The Art of Serendipity: Luck, Preparation, and Career Transitions for PhDs

Write Medicine

The Art of Serendipity: Luck, Preparation, and Career Transitions for PhDs

November 3, 2023

The Art of Serendipity: Luck, Preparation, and Career Transitions for PhDs

If you are a Write Medicine listener and are tuning into our First Friday Feature, you are likely a medical writer who is curious about medical writing in the specialized world of CME and I think you’ll enjoy this conversation with Dr. David Mendes, who shares insights from his journey transitioning out of academia and into a career in medical writing. 

David completed his PhD in neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal. During his graduate studies, he realized that landing a professorship was unlikely, so he started exploring alternative careers. After finishing his PhD, he secured his first role as a medical writer at an agency and has since worked as a freelance medical writer and translator. In today’s episode, David reflects on the skills he developed during his PhD that helped him move into medical writing. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Only around 10-20% of PhDs end up in academic positions. So it’s important for graduate students to explore alternative careers early in their graduate training.
  • Resilience, communication skills, project management, and data analysis are only some of the skills that PhDs and academics can use in medical writing and in CME. But you’ve got to do the work to figure out what those skills are. 
  • And treat networking and informational interviews as a long game rather than expecting immediate jobs.

Time Stamps:

(4:21) – Introducing David

(09:55) – David’s transition from academia to teaching writing and how that informs the work that he does

(15:16) – The prevalence of failure discourse for academics transitioning in or out of a PhD program

(19:51) – What helped David find work that works for him outside an academic context

(24:31) – Evaluating skillset for a transition into medical writing

(31:00) – Key skills to help successfully transition from academia into something else

(40:50) – His actionable advice for PhD students considering alternative career paths

(47:33) – Where to connect with David

About David

In 2019, David started a podcast called Beyond the Thesis, where he interviews PhDs about the fulfilling careers they have built outside of academia. Through these conversations, David aims to inspire current graduate students to start exploring non-academic career options much earlier in their studies.

Website and podcast Beyond the Thesis


About Write Medicine

Hosted by Alexandra Howson PhD, CHCP

Produced by Golden Goose Creative

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