How does one even break into medical writing? If you’ve ever asked this question, you are not alone!
Back when I was trying to break into the industry, I got a lot of rejections. And I am not going to lie, it crushed me.
However, like anything difficult in life, a breakthrough came and I landed my first full-time role as a medical writer. Now as I look back I see what I did right as well as the mistakes I made on the road to getting here.
And it’s from this place that I share these five tips to help you break into medical writing.
Let’s delve into them, shall we?
Learn about the different types of documents you may write.
The first thing to consider if you’re thinking about coming into science writing is familiarizing yourself with different types of documents that are out there. People don’t know this, but there are different types of medical writing roles and different documents you could be writing. Depending on your role, you could be writing:
- Blog posts
- Social media content
- Email marketing sequences
- Regulatory documents, just to name a few.
Each of these documents requires slightly different skill sets from tone to structure. Get familiar with the different types of documents you may execute as a medical writer.
Learn about the skills that are generally required of medical writers.
Again, the skills required for different medical writer roles may differ.
Skills like search engine optimization or copywriting, for instance, may be required of you.
I recommend that you read 10 job descriptions for medical writing roles and make a list of common skills that are required. Now, it’s your job to get familiar with those skills!
Prior to being an agency writer, I had been a freelance health writer for about 3 years. I wrote everything from product descriptions for an e-commerce business to email marketing sequences to blog content.
If I had to estimate, I would say I had written around 300 pieces of content by the time I landed my full-time role.
I am not saying you need to write this amount of content too, to become a medical writer. My point here is that you will need to practice writing.
Why? Because writing will allow you to create samples you can show to prospective employers or, if you decide to be freelance, to prospective clients.
When you are looking for medical writing roles, people will want to see what you have written before. If you’re a Ph.D. and you had publications, this might be great to showcase. But you can take it a step further by creating a sample white paper for instance to show your future employer.
So write! This might be writing on your own blog, this may be writing about scientific topics on LinkedIn or it may be creating a Medium account and writing there. Whatever the case is, you want to show people that you can write.
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Prepare your resume accordingly.
Your academic CV and an industry resume are two very different documents.
For a long time though, I sent out my academic CV as I looked for medical writer roles. Please don’t make this mistake.
A resume for a non-academic job should be between one and two pages. Three is overdoing it unless you have a ton of experience and are applying for a leadership role of some sort.
For entry-level medical writing roles, however, highlighting your experience and how that makes you a good fit for the role is where you need to focus your energies.
Networking is your best friend.
Networking is your best friend. I cannot say this enough. While networking can feel awkward at first, especially for introverted friends, I learned a long time ago that closed mouths don’t get fed.
Therefore, if there are people you can reach out to like alumni from your school, people on LinkedIn, or real-life relationships, who may be helpful in getting your career off the ground, reach out.
People have reached out to me and I have reached out to others. Several great breakthroughs in my career have come from building relationships with people, especially through LinkedIn.
If you are not on LinkedIn, I highly recommend that you create an account today.
Once you’ve done that, use the search bar on LinkedIn to find medical writers in your local area.
You can start by sending these people connection requests.
Doing so could yield the following results:
- When a role opens up at their company, they may post about it. This is literally how I found my current role. I was connected with my now boss. One day, I saw her post about an open role at the company’s San Diego office. I applied and almost immediately, I got an email from her requesting we talk via video conference. The rest is history.
- Connecting with other medical writers who are active on LinkedIn will help you learn about the industry and what it takes to succeed as a medical writer.
- Connecting with other medical writers this way also puts you in direct contact with people with whom you could schedule informational interviews. An informational interview is a simple meeting you have with a professional where you ask them questions about their profession in order to learn.
A word on informational interviews.
Connecting with someone on LinkedIn and immediately sending them your life story and twenty questions about their career is unlikely to get you the answers you need.
Instead of launching into a long missive, I recommend that you begin by nurturing the relationship. If the person posts regularly to LinkedIn, you could support them by commenting or liking their posts. As someone who regularly posts on LinkedIn, yes, I notice these things!
If you can find a way to nurture the relationship, then you could send them a message on LinkedIn. But keep it short, and respectful, and then drop just 3 questions in there for them.
By doing this, you will learn more about medical writing and if you make a good impression, it may open up a relationship that helps you break into medical writing.