Switching from academia to MedComms
Written by Daniele Guido
Hello everyone, I am Daniele, a new member of the editorial SEC team, and today I am going to share with you my experience of leaving academia to start a new job in Medical Communications as a medical writer at MediTech Media.
Everyone faces challenges in their search for a new job. So, my first sharing with you is to pinpoint that constant factor that you would always like to have in your job. For me that was science. I will never get bored of reading or sharing science news with people, whether they are scientists or not. In addition, during my PhD I realised how much I like writing. So, it wasn’t that difficult for me to connect the dots. However, my journey in medical communications was not a piece of cake, which is why I am sharing my experience: to make your journey slightly easier than mine.
Since you are reading this post, you might be interested in knowing more about medical communication agencies and the type of jobs you can get. You can find various information here but there are two main areas: client services and editorial. The former is focused more on keeping the business growing. An account executive’s role varies from developing a budget for a new project, suggesting new ideas to boost a client’s communication with patients or physicians, and organising symposia.
The latter, which is my area of expertise, involves several types of writing, such as educational, commercial and purely scientific. For example, a pharmaceutical company might ask a MedComms agency to produce a slide deck on the latest real-world studies on a specific drug, to be used internally to train their employees, or externally to share data with physicians. Another client might ask an agency to create the content for an app that will be used by representatives to share data with prescribers or to write a five-page manuscript summarising the data from a 3000-page clinical study report. A medical writer also helps with the organisation of symposia by developing the content to be presented and supporting the speakers on-site – yes, that means that you might travel a lot in a year.
One of the questions I had at the end of my PhD was: do I need a postdoc to be a medical writer? No, strictly speaking, you don’t even need a PhD to get a job in MedComms. However, PhDs often help your CV stand out from others’ and help you progress your career more quickly. During your PhD, you might have improved not only your ability to understand and report data but also your organisational, multi-tasking and team-working skills – the so-called transferable skills. It goes without saying that your writing skills have to be as good as possible and not being a native-English speaker didn’t help me with that. But, trust me: you can definitely do it! Start writing blogs and get into science communication. For example, I was the event manager and a writer for the science-related student organisation, Glasgow Insight into Science and Technology, which was a great experience.
I started my career in MedComms by applying to an academy programme organised by Nucleus Global, the group that MediTech Media is part of. There are other academy programmes available, and their aims are generally similar: to give trainees the possibility to choose between a career as an associate medical writer or an account executive, while being exposed to both jobs.
The interview process for a medical writer position is quite standard. Normally, the first step is a phone call, which is just to assess that you are a decent person. Then, you will be asked to submit a writing test, such as writing an abstract of 250 words of a given publication in one hour (you might want to study the CONSORT guidelines for that), a newsletter about a given topic or a slide deck to test your creativity. If the writing test is successful, you will be invited to attend an assessment day at the agency. The assessment day normally consists of an on-site writing test, a group test to evaluate your team-working skills and a one-to-one interview (you might want to study the STAR method for answering questions).
I hope this read has been useful and it will help you find a new career in a smooth way.
The Science Entrepreneur Club (SEC) is a non-profit organisation of curious minds that aims to explore and unite the life science ecosystem by educating, inspiring and connecting. We give scientific entrepreneurs a network and a platform to showcase their innovative technologies, find investors and accelerate their company.