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5 Professional Networking Tips for Emerging Medical Writers

January 16, 2017 | Jacquie Powell, PhD, and Ashley Godfrey, PhD, RAC, Clinical Research Scientists | Medical Writing Services

We have talked to a number of transitioning scientists who have a hard time understanding why they should engage in professional networking. One postdoctoral fellow summed it up by saying, “I know I should network but it just feels so dirty.” This made us laugh and helped us remember our own disconnect as we were going through the process of leaving academic science to enter the field of medical writing.

In an effort to help others bridge the gap, this blog post provides 5 professional networking tips we have learned along the way.

1. Set your goals through professional networking


Image courtesy of nongpimmy
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How can you look for a job when you don’t even know it’s out there? Figuring out what you want is always step one!

Even when you think you want to transition into medical writing, it can still be hard to know what kind of medical writing jobs might be best for you (eg, regulatory medical writing or non-regulatory medical writing).

At networking seminars, try to meet different types of medical writers to get a better understanding of their jobs. Paying attention to the personality types you gravitate towards can be very revealing!

And don’t forget to bring along business cards, because you never know who you’ll meet. It would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity just because someone doesn’t know how to get in touch with you!

2. Ask questions

Think of each professional event as a fact-finding mission:

  • What kinds of jobs do other people have?
  • Where do they work?
  • Do they like it?
  • How did they get into the field?

Of course, no one wants to be interrogated, so you’ll want to naturally integrate these questions into polite conversations. That said, you may be surprised at how enjoyable these conversations can be and how much you can learn from them.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3. Figure out how your current skills translate

Professional networking can help you learn what transferable skills you should highlight.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Academic scientists often don’t realize how many sought after skills they bring to the table.

  • For example, you may have experience in project management, time management, multi-tasking, and teamwork (think about being the driving force for your research project and collaborating with the mouse expert down the hall for your latest paper!). These are all skills that are crucial for successful medical writers.

When networking, don’t be afraid to ask other medical writers what skills they use on a daily basis, skills they use that were unexpected, and what skills they transferred from the bench.

Be sincere in your approach and people are usually happy to talk with you.

4. Sell yourself

This may go without saying, but be aware of what you do well. While you may need to learn new things and gain more experience, your track record says a lot about how well you are likely to transition into the field of medical writing.

Career transitions can shake one’s confidence, and all too often, intelligent well‑educated people will minimize their accomplishments at professional events without even realizing it.

You don’t have to be a show-off, but remember to be fair (and true) to yourself. You know best what you bring to the table, so highlight your skills and expertise so that others can better understand where you’re coming from.

To do this well, consider putting together an “elevator pitch” that sums up your skills and professional goals concisely (in about 20 to 30 seconds), without being overly nuanced. Many academic scientists are extremely specialized and feel the need to describe the specifics of their work. Remember to tailor your conversations by keeping your audience and end-goal in mind.

5. Focus on learning rather than getting an interview

When networking, try to think of it as developing interpersonal relationships that can help you identify professional opportunities rather than as a direct job search.

Learning how someone else got to their position and what worked for them is valuable information and can help put you on the right path to success — or at least help point you in the right direction!

You’re most likely to develop beneficial contacts if you focus on learning what is out there, rather than obtaining a job interview.

  • Remember, don’t think of this as “How can you help me?” but really “What can I do for you, and how can we help each other?”
  • Show your appreciation for the time/help the person has given you by thanking them for the information, and always make sure to follow up with anything you have said you will do (eg, an email or meeting for coffee).
  • Keep in mind that if you are successful in entering into your desired field, you will run into the people you are networking with again!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wrap-up

We hope our perspective has been helpful and that it helps with your own transition into medical writing. Keep in mind that this is your chance to build a network of people who could stay with you throughout your whole career, so don’t think of this as a one-time opportunity.

Stay tuned for future posts with more information about resources that will allow you to put your networking skills to use!

IMPACT is an exciting, small CRO whose team has expertise in medical writing, regulatory affairs/operations, early phase clinical trial management, and drug development consulting. If you’d like to learn more about IMPACT and the careers we offer, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Category: Medical Writing Services
Keywords: medical writing, professional networking, career transition

Note: At the time this blog post was published, author Jacquie Powell is no longer at IMPACT.

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