Permanent Temp?

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Permanent Temp?

Postby RAS » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:14 pm

Hi all,


I recently left a full time medical writing position for a 2-year contract position due to extreme (I don't use that term lightly) dissatisfaction with my previous employer and a sense of stagnancy, as every day felt the same. Not only was the work repetitive, it was against everything I learned way back in grad school (ie, accurate, objective, rigorous). Papers submitted to clinical journals leaned heavily towards marketing (Marketing department had a hand in drafting manuscripts!). Methods sections felt like brochures (how they got accepted I'll never know). Regulatory materials also used a marketing-type approach (i.e., focus on good results and only mention adverse results in passing).

I stayed on for 4.5 years because the benefits were pretty good and the financial situation at home warranted staying. I was also somewhat trapped because I was limited to remote positions due to limited (read: no) opportunities in my area and did not (and still don't) have the flexibility to move. Now, the financial situation at home is much better (spouse's salary more than tripled) so I was willing to take a bit of a risk but still limited to remote positions, which has heavily reduced my options for positions where I could grow (seems like remote has fewer options for learning new types of skills than in-house). This made me more likely to accept offers that come my way, even if it involves taking a cut in total compensation when you consider paid vacation, 401k matching, and bonus. I recently accepted a contract opportunity that would not only let me escape where I was but would offer training/growth opportunity in a discipline whose demand seems to be increasing. It is also a better environment as far as how the team approaches projects and fits my personality infinitely better, so it wasn't jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Actual question:

If this is a 2 year contract position, how in danger am I of being labeled with the oxymoron "permanent temporary" writer if I've had other temporary positions (last one was contract-to-permanent and had a different short term contract position before that)? Have I limited my future options by being labeled a perm temp or have I opened options by gaining a new skill set whose demand is rising? Breaking even because the 2 cancel each other out?
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:49 pm

Re: Permanent Temp?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:27 pm

Hello RAS,

Thanks for the question. It's a good one, and it dovetails into many conversations we've had here about contract workers, and about the whole "temp vs. permanent" topic that seems to affect many people with science backgrounds.

First off, congrats on your success in identifying something that you'll enjoy much more than your previous role. Yes, it's something that should indeed be on your mind . . . in my last column on the topic of "labels" one of the examples I gave was the permanent temp, who couldn't get out of that frame of reference.

But with only two years, you won't suffer that issue. You'll pick up some new skills, perhaps a more rigid protocol with regards to the quality of what you are asked to produce, and make new friends. Two years won't kill you. You'll certainly be able to take up a normal job search and move from there to another full-time, permanent role in medical writing. I would caution you against accepting another 2-year extension after your stint ends, however. At the end of four years, you could legitimately be said to have become a "permanent temp."

Dave Jensen, Moderator
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
Posts: 7959
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Permanent Temp?

Postby D.X. » Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:27 am

Hello RAS,

Adding to Dave's advice - there are certain roles were one CAN have quite a bit of flexiblity and non-penalization for permanant roles if one is working as a contractor for many years or even Freelance, and one happens to be Medical Writing.

What's your ultimate goal? Medical Writing/Content generation in an Agency? or In-house? And at a permanant FTE? The good part is that both on the Agency side and In-house side there is "need" for contractors that don't seem to end and many medical writers I have worked with to include very very senior and experienced ones serve as contrators due to the amount of freedom and flexiblity they get with that. Many move to contract status or even Freelancer AFTER many years of being a permanant FTE. There are advantages such as getting to choose who you work with..and when, and control of workload. And if you're really good, one can even work remote most of the time.

But all that is earned.

Immunity from a contractor "label" in Medical Writing can be achieved - as you know - Medical Writing can be a word of mouth business and well from my end (I'm a HQ Med. Aff. Medical Director - one of those people you may not like) but I do try to take the good Medical Writers (Agency's) I have met at one employer to another. I have freelancer who is just awesome = she serves nearly all my needs from a publications perspective. I use other agencies for other pubs as well but most are with her.

Good luck - focus on serving your clients well. Be productive and think about what it is you want.

Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: Permanent Temp?

Postby RAS » Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:11 pm

Thank you both for the input! Much appreciated.
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:49 pm

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: David Lathbury and 22 guests