MSL Career Advice


Do you like the games Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The answer is probably yes as they have been around for years: 1979, 1964 and 1998 respectively. Most people know and kind of like James Holzhauer, the $2.4 million 32-game winning streak Jeopardy player and professional sports gambler. There is some strong MSL career advice hiding here in plain sight.

If you are an MSL, let’s see if you are up to date on some industry current events (aka Trivia):

  1. Who is buying Allergan for $63 Billion?
  2. Who just joined the Board of Directors at Pfizer?
  3. A new drug was approved by the FDA this year called Vyleesi, what does it treat?
  4. When does the $20 billion per year revenue biologic Humira go off patent?

If you do not know the answers to all four of these questions, then you are not staying up to date on your industry’s current events and not following the best MSL career advice. This lack of knowledge can affect your career in multiple ways. You may be unprepared for market forces that could change your employment status, both taking advantage of new opportunities and/or looming restructuring/downsizing. The very essence of an MSL’s role is to be a subject matter expert (SME), not fulfilling this expectation can lead to poor job performance and possibly career suicide. A major skill set of an MSL is to create and develop relationships with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), sharing scientific resources and gathering insights from these KOLs in the field. Are you really prepared to develop a professional relationship with your KOLs in the pharmaceutical industry if you do not know that the most recent Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, just joined Pfizer’s Board?

Deploy knowledge as Sir Francis Bacon is alleged to have said “scientia potestas est” or “Knowledge is Power”. Armed with industry knowledge such “trivia” as ongoing mergers and acquisitions, the appointment of new high profile directors, new drug approvals or upcoming patent expirations you can more effectively network to gain even more relevant and insightful information. You certainly would not show up to do a presentation without preparation, how can you expect to network to gain knowledge effectively without the same level of commitment? Information makes you interesting and enables networking that makes you professionally stronger. Stay up to date on industry newsletters, incorporate the pursuit of information as part of your day-to-day role and take this MSL career advice to heart, even if it does feel like trivia from time to time.

Interested in hiring an MSL or going on the market?  Contact Smith Hanley Associates‘ MSL and Medical Affairs Recruiter, Ken Kupersmith, at [email protected].

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