“Professional networks serve as mentorship platforms, the key is to harness them for the benefit of all. Leadership and strategy helps realize this.”
Mentorship being a key driver in career and professional growth, the question that lingers next is how to get the right mentorship to be able to accomplish this. Referencing Mentorship Part I, I believe there are varied platforms and avenues from which to derive mentors, key being professional networks. Professional networks in this case being professional associations, trade associations and trade unions. I am a beneficiary of professional networking and this is why I consistently and passionately dedicate my time and energy to professional networks. During my campus days, I served in various capacities in the professional associations which led me to work with sector and industry associations upon graduation until recently when I transitioned. Having written about my experience as a mentor in the Part I, this piece will be about me as a mentee and how I am working with colleagues to leverage the power of mentorship networks to democratize opportunities for professional growth for young pharmacists.
In 2019, the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) hosted the first ever Young Pharmacists networking session to help mobilize young pharmacists to take lead in addressing some of the pressing challenges that the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy profession faces. On the backdrop of this, there was the initial call for a team to steer the operations of this special group. This wasn’t realized in 2020 as a result of the pandemic which disrupted every facet of our lives. Come 2021, I was lucky to be among the team that initiated action to ensure this was materialized. After a couple of consultative meetings, the initial draft mandate of this team is set, ratified by the umbrella association and ready for launch in a couple of weeks.
Why Young Pharmacists Group (YPG)? Following the signing of the return to work agreement between doctors and the government in 2017, one of the benefits of being in the medical field was assured employment, was lost thus post internship doctors became underemployed or unemployed. In the midst of this, many graduates with the right competencies able to help drive the health agenda of the nation were not being meaningfully engaged in addressing the needs of the very society that had invested in their training and development to this level. At the same time, it was clear that there were no structured mechanisms and programs that would drive an agenda for the welfare of young pharmacists to enable them venture into practice, grow and establish themselves. Additionally, the professional profile of the practice has been watered down by widespread malpractices and invasion of the practice by quacks. Young pharmacists would then serve as the reset button and reshape the profession. To be able to do this, YPG is the special vehicle that will drive this agenda in tandem with the umbrella association.
How will YPG foster mentorship & professional development? Having benefited from mentorships opportunities with peers, lectures, senior colleagues and industry experts, I have been able to learn and grow in the profession. Luckily as a person I have been outgoing and quick to get into spaces where I can access such opportunities. While this has served me, it won’t serve every other young pharmacist. Using this as an anchor point, it’s evident that by being part of such networks we are able to explore unconventional paths, avoid unnecessary mistakes and most importantly fast track our professional journeys. YPG will therefore serve as a platform for young pharmacists to access senior colleagues, industry champions, employers and thought-leaders to tap into through various initiatives that will be led by the team. Additionally, as per the previous post where I advocated for action, YPG is envisioned to serve as an avenue to engage young pharmacists in relevant projects which will help them grow while at the same time spotlight the role of pharmacists in these spaces thus opening up opportunities for more. Importantly, the group will draw inspiration from within by sharing members stories, insights and experiences in solidarity. Ubuntu being the underlying principle.
Mentors serve as guides in our personal and professional development. Having mentors have been instrumental in my personal development both in referrals for opportunities that I wouldn’t have had access to, advise on which opportunities to let go of and what to hold on to. This is even more important since with the recurrent challenges in our context, there’s a tendency to want to hold onto so many things out of fear which drags us back on our journey to achieve our goals. Being able to weigh options with someone who have walked the journey simplifies the process especially when they align with your personal aspirations. In most cases I’ve passed on these opportunities and now I believe it’s time to do it in a structured way hoping that more people will be able to leverage the power of these networks to create a ripple effect of positive change. It’s a world of possibilities, let’s get on with the journey to realize our potentials.