Pursuing an MSL Job – Part 2

In today's episode, listeners will complete the highlights from the training to land their first fabulous MSL job.

This is Part 2 of the excerpt from John's course, How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison. He developed this course as one of the first courses for his Nonclinical Career Academy.

The presentations will provide you with a solid grasp of what an MSL does. And, how to go about securing your first job as an MSL. Part 1 was presented last week, and these two together will complete the summary.

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The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete.

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to nonclinicalphysicians.com/physicianmba.

Final Highlights of this Course

The final part of How to Secure a Career as a Medical Science Liaison includes 4 lessons to secure your first fabulous job as an MSL:

  1. Thoroughly understanding the job of an MSL
  2. Preparing to apply for the job
  3. Properly use a cover letter, resumé, and LinkedIn, and where to look
  4. Putting it all together to land your first fabulous MSL job.

The full six-part course can be found at: https://nonclinicalphysicians.com/mslcourse.

Final Steps to Landing Your First Fabulous MSL Job

Join the MSL Society and access its resources. Download ebooks and handouts from the MSL Institute. And start looking at online job descriptions in more detail.


There are many pharmaceutical firms seeking clinicians to fill their Medical Science Liaison slots. Many of these positions are filled by physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants, and nurses who have never worked in the Pharma Industry before.

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 277

Complete the Journey to Your First Fabulous MSL Job

John: Let's get started on lesson number three - The job. Here is a definition of an MSL, which is a little vague in terms of the first sentence. It's a specific role mostly in the pharmaceutical industry. There are other industries that use MSLs or medical science liaisons, but they typically have a background in science, either a PhD, Pharm.D or an MD. And they will, in their job, focus on specific therapeutic areas. In the pharmaceutical realm, it's going to be a therapeutic area of drugs like oncology drugs, cardiology drugs, and so forth.

Basically, the MSL serves as a scientific expert, both for their colleagues within their company and sometimes within the industry, but outside of their company. And that includes sales and marketing and for doctors in the therapeutic area that they're working in. The way they do this is establish relationships with physicians in which they're focusing on what we call key opinion leaders or physicians or doctors who influence other physicians. That's kind of what it is in a nutshell.

Now, I can tell you the activities that they do commonly. Most commonly, they definitely present scientific presentations. They definitely meet regularly and develop relationships with key opinion leaders. They attend a lot of conferences, both internal and external, where they can meet up with KOLs and others.

These are some of the key skills that you need to have. The first is communication skills. Now, the type of communication skills you have relate more to your skills in interacting with patients, let's say than interacting with teaching residents or something like that. You're going to spend a lot of time one on one with KOLs who might be a physician and also associate with them, maybe PAs and MPs. And so, you need to be able to build rapport with people. It's okay if you're an introvert, but you need to be able to engage in a positive way with individuals and pull them out, take the time to deliver some information and then also take the time to receive information to bring back to your team.

You need to be customer focused. Again, it has to do with communication skills and developing those relationships. So, you've got to be able to be very focused on the people that you're meeting with, engage in a dialogue and bring them value, expand their knowledge base about the drugs that they may be already using or are thinking of using, and then bring information back that can then help with this research teams and, and even the marketing and sales teams.

Obviously, as you can tell by recruiting mostly Pharm.Ds, MDs and PhDs, this is something that requires a good deal of science comprehension and comfort. It's definitely going to help if you have a knowledge base, particularly as it relates to certain drugs or classes of drugs if possible. Epidemiology and statistics, and the ability to understand various types of research studies, distinguishing let's say observational studies from randomized controlled trials and everything in between. There has to be good science comprehension. I've talked to MSLs who've gotten an MPH along the way, master's in public health, which seems to be helpful, but not necessary.

And then self-management skills are really important because to a large extent, you're working, almost on your own, quite a bit of the time. So, you're not going clocking in, you're not necessarily going to a main office and sitting in a cubicle or some offices around other people nearby where you can just drop in and chat. You're going to be managing your own time, and you're going to need to be able to keep yourself motivated and disciplined to continue to produce results. And that's because the results of the work of an MSL is really long term. It's the result of a long-term relationship with these KOLs and influencers.

And then finally, there's a teamwork because even though you're meeting with KOLs and influencers one on one or in small groups doing presentations and having conversations, ultimately, you're going back and working with your team to strategize, put necessary papers and protocols together, sharing information and helping to teach one another as well as the others we've talked about, such as the marketing department. That's basically it for lesson three. And we're going to move into the bulk of this presentation, which falls under lesson number four - Preparation.

Okay, here we are in lesson four. Now, this one we're calling Preparation. And what I mean is we're going to look at some resources that you can use to prepare yourself mentally to apply for that job as a medical science liaison. Some of this is going to be passive. You're going to take down notes, hopefully of what I'm talking about. But I'm going to ask you to actually take a few actions here to really get the ball rolling.

Here are the goals for this lesson or the objectives rather. I'm going to go through and identify what I think are the top resources that you should use to prepare yourself to pursue the MSL career. There are other resources out there, there are other books and so forth but I'm going to definitely hit the number one society, the MSL Institute, the LinkedIn Groups, eBooks, regulatory issues, and the lingo.

The first group is the Medical Science Liaison Society, the MSLS is what it's called. The gold image there is just an indication that they actually have a type of board certification. I'm not necessarily recommending that you do that or consider doing that at this time, but you could look at that.

