PhD, postdoc, professor. Secure funding, publish results, repeat. If you would have asked me 13 years ago what my career path as a blossoming research scientist was going to look like, it probably would have been something along those lines. I definitely would not have told you that I was going to be a medical writer.
As many experience, PhD students are often presented with one career path: research. Maybe a foray into government or industry, but always at the bench; that’s what PhDs are supposed to do. Somewhere in my third year I realized that, although I loved learning and talking about science, I didn’t necessarily love doing science. I loved teaching others new techniques, I loved writing papers, but a scary realization had set in. I did not want to stay in research. I knew that there had to be others like me out there, those PhD students going through the motions because they feel like they’re too far in to quit but have no intention of staying the course. I know that you are out there now, too. If no one has told you this yet…its ok if you don’t want to be a professor.
As a PhD student, I always found myself drawn to career seminars; the ones that talked about “alternative” careers. It was during one of these seminars that I first learned about the medical writing world. It piqued my interest that I could use my love for science in a whole new way that I never knew was possible. I attended my first AMWA chapter meeting as a postdoc, unsure of what to expect or what a medical writer actually did. I instantly knew that this world was where I was meant to be. I had found a career that married my love for science and writing in a community that welcomed and encouraged me.
Fast forward 3 years, I have become a successful freelance medical writer. I am proud to serve AMWA as a member of the annual conference planning committee and an officer of the Ohio Valley Chapter. I am privileged to return to my PhD institution to talk about why I chose a path outside of academia and how others can join me on my journey. It is through this that I have found the most rewarding aspect of my career choice, mentoring graduate students who are considering a path outside of research, particularly into medical writing. The “alternatives”, like me. I end each of my seminars with one final bit of advice: find your happy, and don’t worry if your happy is not good enough for someone else. For me, my happy is worlds away from where I began. My happy is to be a writer, using my love of science to teach others. My happy is to encourage and guide others like me to find their own happy.
I invite you to join me at the 2018 Medical Writing & Communication Conference this November in Washington D.C. Whether this is your first or fifty-first AWMA annual meeting, come network with new and old friends, come explore the newest trends in the industry, come find your happy at #AMWA2018.