Help! I didn't match to a residency. Now what?

First, don't give up. Take heart, there's a good chance that you were a strong candidate but the numbers worked against you. By some accounts, this past year the ratio of applicants to residency slots was the highest it has ever been. Focus on making yourself stand out above the crowd and try again next year. Keep reading for ways to make yourself a more desirable residency candidate.

Get into the scramble.

Before you give up on finding a residency this year, get into the scramble. Some residency programs don't match all their residency slots and some residencies are not part of the match. The word here is "network, network, network." Seek the advice of your pharmacy school advisor and professors. It will be challenging but graduates do find residencies this way.

Broaden your criteria.

Consider geographical locations or residency types you hadn't previously considered. This is not the time to be picky. If a location sounds like the ninth circle of hell to you, remember this is only temporary. After your residency, you will be a much more attractive job candidate with a wider array of job options in a variety of geographical locations.

Take a critical look at yourself and assess whether there are things you can do in the meantime to make yourself a more attractive residency candidate.

Did the programs you applied to look for qualities and qualifications that you don't have? Spend the next year addressing those. Did they look for evidence of leadership skills? Join ASHP, APHA, your local, state and regional pharmacy organizations. Do volunteer work, for instance at a clinic that provides indigent care.

Seek a position in a clinical environment in the meantime.

The goal is to keep your clinical skills current and make you an even more desirable residency candidate next year. You will have an advantage over other residency candidates who have no clinical experience.

There are many options for jobs in clinical settings. Look for a job through the Public Health Service (PHS) or the Indian Health Service (IHS), which by the way, has its own residency program outside of the match. Consider a job at a psychiatric hospital or a VA hospital. Take the less desirable shifts at a poison control center. Look at the Food and Drug Administration for potential job openings.

If you have difficulty finding a clinical job on your own, recruit the help of a pharmacy staffing firm that specializes in clinical pharmacy jobs . Their services to you are free, and they are more networked in the pharmacy industry than recent graduates are. If you end up taking a traditional dispensing job, moonlight part-time in a clinical setting-this is just the thing that a pharmacy staffing company can help you do.

If you don't think you want to do a residency now or you don't know what you want to do, leave your options open by protecting your clinical skills and your clinical desirability. Once a lot of time has elapsed, your clinical skills will not be current, and you may wish you hadn't closed the door on that career path.

Consider going back to school for a post-doctoral master's degree.

There are a lot of options: an MBA, a master's in clinical research, a master's in regulatory affairs or a master's in healthcare administration. There are pharmacy organizations that recruit candidates with these sorts of degrees for management-track positions.

Even if you don't do a residency, that does not mean you don't have the opportunity to have a successful career. Currently less than 20% of pharmacy graduates go on to do residencies. (Caveat: there is reason to believe this number will continue to rise.) In spite of the current softening of the market, pharmacy is still a high-demand industry, and the job market will undoubtedly improve in time. Consider the advice above-most of it applies not just to residency candidates but to job candidates too-and think about ways to make yourself stand out to a potential employer.

As Thomas Edison famously said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." In other words, work hard, and you will succeed.