I first realised I didn’t want to carry on in research when I was writing my first year report. My supervisor at the time wanted me to get back in the lab as soon as possible, but I was really enjoying taking the time to write up everything that I’d done in the year. Once I realised that I didn’t see myself continuing in the lab post-PhD, I started investigating careers in science writing.
When I stumbled onto a medical communication networking site and its sister site focussing on getting a foot in the door in the world of med comms, I realised this was for me. They even have careers events in different locations around the UK a few times a year.
I started applying for jobs in February and eventually got a job offer in June. I started off by applying for the companies that I’d heard of at the careers events, sending my CV and cover letter over to their recruitment teams. What I hadn’t planned for was that some companies would immediately send back writing tests to be completed within 1 week. Two writing tests coupled with final year PhD experiments meant I ended up not giving 100% and didn’t get past the first stage.
With a couple of other companies, I had a phone interview first where they went over my CV asking general questions about how I found out about medical writing and what kind of therapy areas I’d worked in. For me, I’ve been extremely focussed on cancer research from when I left my undergrad, which immediately pigeon-holed me into oncology.
Eventually I got two interviews around the same time, but the companies were vastly different from each other. One was a medical communications agency, so their entire business is focussed on med comms, with deliverables such as publications, slide decks and posters for conferences. The other was a healthcare economics and outcomes research company, which meant that the medical writing team was a smaller part of a bigger company, including statisticians, analysts and health economists. The deliverables in this company were more regulatory writing, so think of things like reports that companies need for FDA approval of a drug, clinical trial reports and only a few shorter pieces like publications.
After waiting to hear for two weeks, I found out that I didn’t get either job — I was absolutely heartbroken, and had to take a break from applications to think about what I was going to do. After a couple of weeks focussing on thesis writing, I contacted Carrot Pharma, who specialise in recruiting for pharma, biotech and healthcare specialisms. I mentioned the companies that I’d already applied to, and they sent me a couple of job specs over. One was an associate medical writer role, but after looking more into the company and seeing they specialised in oncology I decided that I didn’t want to restrict my career by focussing on cancer yet again.
JOB APPLICATION TIPS
Take some time to research the role and tailor your application for the company.
Don’t try to juggle everything at once, actually take time and focus on your application.
Anticipate what you have to do in the coming weeks and make sure you have time for phone interviews, potential writing tests and face-to-face interviews.
The other role was completely different and involved a mix of medical writing and client liaison. After applying, I was sent the writing test, which I aced, and got myself an interview. When I got there, the company seemed a perfect fit for me — they don’t do a huge amount of oncology meaning that I’d be able to get experience in a broader range of therapy areas.
As the interview went on, I realised that I wasn’t exactly their ideal candidate and the non-medical writing side of things would take up about 80% of the workload and even include things like planning meetings and conferences which I have absolutely no experience of.
After around an hour of interviews I had to complete an editing test and a sort of quiz on the role of a medical writer, the surrounding team and what input would be expected from clients. At this point I was starting to think this wasn’t for me as I wouldn’t get to do what I loved.
Fast forward to Monday, four days after my interview and I get a call from the recruiter asking if it was OK for the company to call me to ask some more questions. I didn’t really have any idea what this phone call was going to be about, having been told it would be a couple of weeks before I heard back as they were still interviewing. Turns out that after a discussion among themselves, they’d decided that I was more suited to an Associate Medical Writer role and wanted to know if it was something that I’d be interested in.
As you can imagine, I jumped at the chance to get my dream job, and the rest is history!