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4 Pieces of Advice by Influencer Tom Caravela for Aspiring Medical Science Liaison (MSLs)



One of the fastest growing and sought after careers in the pharmaceutical industry is the “Medical Science Liaison”, commonly known as MSLs.  Medical Science Liaisons are field based scientific experts typically within a Pharmaceutical or biotech companies Medical Affairs organization. The main responsibility of the MSL is to engage and develop relationships with healthcare professionals or key opinion leaders in a specific therapeutic area. MSLs are conduits between the healthcare community and the pharma company itself. Tom Caravela is a medical affairs expert recruiter that has dedicated his career to helping his clients build out their Medical Science Liaison teams as well as assisting MSL job seekers in their career goals.

Tom has 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and is the managing partner of an executive search firm known as The Carolan Group. The firm is dedicated to the recruitment and placement of Medical Science Liaisons and Medical Affairs professionals. As a career search expert and podcaster, Tom shares content for job seekers to help develop their skills, build a successful career and establish self confidence. On his podcast, MSL Talk for the Medical Science Liaison community, the topics and conversations he has with leading medical affairs professionals offer both helpful and aspiring advice to a base of over 150,000 listeners in 50 plus countries.

Here are some tips provided by Tom for those seeking their first role as a Medical Science Liaison:

  1. WHY do you want to be a Medical Science Liaison?

To start, make sure you have researched the role and responsibilities of an MSL so that you are 100% sure this is the career you want to pursue. You need to fully understand what an MSL does and be prepared to explain your interest in the position on an interview. More importantly, be prepared to answer the question, “Why do you want to become an MSL?” I guarantee you will be asked this question on interviews and from recruiters. If you are willing to travel extensively, are a self starter and strong communicator, have an advanced scientific degree and strong scientific acumen as well as clinical experience; you are a potential candidate for a Medical Science Liaison role. But that is not enough, not only will you be asked WHY, you will be asked WHAT. What does an MSL do? Be able to answer that question and explain what an MSL does but more importantly, how you are a good fit.


  1. Highlight your communication skills

Strong communication and presentation skills are mandatory for Medical Science Liaisons at all levels, in all companies. It is critical to portray this on your CV, and more importantly, in your interactions with potential employers and recruiters. This goes beyond documenting the standard line, “excellent verbal and written communication skills.” You need to list presentations and speaking engagements as well as any training, mentoring, or teaching experience you have. If you do not have a lot to document, seek out opportunities to present. Volunteer to speak at community functions, toastmasters or networking groups, schools, clinics, etc. Contact prior professors, colleagues, and guidance counselors to see if there are opportunities to speak.

  1. Find a Mentor

The MSL community is one of the most collaborative and generous fraternities of professionals I have witnessed in Industry. Every MSL knows what it was like to struggle for their first opportunity and are typically willing to mentor others if asked. Seek out a mentor through a colleague, peer, prior classmate or on LinkedIn. I recommend attending industry conferences and joining the MSL Society so that you are a part of the MSL community and have resources available to you. Seek out MSLs and see if they would agree to an interview. When interviewing MSLs, be sure to ask how they went about their MSL job search and what advice they can offer.

  1. Consider a “Starter” position

It may be wise to consider other industry roles to start out in, such as an entry-level position in Medical Information, Scientific Communications, Medical Writing, Medical Outcomes, etc. All are great ways to break in and eventually transition into an MSL role. Medical Affairs fellowships are another great stepping-stone to the MSL career, but these can be harder to come by. Definitely seek out Contract MSL roles as an additional option. Each of these pursuits takes effort and perseverance, but could be an excellent first step towards your ultimate goal of becoming an MSL.

Tom truly understands the weight of the responsibility he carries to empower Medical Science Liaisons as well as aspiring MSLs around the world. Through his recruitment firm and podcast, Tom Caravela is motivated to continue the effort of guiding others on a path to the pharmaceutical industry. Caravela concluded by saying,”my motivation to develop content and provide services to job seekers is the reward of seeing someone succeed in their career and or landing their ideal job”. He offers an open invitation to all job seekers and career professionals to connect with him on LinkedIn and follow on Social Media. Tom promises to continue developing value based content to help guide others on their career journey.

Tom is optimistic that through the podcast, MSLs and  Medical Affairs professionals can gain valuable insights and learn from some of the smartest minds in the industry. New episodes of the MSL Talk podcasts are released each week on Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher. Followers can also find episodes regularly on his YouTube channel by searching “MSL Talk”. Tom uses his extensive industry experience and achievements to educate and lead job seekers through proven search strategies. He wants to empower and guide MSLs around the world towards a path to success in the pharmaceutical industry.

Estonian-born, Tallinn-based entrepreneur, CEO, manager, marketing strategist and professional athlete. My work have been featured by Tech.com Engadget, Medium and other publication. In my free time, I love to get engage with people, and travel to explore the world.

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