Rejection is Painful, but Perseverance Pays Off

The PhD/Postdoc blog series features scientists at different stages of career development as they explore and plan for their next steps. Here is the 6th and final post by Lydia Morris. Check back for Divya Shiroor’s final post and the start of out next installment with four new bloggers. 

Current position: Postdoctoral research trainee with a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology Medical Science Writer
Postdoc start date: January 2013
Institution: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (affectionately referred to as UNC)

I’m going to keep this month’s post short and sweet. The sweet part is that I just started as a medical science writer and editor in Chapel Hill, N.C. with Education and Training Systems International, which provides training materials for pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies. It’s only been about two weeks, but I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been along my educational and career paths. So, if you’re thinking about venturing away from academic lab research, I think it’s worth facing the fear of the unknown to find a more satisfying job.

After applying to my current position, I was asked to submit writing samples and then to take a writing/editing test. Eventually, I was invited to two rounds of in-person interviews and received an offer soon after that. This month, I thought it would be useful to share some things that I think helped me during application and interview process that led to where I am today.

Writing and Editing Experience
Throughout grad school and my postdoc years, I built a thorough writer/editor resume. These activities provided me with a track record and solid writing clips for my job applications. During that time I also honed my skills and learned to give and receive constructive criticism, becoming a more efficient and meticulous writer and editor. All of the extra practice writing and editing really prepared me to tackle the writing samples and editing test with confidence.

Studying Teaching Pedagogy
Not only did I take advantage of teaching opportunities as both a grad student and a postdoc, but I also attended teaching seminars and a science education journal club, where I learned teaching theory and practical applications. Understanding aspects of learning theory has already been a huge help as I’ve started working on helping produce medical training materials.

Thinking About My Research from a Layperson Perspective
As part of the Science Writing and Communication workshop series hosted by the Training Initiatives in Biomedical & Biological Sciences at UNC, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to explain my research to non-scientists. Not only did I use a workshopped piece of writing as a sample for my current position, but I was able to demonstrate my ability to explain complex scientific topics in succinct, plain language as a result of thinking about communicating to diverse audiences.

Keeping an open mind
While my initial interest in medical writing came mostly from talking to regulatory medical writers, I applied to other types of medical writing jobs, as well. I had no idea of the array of jobs out there until I started my job search, and I’m happy to have landed at a job that combines two of my career passions, teaching and writing.

I still think networking is the most important aspect of career development, but the thing that contributed most to my success was sticking with it. After interviewing but receiving no job offers, I felt pretty down. But, I was able to shake those feelings off and look ahead to other opportunities and paths, and that made all the difference.

I hope something I’ve written over the past six months has resonated with anyone who is seriously considering leaving the bench to pursue a new path. Please know that the rigor and discipline of your PhD training can definitely be put to use in any number of arenas.

Thanks for following along on this journey with me! All the best, Lydia.

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