This article is based on content written by Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS, and presented by John West Hadley at the AMWA Medical Writing & Communication Conference. It was originally published in the AMWA Journal.
Making sure you move ahead in your medical writing career calls for finding opportunities to create visibility for your skills and achievements and presenting yourself and your work in the best light. This means showcasing your value not only to potential new employers and clients, but also to your current employer in order to justify your salary and position yourself for advancement.
A structured and systematic approach can be effective, starting with these three steps.
Take an Honest Self-Assessment
The first step to highlighting your attributes is to fully understand them. This involves taking an honest self-assessment, which can reveal how you present yourself to others and how others see you in the medical communication profession.
To do this, first give yourself a score of 1 to 10 based on how accurate the following statements are:
- I’m fully engaged in my current job.
- I have a clear picture for the next step I want in my career.
- I have a unique value proposition that I can communicate clearly and concisely.
- I have a large network of contacts inside and outside my current employment setting.
- My entire network understands my unique value proposition and my desired next step.
Then, consider your answers. If you scored between 1 and 4 on any statement, ask yourself, “How is this item holding me back?” If you scored between 5 and 7, ask, “Should this be more of a priority?” Finally, for scores 8 and higher, consider, “How can I take advantage of my success in this area? Am I as good as I think, and who can I ask for honest feedback?”
Develop Your Unique Value Proposition
The next step is to build on this information by developing a unique value proposition that effectively represents your passions, skills, and life goals – in that order. Too often, in pursuing a medical writing career, professionals consider these items in the opposite order. They first think about the lifestyle they want, and then they seek a job that makes that lifestyle possible and requires the skills they already have. Instead, first focus on what you love to do and your current and desired skill set. Then think about where you want to work and the position you want to have.
Another aspect of developing your unique value proposition is truly understanding your strengths. You may be inclined to overlook your skills because you think they’re “easy.” But the truth is that they may be easy only for you. To others who do not have that skill, your ability to do it easily and regularly is a huge selling point. To get an accurate view of your attributes, solicit feedback from former bosses or clients who often have a clearer perception of your unique value.
Grab Employers’ Attention
The next step to make sure current and new employers see your value proposition. This calls for presenting it with an effective marketing headline that gets their attention. To do this, it’s important not to waste words with titles and duties up front. For example, instead of leading with “accountant,” a better approach would be “I help people save money on taxes.” This is more attention-getting, and it speaks in the language of the desired audience. Determine how you can phrase your unique value when you describe your work as a medical communicator.
Another strategy is to highlight the specific contributions you’ve made in your medical writing career. Are there compelling accomplishments that make you stand out? This could be a problem you solved, an opportunity you created, or a key result that a client or company achieved based on your input or effort. It is also a good idea to develop and have ready a series of one-liners about problems you have solved, as well as a grid of stories to pull from that highlight diverse skills such as leadership, negotiating, editing, writing, and project management.
Taking these three steps can help you to showcase your medical writing achievements and position you to take advantage of new opportunities whenever they arise. For more ways to advance your career, along with more information about the medical communication profession, learn about AMWA membership.