad, and still is today. I struggled when deciding what branch of pharmacy to pursue, since I wasn’t sure what would suit me best. Eventually, I decided on clinical pharmacy, and now I’m trying to decide further details such as inpatient versus outpatient services, specialties, and more.
One thing that has helped a lot is conducting informational interviews and shadowing pharmacists. It gives me a much better idea of what a day in the life of each pharmacist looks like.
Were there any UConn groups, organizations, or other resources that contributed to your career success?
I’ve been very involved with the campus group Christian Students on Campus. My faith is really important to me, and having a group of believers with me helped me through my college journey. These people are my family on campus, and I wouldn’t have made it far in my college career without their support.
As a student of color, what advice would you give to other students of color at UConn?
Don’t compromise who you are, and don’t be afraid to express your culture! In high school, I masked parts of my culture and identity to try to blend in. In college, I realized that staying true to my roots and values is way more important. It helped that I found people like me, from similar backgrounds and with similar interests.
What advice would you give to current UConn students who are looking to follow the same career path?
Before you make any decisions, do some research into how broad pharmacy can be. Most people think of retail/community pharmacists–the people you see at CVS–since that’s the most visible profession of pharmacy. But pharmacy includes a lot more than that, including professions in clinical settings, industry, and academia!
Do you have any recent accomplishments or achievements you would like to share?
Earlier this year, I led a team of pharmacy students to 4th place in a national clinical research challenge. In May 2020, I graduated as the valedictorian of my class. I was also fortunate enough to receive the Nieforth Pharmacy Scholarship and the Connecticut Pharmacists Foundation Scholarship.