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How Refinancing My Student Loans Gave Me the Freedom to Pursue a New Career Path

How Refinancing My Student Loans Gave Me the Freedom to Pursue a New Career Path

It took a sudden job loss for me to reevaluate my career as a pharmacist and consider starting my own business. I didn’t know it at the time, but that job loss was a blessing in disguise.

In 2014, I had to scrape together a series of part-time gigs after losing my job. My former employer, hit hard by increasing health care costs and declining insurance reimbursement, could no longer afford to keep me on as a full-time staff member. My biggest concern was my unstable financial situation: I was six months pregnant and my family depended on my income. I spent the remainder of the year working as a relief pharmacist (a contractor who fills in when staff pharmacists are unavailable) in many different locations while figuring out how to care for a newborn.

My financial uncertainty made me take a hard look at my finances. I was shocked to see how much my federal student loans were costing me. At a staggering 6.38% APR, around $300 of my $415 minimum monthly payment went to interest costs. I looked into my options and found one that allowed me to save around $2,100 annually. In addition, the organization's Social Promise resonated with my personal values. For every loan, the organization funds the education of a child in need. To me, education is one of the few things that can never be taken away and as an educated person, I feel the only way to show gratitude for this extreme privilege is to pay it forward. Seeing that CommonBond was doing this inspired me to think about how I could do so in my own career.

The money I saved enabled me to explore a new path: pharmacy consulting. I was drawn to pharmacy consulting because it enabled me to build a career with a bigger impact on my patients and fellow health professionals. As a consultant, I have the ability to work with, train, and empower them to identify non-traditional ways of using their degree – from medical counseling roles to business roles to innovation opportunities. And starting my own business actually seemed like a safer bet than working as a full-time employee in a pharmacy, given my past experience. For the first time since I graduated from pharmacy school, I felt excited and inspired.

I began blogging about my journey on my website. It generated interest from colleagues who began reaching out to seek advice on how to start their own businesses. The Pharmapreneur Academy, a six-week online course that would give other “pharmapreneurs” the information and support they needed, was born.

The advice I give to aspiring “pharmapreneurs” and entrepreneurs is the same, and as an added bonus, it applies to nonprofit job seekers as well:

Get your personal finances in order

Starting a business- or any other career risk-when your personal budget is unbalanced is like adding fuel to a fire. First, put out any financial fires. Whether you have student loans or credit card debt, you have options. I balanced my budget by cutting down on extraneous spending and refinancing my hefty pharmacy school loans. You can get started cutting out that extraneous spending today by using a free mobile app, like Mint, to track your spending and understand what you can live without.

Invest in personal growth

Most people who tell you to follow your passion leave out one key detail: sometimes passions only start out as vague interests. You should continually invest in personal growth and follow your curiosity. You never know when an interest can turn into the topic of your first book.

Zero in on a niche

I never dreamed teaching pharmacists how to build businesses would lead me to my own profitable business. I saw an opportunity to create a business where little information was available, and I took it. There is almost no such thing as too niche. As they say, “The riches are in the niches.” Think about your specific target audience and your ideal customer. If you can’t describe this person, go back to the drawing board until you can.

Editor's note: if you are looking for a job, think in terms of your ideal employer! 

Test your market before you leap

If you have an idea for a program, product or service, make sure there is demand for it before you spend time creating it. For example, if you want to offer an in-person workshop, you can pre-sell registrations using a platform, such as Eventbrite. I offered short, free trainings to gauge interest in my offerings, then asked my audience what they needed (and would pay for) in the future.

In my first year in business, I trained more than 30 pharmacists with my program at the Pharmapreneur Academy. Inspired by CommonBond’s commitment to social impact, I will donate a percentage of each new participant’s tuition this year to Asha Kiran’s Rural Development Program. All of this is possible because I decided to take control of my personal finances- you can too!

This article was originally posted on CommonBond.


About the Author: Blair Thielemier is a pharmacist business coach, contributing author for Pharmacy Times and a guest host on the Pharmacy Podcast Show. She has a passion for writing and also advocates for pharmacist-led clinical services. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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