Some of you will know that I recently started my first professional job :). I’m now an associate medical writer, which mainly involves writing on behalf of pharmaceutical & biotechnology companies. The projects can be very varied, & can include scientific journal articles, drug marketing brochures, drug information leaflets, regulatory documents for clinical trials, PowerPoint presentations for conferences & other events. It’s a job that involves a lot of liaising with colleagues & the clients we work for. So it’s quite different to working in a lab, & I have a lot to learn & take on board. It can potentially be stressful with multiple deadlines, juggling several projects at once, constantly having my work critically reviewed & perhaps dealing with difficult clients. But it’s also varied, fast-paced & intellectually stimulating, & it can be rewarding for some people. I do frequently have to explain to people what a medical writer is, so I thought I’d write a description here before I get asked again :P.
So how did I end up going from researcher to medical writer? When I started my PhD, my heart was set on being an academic in biology. But the realities of research were not what I had hoped for; I found it extremely frustrating & demoralising, as my experiments seemed to be going nowhere for the whole PhD. Though I have a lot of perseverance, I just found that the work was not rewarding for me anymore, & I’d had enough of research. I still dread the thought of going back to work in a lab! I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead, but when I wrote my thesis, I found I enjoyed that more than the research. So I thought that doing a writing job would be ideal, as I have a passion for communicating knowledge & truth in ways that are clear & engaging. My desire is not only to inform people through my writing, but that what they learn will impact them & bring about a change in their thinking & actions. A few previous members of my lab went on to become medical writers, so I looked into it, but wasn’t sure at first if this is what I wanted to do. But eventually I got assurance from God that this was an ideal career path for me to follow, so I ran with it.
The journey of getting this job was not easy though. I spent 4 months applying for jobs, doing writing tests & going for interviews, & I did have some setbacks. This is my story of how I got to where I am now, & what I learned along the way. I hope that it will encourage you to persevere in following your dreams & help you learn to overcome the obstacles in the way.
The first job I applied to was through a recruiter, & the recruiter call the next morning completely caught me off guard! They seemed keen to interview me before Christmas, but the interview date kept being delayed, & I’d almost given up on getting an interview. I was annoyed that they made me do a writing test over Christmas, which had very vague instructions & involved a large amount of work. I felt it was a sacrifice to be spending my Christmas on this task, particularly if I didn’t get the job. But God reminded me that I’m doing this task for Him, not to get a reward, & that I need to be willing to sacrifice not just for a season, but that it should be a continual thing. This was tough for me, as I felt I had sacrificed a lot for my PhD, & I’d had enough! But I did the task, & a month later I finally got an interview date, which was 23 hours later! I had already been travelling for 2 days & then had to wake up at ~5am to go to this interview, & in spite being exhausted I did surprisingly well. I was amazed at what was coming out my mouth; I’m sure it was God giving me words to say. I didn’t get the job because I wasn’t enthusiastic enough, but really, under the circumstances I wasn’t surprised that I lacked a bit in enthusiasm.
Getting turned down for the job was tough for me, as it brought back the pain of dashed hopes & frustrations from my PhD. & later that week I was knocked again when I didn’t get another job, this time after the writing test. This really discouraged me for a while, as I thought I was a good writer, but this company thought my writing was not good enough. I wondered whether I was really cut out to be a medical writer, & didn’t know where to go from there. But I realised that God was humbling me & showing me that I need to rely on Him, not on my own ability. He was also teaching me how to handle rejection, frustration & setbacks, which are things I have struggled with for a long time. I did really struggle to keep pursuing this dream for a while, but I did persevere in drawing near to God in spite of how I felt.
At this time my parents reminded me of the book ‘The Fourth Dimension’ by David Yonggi Cho. One of the main messages of this book is about the importance of praying very specific prayers & calling forth the answer to prayer. God gives us authority to ‘speak things into existence that don’t yet exist as though they did’ (Romans 4:17) because we are in covenant with Him. Now some people may think that if we pray specifically (e.g. give me a job at this company) then we may be praying what we want rather than what God wants. But I do think we should be bold in our prayers yet open to hearing God & for Him to bring His will about. & I have found that if I ask for the wrong thing then God makes that clear to me one way or another, or prevents me from getting it. So I don’t think we have to worry too much about whether we pray the right prayer, but we should pray with both boldness & humility. Prayer is not about us simply asking God for what we want; it’s far more than that. It’s about partnering with Him & taking an active part in His plans, so it requires us to not only speak but to also listen to Him & seek wisdom & a specific word from Him to guide our prayers. The book has much more wisdom about how to pray effectively, & I do highly recommend it. But it is not a magic formula; we need to have faith & perseverance in our prayers, even when they don’t seem to be ‘working’. I’ve found that if we’ve not got our breakthrough yet, then God still has more to teach us through the process of persevering.
