Dear MSL candidates.
We will have Dr J. as a guest writer who will share "the good the bad and the ugly" experiences of preparing and getting into an MSL job. Real-life experiences from the field, that you are facing already or will face soon too.
The Rise and Fall of my telephone interview.
Probably I am alike a lot of you. A biomedical scientist thinking about taking the step from academia into the world of Pharma. You may also call it ‘preparing’, or maybe even ‘dreaming’. If you think that is formulated too theatrical, let me tell you about how I dropped from ‘preparing’ back to the ‘dreaming’ level.
So, about two years ago I finally made the decision. Even though my science career wasn’t going bad, I thought to myself “Alright, I want out. I’ve had it with this one-lane career path. Let’s do it!”. Recognize that moment..? Mind you, a whole multi-year internal struggle of uncertainty, fear, anger and melancholy led up to my courageous decision. Since somehow in academia they always make you believe that there is no world outside of academia, only a hazy void. Well, at least they make you believe you’ll abandon your honorable “life’s work” and will only feel unsatisfied ever after. I have even heard professors refer to academics going from science to pharma as “we have lost him/her to Pharma”, like those people died.
But I’m drifting off here. Back to the point. So I made my decision. I was prepared, wanted to take that step, get off the ever-narrowing track of options in academia. And what then happened was… nothing. Nothing at all happened. The party was all in my head. I mean, I could surely not tell my colleagues I wanted to pursue an exciting Pharma career as they would have regarded me ‘unfaithful to the cause’. There was also no respectable training- or support program for “scientists wanting to transfer” in place at my University, let alone I talk to my professor for guidance. It also shook me up to realize that all people I knew appeared to be rigidly underway in academia. Except for a few, with whom I somehow lost contact long ago. Then I did what most of you did: I made a LinkedIn profile. I knew that was clever, that’s what business people do, so I put all my academic skills in there, collected a whole 30-odd contacts by inviting some colleagues and friends and checked who visited my profile 3 times a day. Still, the visitor number hovered scarily close to zero. As you can foresee this smoldered along. Disappointed by the harshness, I got back to my academic life. Which I actually found rather dissatisfying. Still, I started to think “what if this is just as good as it gets? Don’t complain, you got a job and even some responsibility”. I rearranged to stay put.
Hence, my LinkedIn profile was left behind like a mildewy remnant of yesterday’s hopes, and I even started to avoid looking at it. This phase lasted about a year, in which I still managed to double my contacts nonetheless. One rainy Sunday afternoon in between the stress of trying to acquire 2 personal research grants on tight deadlines, juggle thick department politics and trying to finally land that big publication, I once again started to explore the job advertisements on LinkedIn which always appeared to me as ‘postcards from beyond’. Strange names, unknown companies, exotic job descriptions, promises of good financial weather. I found a job named “MSL”. After increasingly interested googling, rebellious sentiments and bold thoughts of redemption I hit that “Apply Now” button the next day, and pop – there went my outcry. Of course, I didn’t hear much except from the automated “Thank you for your application and good luck!” system-message in my inbox. It was not until 3 months later I suddenly had a recruiter visit my LinkedIn profile. She read through my derelict online resume, sifted through thick academic jargon, international labs and professor’s names. It must have still sparked a shimmer of hope in her mind as she called me two days later.
I was baffled and almost enchanted – I had it made! I was contacted! My exhilaration notwithstanding, I was in for an epic fail. I didn’t realize that as a classic scientist, approaching all things with a rationally naïve but optimistic scrutiny.
I was in no way prepared for the clear-cut goal-oriented questions I was about to face, let alone the actual meaning of the telephone interview.
I now wish I was better prepared for the MSL role before I was contacted by her, as it would have saved me the pitfall.
Let me tell you in my next post how my first telephone interview went. I post these stories here online, as I am tremendously curious to see if any of you have gone through, or are going through, the same phases, thoughts and sentiments. Please, feel free to provide feedback! -
All the best, Dr. J
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