Surviving the Showcase: Your Guide to Midyear Success
Editor's Note: The following is a sample chapter from our new guide: Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency. Are you thinking about residency? If so, click here.
The Showcase. Of all the residency-related questions tl;dr pharmacy has received from students, the Showcase is by far the most common. It’s the head honcho. The cock of the walk. Numero uno.
And because the Showcase is such a special topic, we figured it deserves its own section.
Consider this a survival guide.
If you haven’t been to Midyear before (and I’m assuming you haven’t), it’s hard to describe how much of a mess the residency showcase can be. I don’t say that to scare you, but so you can mentally prepare yourself.
I’ll try my best to be as descriptive as possible, but be aware that I’ll fall short. Like The Matrix, “No one can be told what the Showcase is, you have to see it for yourself.”
Anyway, let’s get started.
If you’ll pardon my language, the residency Showcase is an absolute shit show. I’ve been through it as both a student and a resident. And I’ve polled other people that have gone through it multiple times as well. The consensus is the same: Shit show.
Envision a scenario similar to The Hunger Games. Except instead of only 24 tributes (people), there’s about 5 or 6 thousand. There’s a common pool of resources in the center of the arena (the booths set up by each PGY1 program).
You only have to “last” 3 hours instead of 2 weeks, but this just means that you can’t use the “stick to the periphery and find water” survival routine. You have to jump into the thick of it and get your hands dirty, or you will miss out on chatting up your future program.
Here’s a typical scenario…
You make a beeline to your favorite choice, inconveniently located in the back corner of the room. You are bumped into by literally 12 people within your first 50 steps. There are no apologies in the Showcase. Your space will be invaded often. After about 10 minutes of getting hit by purses and poster cases, you can finally see the booth you’re targeting.
Holy hell is that the line to talk to the current residents?!
You patiently grab your place in line. You watch 3 people conveniently ‘not notice’ where the line starts (or maybe they have friends up there) and they go up and insert themselves towards the front. You’ve been bumped into another 5 times. You drop your CVs and business cards.
Whoops. You forgot to eat breakfast this morning. Tread carefully to make sure “hangry" you isn't the one doing the talking.
There are a couple of students who are monopolizing the resident’s time. They’ve been there for like 5 minutes now. It’s like being in line behind the wrong person at the grocery store. You know who I'm talking about, the old person who is paying with a check or who is rooting through her purse for some nickels to make up the difference.
What the hell is taking this line so long?
Finally! You get to speak to actual human residents! Hooray! OMG, is that girl who was behind you in line now interrupting and talking over you?!?
Repeat this process for an unrelenting 3 hours.
Typically, there are 3 Showcase sessions (and each lasts 3 hours). Often, two of the Showcase sessions are in the same day. Each PGY1 program only sets up a booth for one of the sessions, so you’ll need to plan carefully to make sure you hit all of the programs on your list.
Yes, this means you need to have a pre-selected list of programs you’re interested in coming into the Showcase. Meandering about isn’t going to cut it. You’ll run out of time.
When you’ve visited with every booth you want to visit in a session, you can wander around if there is still time (and if you’re sadistic). Just make sure you get the important stuff done first. Remember why you came to Midyear.
Alright, so let’s recap:
- Thousands of P4 students (and an increasing amount of P3s)
- Invasions of personal space
- Hunger Games-esque rudeness
- A potential appearance by "hangry you"
How to Survive (and Thrive) in the Showcase
Now that we’ve got some background, what can we do to tip the odds in our favor?
Rule Number 1
Above all, there is one rule:
You. Cannot. Get. Frazzled.
Let me repeat that for emphasis.
You. Cannot. Get. Frazzled. Ever. Ever.
I don’t care how many people have invaded your space. Or how many rude people cut you off. Or if coffee gets spilled on you on that stunning business attire of yours. It doesn’t matter (though maybe try to clean or cover up the coffee).
Conceal don’t feel. Let it go (let it goooooo, can’t hold it back anymore).
Residency is a frazzling experience. It’s stressful and requires you to perform in suboptimal conditions. The Showcase booth is your first impression to the program you’re courting. If you come across as cranky, agitated, and overwhelmed, it’s not a good look.
The RPD doesn’t know that you took an elbow to the ribs 2 minutes ago. And at the risk of sounding callous, she probably doesn’t care. The other 400 people she’s talked to today have taken similar offenses in stride.
Rule Number 2: Plan Carefully
ASHP releases a map of the showcase in early November. You’re going to want to download that so you can map out your route. Literally draw yourself a map. And (as silly as this sounds), try to minimize zig-zagging. It can take a while to travel from booth to booth, and you’re going to need the energy.
If you’re interested in two programs that are right next to each other, awesome! Seriously, it’s totally fine to bounce from one booth to its neighbor. Residency programs do not take offense.
Even though it feels like the opposite, these PGY1 booths are setup to attract you. That’s right. You’re the one being courted (not the other way around). Midyear (and the Showcase) exist for two reasons:
- To make ASHP money (I kid, I kid….kinda)
- To help you develop professionally
Midyear exists for your professional development. And to help you select a residency program. It will not look bad if you bounce from one booth to another next door.
