Aspiring MSLs: You know the drill. You don’t get a chance or time of day unless you have MSL experience – not only that – now it’s 3 YEARS OF MSL EXPERIENCE. You can’t get that MSL experience unless you first get the MSL job.
Experienced MSLs: You know the drill. There are doctorate degree holders vying for your jobs every single posting that’s ever released, and the competition is getting fierce. Sure, you have MSL experience, but we’ve all known someone who has MSL experience who was passed over for a job by someone else without MSL experience. It’s getting tough out there.
First, know this: the higher the # of years of experience employers get to demand, the more intense the competition is, because the job market is seeing a GLUT of medical science liaison applications.
This means you are competing with so many people, hiring good MSLs have become part science, part guesswork, and mostly good fortune of science and art working together when hiring “the one.”
Second, realize this: whatever anyone writes about that is remotely helpful, if you don’t DO IT, it doesn’t become experience. Just knowing how to spew the right jargon and say “interface with thought leaders” ain’t cutting it anymore.
I’ve said this before, and many MSL directors seem to like it: a MSL with 5 years of experience may be a very experienced medical science liaison in the true sense of the word… or we may be looking a MSL with 1 year of experience done 5 times over.
Third, get this: anything I write here, or anyone writes, immediately levels the playing field, which means this is no longer going to give you a true competitive advantage because you and the thousands of others reading advice are going to do the same thing. (and we do have at least 2000 members here – but this is on top of maybe tens of thousands on public social networks accessing this through links or forwarded emails)
So here is the pertinent question to research, for those of you trying to gain a true advantage competing for medical science liaison positions or establishing your “personal brands” as medical science liaisons.
Ask yourself this:
“What do employers expect to take for granted, in part, when they hire a MSL with 3 years of experience, versus taking a risk with a MSL candidate with no experience?”
(Obviously it wouldn’t be level of enthusiasm for the position.)
Ideally, you would research this for yourselves, off public discussion, without disclosing this to the 500 other competing candidates reading the same discussion.
Experienced MSLs can look at the above question but I’d pull this out to 5 years of experience, and then ask what level of expertise and competence – what “factor X” you’d cultivate unique to you – that will secure your status as “the MSL to keep” and/or “the MSL we need to hire.”
Until next time,
Jane Chin (firstname.lastname@example.org)