We’ve all been there. It’s Sunday afternoon and the feeling of
dread hits. Tomorrow is Monday and it’s the start of another work week. I’d
been working at a medical communications agency for about 3 years doing medical
writing and publication planning. I was their one and only in-house PhD. It
started out as one of the best jobs ever; great people and great work. Then
came a reorganization followed by a bit of turnover. Things quickly descended
from paradise to purgatory, with every sign pointing downhill from there.
So what to do? Easy. I dusted off my resume, updated it and
started looking for places to send it. Voilà, a few weeks later – pay dirt!
Someone from another medical communications agency called me to see if I’d be
interested in stopping by for an interview. Yes, of course! The sooner the
better! It all sounded pretty good to me.
It was a medical communications agency that employed about 100
people, many of whom were PhDs, PharmDs and MDs. It had just been acquired by a
contract research organization (CRO) and had no connection at all to any
advertising agency (more about my opinions on that connection later on in
future blogs). Finally, a freelance-writer friend who had done some work for
them gave them a “thumbs up.” He said that they sent writing projects to him
every month, paid promptly and had deadlines that were realistic. OK, but I was
looking for a staff job.
The big day came. I called in to my office with some reason for
coming in late and drove to the potential “new place.” It was not a bad
commute, and the place was next to a really good Indian restaurant and not far
from a Chinese buffet. Looking good already!
Human resources logged me in, gave me my agenda of people to
interview with, and then took me down the hall to my first stop: the Senior
Vice President. Speaking with him was very pleasant and he told me about the
company and his past. He used to be director of research at a pharma company.
Nice. This was a science-based outfit for sure. Even better, he said that I’d
probably fit in at their place.
Then I continued, one-by-one, to the following interviews. Each
was with a team leader of one of their therapeutic groups, e.g., oncology,
diabetes, neurology, infectious diseases. Well, now they knew all about me.
What had I learned about them? I said that they were a unit within a CRO that
was running clinical trials for their clients. The teams I interviewed were
doing the publication planning and communications for congress activities and
journal publications once the clinical trial results were available. From what
I could see, there was a lot going on there, and I wanted to work with them. It
had all gone well and things were looking good to me. Looking good until the
final interview with the Chief Medical Officer, who was looking for a PhD, MD
or PharmD coming directly from a research lab or hospital (as he had done).
So was that the end of the road for me? Well, not exactly. The VP
that I’d met with first said he was sorry there was no full-time place for me,
but that he’d like to work with me. He offered me a project to do on my own
time and return to him the following week. I was to revise an article in
response to a journal peer review so that it could be resubmitted for final
consideration. Of course, I took him up on it. The article was accepted and he
and others began sending me regular work.
Was I now a freelancer? Not yet. I was moonlighting, writing every
evening and weekend. It was a return to interesting work for good people again,
but there weren’t enough hours to do it all! So, within a couple of months, I
left my day job to be a freelancer, and this change was really an unintended
consequence. By the way, that wasn’t my last career change and not the last
unintended consequence of some action that I took. More on that later……
Cheers for now,
Clem Weinberger, The Stylus Medical Communications