Rule Number 3: Reconnaissance
Let’s piggyback from that last point. Midyear exists for you, and for your benefit. The goal of bouncing around like a pinball wizard to all of these booths is to help you narrow down your choices for a residency program. While you can (and should) try to make a good impression (or at least avoid a bad impression), your primary goal is to weed out programs that don’t fit your needs.
So with that in mind, at each booth your mission is to see how well you fit in with that program. Consider both professional and personal aspects here, but focus on personal. Really try to talk to the current residents if you can. Ask how their year is going. What things there are to do around the hospital. What their plans for next year are.
What you’re trying to gauge is their overall tone and how genuine their responses are. If the current residents are tapped out, miserable, and unhappy (and it’s only December), that gives a good indication of what YOUR year will be like next year. Conversely, if they have nothing but positives to say about the program, it’s a good sign.
As a quick note, don’t confuse the “good” kind of residency stress with the bad kind. Residency is supposed to be challenging and stressful. So don’t be too alarmed with mildly stressed residents. They have a lot going on (and they’re starting to realize they still have another 7 months to go). But if they’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown, that’s your warning sign.
You’re also trying to figure out the overall “personality” of the program. You can get this by talking to anyone at the booth (it doesn’t have to be the current residents).
Some programs have a more ‘lighthearted’ environment than others. Some programs are much more business like. There is nothing wrong with either approach (or with anything in between), it’s just about finding the program that fits YOUR personality.
One of the biggest reasons I ranked my potential residency programs the way I did was based on the overall tone and atmosphere I got during conversations and Midyear and interviews.
If you’ve read tl;dr pharmacy for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t do as well in “stuffy” environments :)
Rule Number 4: Don’t Ask Bad Questions
For example, if you’re interested in a PGY2 in Psych Pharmacy, ask either of the residents if they’ve taken the psych rotation at the hospital (and how the experience was).
Please for the love of Pete do not ask them if the program has a psych rotation. You should already know that because you’ve done your homework going in.
That’s what I mean by bad questions. It shows a lack of preparation and a certain degree of laziness to stroll around from booth to booth asking questions that could be answered with a 30 second Google search. It also hurts you because it takes away from the amount of time you have to ask “real” questions that will actually help you decide if the program is for you or not.
Here is a list of questions to avoid asking anyone at the booth (unless you’ve seriously tried and could not find the answers online):
- Is your program accredited?
- Does your program offer ‘X’ rotation?
- What rotations does your program offer?
- Does your site offer PGY2 programs? If so, which?
- How many beds/how large is the hospital?
- Is it a teaching hospital?
- What chronic diseases does the clinic manage?
Try to keep your questions more open ended, and focused on the experience the current residents are having. Do your best to keep them talking, while steering the conversation to subjects that answer the questions you have.
As an additional bonus; most other students will ask these softball, low hanging fruit questions. You’ll help set yourself apart by asking more thoughtful questions.
Rule Number 5: Bring CVs and Business Cards...
...but understand that they have limited utility. Each and every residency booth is going to walk away with literally hundreds of CVs. So don’t set unreasonable expectations that a perfectly designed, printed on thick stock paper CV is going to set their world on fire.
That being said, if you are asked for your CV or business card, you’re gonna want to have them on hand. This is one of those cases where it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.
Another recommendation is to get the business card of the RPD and residents at the booths you visit. Keep a pen with you and after leaving the booth, jot a note or two about each of them on their respective cards. That way, when you send a thank you note later (or when you score an interview) you’ve got a personal anecdote about them that you can use. This makes them feel special, and is straight out of the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” playbook.
Those are the “Big 5” rules. Here’s a couple of final tips to bring it all together.
Dress in ‘business professional’ for the showcase (and for most other daytime activities of Midyear). Resist the urge to appear “laid back” by going ‘business casual.’ Please do not (under any circumstances) dress in the increasingly popular ‘business sexual.’
Watch your mouth. This really applies to all of Midyear, and even to the plane rides to and from Midyear. Keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Don’t badmouth any person, school, or residency program. Remember how many times you’ve heard that pharmacy is a small world? Imagine 10,000 pharmacists and students all gathering in the same city for the same event. People fly in from all over the country, and you can’t tell someone is a pharmacist just by looking at them.
Likewise, don't be the person throwing elbows during the Showcase. I know RPDs that will remove you completely from consideration at their program if they see you being rude to other people. The importance of making a great first impression cannot be stressed enough.
Be respectful of each program’s (and other students’) time. Don’t be that person that is hogging the RPD for 10 minutes. Do your prep work beforehand, and have a pleasant but concise conversation with them.
Remember, the showcase is not about you making an impression on them, it’s about them making an impression on you. Allow your fellow students room to talk to the programs of their interest.
This concludes your Midyear Showcase survival guide. Use it well.
As a parting word, allow me to say this:
Future Residents, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Are you interested in residency?
Would you like to learn how to judo throw Midyear, the Showcase, interviews, and every other step of the residency process?
Then check out our new guide, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency!