Medical Science Liaisons who Stay in their Jobs

What keeps a high performing medical science liaison at a company? Is it overall job “satisfaction”? Is it opportunities for career development? Is it compensation? These factors up in the conversation, assuming the MSL’s relationship with the MSL manager is positive and the current company climate is constructive.

Pay is important — every MSL has a price that can entice them to another organization. Perks are important — the overall compensation package including support for professional development can make a difference when “most things being equal.” Opportunities for advancement/promotion are important because this seems to come up in most conversations I’ve had with MSLs about their careers.

Yet we have been circling these topics — especially “promotional opportunities” — for years without much progress beyond “# of MSL tenure levels”. Not because medical affairs executives don’t care, but because we cannot address promotional opportunities without accepting the logistical limitations of a field-based job.

When new growth opportunities are located in one state and you live in another state, you are logistically limited from hearing first about them and competing for them. You may also not want to uproot and move to another state, at least, unless the “price is right”, but another candidate already located in that state may not have the same price consideration. Just as job candidates have a price, so do employers.

Perhaps the key to growing MSLs “who stay” is less about the external drivers like “pay” and “perks” as it is hiring candidates with retention-favoring “internal drivers”.

When your job is your everything, you tend to invest your entire attention to your job. You can become consumed by whatever corporate drama exists or emerges. Having a self-identity completely tied to one identity means being at the mercy of everything affecting this identity, including factors beyond your control. Management can change, and with this, shifts in corporate directives and cultural climate. Colleagues join and leave, and with this, fluxes in team cohesion and collaboration.

If the only way you feel you can grow as a person is by winning a promotion to MSL manager, you are limiting your growth to # of these positions in the field. Maybe our conversations about “work life balance” needs to change from balancing time to balancing our self-identification with work and life.

Maybe high performing MSLs who stay with their companies have figured out that even as they are proud of what they do as medical science liaisons — they define their jobs, their jobs alone do not define who they are and how they grow.

Until Next Time,
Jane Chin, Ph.D. (EMAIL)
Founder, MSL Institute