Being a medical science liaison requires technical (scientific expertise), and we often hear about the importance of communication skills and interpersonal skills. However, here are 2 key personality traits make a MSL a truly Successful and Enduring Performer.
PERSPECTIVE: Same games, different package.
No matter where you go, most companies offer you similar games in a different package. The biopharmaceutical industry is incestuous. People move around and eventually end up working with each other one day down the road. Not only will you see the same corporate rah-rah in most of the places (unless you’re in a radically different setting, like with a start up biotech and you are employee number 3), you will work with the same types of people. Read a few companies’ vision and mission statements – chances are, these will read alike. There will something about wanting to help patients and improve lives, some may even elaborate on how their values should make them a different company.
Sometimes to keep you perspective (and your sanity), you have to take packages with a grain of salt.
ATTITUDES: Flexibility is more than a state of mind.
If there’s one thing you’ll learn in this job, it’s that flexibility is not just a virtue, it’s an absolute requirement to survive a medical science liaison career. Job descriptions desire personalities that are adaptable and able to stay cool under high-pressure circumstances.
Medical science liaison (MSL) responsibilities are intertwined with the life-cycle management a pharmaceutical compound. Medical science liaisons work toward mid- to long term objectives integral to corporate strategies for a given product. Because of this nature, fluctuations are inevitable. A strategy can go through ten face-lifts and end up in its original state.
Sales functions can get their results relatively on a weekly basis to gauge their next steps. Results are quantifiable, and therefore, strategies may be regimented. You’re given the map and are in the race to the destination. Medical liaisons will be lucky if they get a map – often, the coordinates aren’t even mapped out – sort of like ‘here’s an X that marks the treasure… we think.’
It is not unusual for a medical liaison’s schedule to change several times during the week. It is also not unusual for appointments to be canceled at the last minute, or for the physician to cut out of the meeting when the liaison had flown hundreds of miles to get some face time.
Expect to be dissed, rudely awakened, walked out upon, interrupted, and thrown into the deep-end when you only learned to dog-paddle. This is a game, and the ability to look cool, collected, and in charge goes hand-in-hand with softening your mind. Let changes wash over you and don’t try to swim madly against the stream unless you’re salmon and spawning is in your biology.
Then again, my husband still has to remind me the words to ‘Row Your Boat’ gently down the stream (and not up the stream) on some very bad dynamically challenging days.