The next item to talk about here is the Medical Science Liaison Institute. I'm always amused by organizations that use the term institute, because it can have so many meanings. Obviously, this is not a physical place or an actual building or organization of that nature, but it's a set of resources that I'll describe in a little more detail right now. This is the website, mslinstitute.com. This was established in 2004 by Dr. Jane Chin, PhD. The site is free, has many articles, publications, and it also has a job board or what you'd call career services.

Let's talk about making an impression. This is not going to be an all-encompassing coverage of this topic, although we're going to talk a little bit more about that during the section on interviews but only from the standpoint of preparing for the job search in the interview. I wanted to give an example of a couple of job descriptions and just highlight some of the terms in there.

They will inform you about what your job duties would likely be so you can really have an understanding of the nature of the MSL job. Because that will come up, if they're going to know that you're not an experienced MSL, they understand that. There are going to be job listings that specifically say you must have three to five years of experience or something of that nature, because they're looking for someone to step into a certain position with the experience, but they also know that they can find a diamond in the rough, so to speak, that has the skills, has the background, has the interest, has the personality to be a great MSL. And so, in their job descriptions, they'll say that experience is preferred but not required.

In this lesson, we've done some preparation. We've identified a number of resources, and I'm going to ask that you do the homework that we mentioned. And I will add an addition to this or a link on this particular lesson that will go through a recommendation of the homework to do, which includes looking at the MSL society, possibly joining the MSL society, starting to access some of their resources, looking at the MSL Institute, reading some of the eBooks and the handouts that I'm including.

And then you might want to start going through some of those job listings just so you can get a sense of how they're written and can begin to review those in more detail. And we're going to actually look at some of those job listings. It's in the next lesson. With that, I will close this lesson and I look forward to seeing you in lesson number five as we begin to talk about the search.

Here we are in lesson number five. We're getting there. This is the last big lesson, and then we'll have a wrap up in lesson number six. So, let's get into the search for that MSL job and we'll talk about preparation as well as actually performing the search, and then how to proceed after you've found some potential jobs.

We're going to talk in this lesson about search tips, about the cover letter, the resume, the LinkedIn profile, where to search, and some interview tips.

Search tips. The first thing I want to say about this is, remember, our number one way to find potential jobs is through networking. Now, I think I shared some information earlier that showed that the biggest part of successful job search here was through networking. But of course, recruiters and online job boards and so forth also can be used. But don't forget this issue of networking. That's why when we get into the whole process of start to finish on this job search later, there's a lot of mentoring and networking that begins at the beginning that you get going and you continue to do over time as you prepare to actually send out a resume and start your interview process. Don't minimize the need for networking.

We're going to move on to where to look for jobs. As I said, number one was networking. It's more amorphous so to speak. You're going to have contacts, old colleagues, students you went to med school with, people you went to residency with, people on Doximity, people on LinkedIn. And you're going to develop these, you're going to get the word out that you're looking, you're going to find people that you know who maybe have become MSL or are working in pharma.

All right, let's talk a little bit about interview tips. The basics, avoidable mistakes. Well, this is like any interview and if you've done interviews there's a certain protocol. Obviously, you need to be on time. In fact, you should be a little bit early, you should be prepped. Basically, part of the preparation here is that you need to know the company inside is and out to the extent you can.

Now, you don't need to spend eight hours doing research, but you really need to review the job description in detail. Then do research on the company, especially if it's a smaller company. How long has it been around? What therapeutic areas does it focus on? How many drugs does it have? How many new drugs have come out in the last few years? What's in the pipeline? How stable is the company financially? You may not go into that discussion during the interview, but you really want to know as much about the company as you can.

Sometimes it's worthwhile even looking up some kind of an investment summary that you get on in a newsletter or value line or S&P reports on the company just to see if it's stable, has it been around a long time? Is it viable? Has it had a bottom line? Obviously, the big ones like Merck and the other big ones, you're not going to have to do that.

But the preparation is doing sufficient research so that when you walk into the company or if it's a recruiting firm that you're not going in blind. You understand where the company is coming from. You're going to do your research. And the other preparation is to rehearse.

That's what I wanted to talk about in terms of this lesson. Talk about the search tips, the cover letter, how to structure the resume, LinkedIn profile, where to search and the interview tips. And this particular lesson has a number of handouts, which you really have to look at if you want to get the full benefit of this lesson.

So, we're getting to the end here. We've done our prep, we've done the things that we talked about and lessons one through four, and now we've completed lesson five. Lesson number six is our last lesson where we put it all together.

We've come to lesson number six, which basically is the final lesson. This is where we're going to put it all together. And actually, this is going to be a short lesson because really I'm just advising that you take everything we've learned so far and take it to heart. Study each section, follow up on the resources I've provided, and let's put it all together.

I recently had a chance to talk to some of my MSL friends, and they're telling me that more than ever, this job is growing. There's more need for people with the skills needed to do this job. And they're always adding new physicians who have never worked as an MSL into these jobs.

It's growing in terms of numbers, it's growing in terms of interest, and there's a lot of pharmaceutical companies out there looking for help. Definitely, you need to download and print the checklist that I've prepared for this lesson. Go through it step by step. And if necessary, as you come to a section that seems a little confusing or you need some more hints on how to approach it, go back and do that lesson over. And then as you check off those boxes and move through the process, you should end up with some interviews and then ultimately that job as an MSL.

So, good luck with that. I know you can do it. As a physician, you're very bright, very well educated, and you just need the confidence and some information and knowledge, and you can get that first MSL job as so many others have done.


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