After a few weeks I went to a conference, where I heard someone explain that to be ‘more than a conqueror’ (Romans 8:37) means that we’re not constantly battling but that we live in a place of victory. When I heard this, I nearly cried! I had been feeling for a while that my family & I have been constantly battling to overcome various things for most our lives & I was feeling weary & fed up of it. So this word was quite challenging for me to accept, but it did help me have a shift in my attitude to one of hope. I started to claim by faith that I’m more than a conqueror through Jesus, & therefore I live in victory. Though I still had battles to fight, I started to believe that I already had the victory, that I already had the job. I was convinced that the right job for me was already mine in the spiritual realm; I simply had to hold onto God’s promise to see that job manifest in the natural realm.
At this time I started to get inundated with writing tests & interviews from quite a few companies. I had almost given up on these companies, as I had heard nothing for those few weeks. But now I seemed to be getting a lot of favour, which encouraged me. I had 2 interviews in the same week, both for very good companies, & I really wanted to get one of them. When the first one turned me down, I was quite gutted. But the first thing that came to my head was this: ‘God, I don’t understand, but I still choose to trust You, & I’ll dare to put my faith in You again’. & I realised that this was a key to conquering frustration & disappointment. Though I’d not yet received the breakthrough I needed, I had received breakthrough in my response to setbacks. But then the second one turned me down a few days later, & that was really tough. I was crying, & thinking ‘what else could I have done?’ I kept having my hopes dashed with different jobs turning me down, & knew I couldn’t go on like this. So I cried out to God & sought Him for a fresh word that I could hold onto, so that I could get back up & fight again. & He gave me a few words that really inspired me & enabled me to overcome the frustration & disappointments.
Photo credit to Kelly Chan. Words added by me.
One of the things God taught me in that moment was from Hebrews 6:18-19, which talks about hope being the anchor for our soul. These verses tell us to ‘hold fast to hope’, & I realised that this is different to raising our hopes. Raising our hopes is about our emotions but holding fast to hope is an act of the will; it’s a hope that doesn’t depend on emotions but is ‘steady & sure’ no matter what. & our hope should be based on our covenant with God, not on anything else. Any other hope is like a light flimsy anchor that gets dashed & broken, but true hope in God is like a weighty strong anchor that keeps us connected to God’s presence. This hope is a hope that doesn’t depend on circumstances but sees beyond them & surpasses them. This is a hope that is ‘un-dashable’, & it allowed me to conquer frustration.
At this time my Dad told me that ‘it’s not about the job’ but about God’s plans & purposes for my life. & then I realised that I needed a bigger picture perspective, so that my main focus was not simply to get a job that I am happy in, but to come into my calling at this time. This helped me to stop obsessively focusing on the job, but to fix my eyes on Jesus & seek first His kingdom. This also gave context to my setbacks, & I saw that God was using them to get me to the place He wanted me to be & prepare me for what was to come. I had learned to have vision of being a medical writer, but I realised that God wanted my vision to be far wider than that. God was calling me to be a medical writer to place me where I can really make a difference, influence others & bring glory to Him.
Shortly after this, I got another interview. & this is where I really started to see God’s favour. The interviewers really liked me & were interested in knowing me as a person, not just in terms of the skills I could offer. They were able to pick up on a big part of who I am as a person & were just generally very helpful & honest. Though I was flexible about where I’d move to, I was very happy with the location of the job too. They asked me to attend a second interview, as they wanted to be sure I had the confidence required for the role. Confidence is something I have lacked for a long time, & though I’ve come a long way in overcoming this, I’m not the most naturally confident person. This can mean that even when I perform well at interview, someone with more confidence is favoured more. But I knew that if this was the right job, then God would make a way for me to get it.
I had a confident hope that I would get this job, but I tried not to get too excited, as I had now learned that an emotional hope is not helpful & prone to be dashed. This was a hope that was calm & expectant, committed to trusting God whatever the outcome. This kind of hope is easier to keep consistent, as previously I would fluctuate between getting over-excited & then worrying about not getting it. But eventually the phone call came, & I was offered the job. Now I could get excited!! The next 3 weeks were a whirlwind of flat-hunting, packing & clearing out, sorting things out & spending time with my friends before I left. & now I’ve moved, & my life has changed so much. It’s new & exciting, but has been somewhat overwhelming at times. But I’m starting to settle here now, & I do find the work I do quite rewarding. God has faithfully prepared me for this new season, & I’m sure my future here will be very bright :).