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Despair | Freelance editing

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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby PG » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:24 am

I am not so far away from Germany and would probably give feedback to an applicant that asked. I might not say Everything that I was thinking but if there are easy things missing I dont see why I wouldnt give that feedback (such as technical skills or a person that for example gives the impression during the interview that he in reallity wants a non bench job despite applying for a bench job).

As for personallity as long as the person I hire is a good fit it matters less if someone who I didnt hire also had been a good fit or not. This is as much about adding value through personallity as avoiding potentially severe issues.

As for references I dont really care about letters of recomendation and usually dont even read them. Letters provided by the applicant is by definition going to be good and I dont see them providing value to the process. Instead I or someone working with me will talk to more than one reference listed and or not listed as a reference by the applicant. SInce I dont read them my advice would be to not assume that people are Reading all material that you send in and that you need to summarize anything important in your personal letter and CV. On your specific case you seem to be getting interviews so the material that you send in must be good.

As for your appearence it does have an impact although to a much lesser extent for a position in R&D as compared to for example a position in sales. I wouldnt care about someones haircut and if you get an interview the decision is usually with the hiring manager rather than with for example HR. Having said this a lot of people will make correct or incorrect assumptions about personallity based on your appearence but it would probably take more than a haircut to make a difference.
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:37 am

PG wrote:Letters provided by the applicant is by definition going to be good


I don't know how far away you actually are from Germany, but surely you must have heard of the whole saga known as "reference letters in Germany", complete with a secret code that allows former employers to say that you were shit by saying "He was good":

http://mkenyaujerumani.de/2014/04/07/cracking-the-reference-letter-arbeitszeugnis-code/
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:53 am

The link SP provided is good, and quite true. A colleague of mine was moving back to Germany (she was German) and gave me a long list of things to say (and not to say)in a reference letter that were similar to what SP provided, only more detailed. Just as a general rule, if you are writing a reference letter that will be read by someone who speaks another language, it would be useful to have someone familiar with the codes and idioms of that language review it before you send it.

(This could also be true with a letter going to another English-speaking country. George Bernard Shaw is widely quoted as saying something to the effect that "America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language", while Oscar Wilde wrote that "...we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.")

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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:08 am

SP said, "When you recommend a soft-skills overhaul, "Find out what you're doing wrong in the interview" (Dave), don't you guys yourselves sin in treating this as an exact science? I mean: should I come to the interview with a white or a blue shirt? When asked about salary expectation, should I aim low (oops, low self-esteem) or high (oops, can't afford him)? When asked about my deficiencies, should I mention the classical forte-in-disguise ("work to hard"), or did this become by now something every HR guy knows and resents? I've heard the entire gamut of responses to these questions; from websites, colleagues, and even HR people. So who's right? Which soft-skill-improving advice should I adopt? I say again: I'm positive that I can benefit zero from such a seminar. Sounds infuriatingly arrogant, but indulge me for now. Where do I go from here?"

SP, it's clear that you aren't one for listening to advice -- you just make fun of it. You haven't read the forum if you are talking about answering salary "expectation" questions . . . that's probably one of the most over-discussed subjects here and NO ONE would ever recommend you try and give them your expectations on earnings. So, if you're not up to speed on that advice from the Forum, my guess is that you don't know what this entire website is about. You likely haven't read the many articles, the forum discussions or anything, on networking (peer+2, informational interviews, etc), and my guess is that you would simply ignore the advice of others, considering it a part of the "HR Thingie" that you so despise. In reality, the SC.org website was started by the publishers of SCIENCE because they knew that people needed specific advice from the fields of science because so much of what has been written about job searching and career development in the mass media is just nonsense for scientists.

Yes, working for yourself will be the best approach and I'll leave it to others to help you find a location to talk about your interests in a scientific editing role. Just by reading your posts, I find that you've got a very unusual personality, a "prickly" tone that likely comes through in interviews as well.

I would be happy to communicate with you personally if you'd like. Someone needs to call the letter writers to ask your references in more detail about your style to see what might be good advice for you that is specific and targeted.

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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:29 am

Sorry about this impression you got. I certainly didn't mean to make fun of anything, and I truly appreciate the advice.

True, I haven't more than merely perused the forum's surface. But I've read and heard advice elsewhere, and certainly haven't dismissed it all on the spot. In my previous post I raised some legitimate questions regarding the meaning and merit of such advice. From my experience science companies actually don't function that differently from other fields when it comes to hiring, but I'd love to be stood corrected.

No reason to assume that my prickly tone emerges in every situation. This topic simply angers me, and I don't see a reason to hide this here.
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby PG » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:44 pm

S.P. wrote:
I don't know how far away you actually are from Germany, but surely you must have heard of the whole saga known as "reference letters in Germany", complete with a secret code that allows former employers to say that you were shit by saying "He was good":

http://mkenyaujerumani.de/2014/04/07/cracking-the-reference-letter-arbeitszeugnis-code/


Yes we have this system as well but it does have a number of limitations. One of them being that a lot of people that I hire are people who themselves have been in positions were they have written reference letters themselves and thereby they know the language used. Also it is restricted to very limited parts of the actual letter. I still prefer talking with the references.
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:42 pm

The way to deal with reference letters is to avoid them entirely. I'm certain there must be German employers who deal with references the same way that USA employers do . . . In other words, forget the letter, make a phone call. You can tell a great deal by the nuances in the language, you can ask very specific questions, you can ask followup questions if something doesn't sound right ("John was a very strong influence on all those around him"), and more. I get more out of a 15-minute reference check by phone than I do from a collection of three or four "letters."

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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby D.X. » Sun Sep 18, 2016 2:33 pm

In the DACH region (Germany, D, Austria, A, and Switzerland, CH, it is common if not by law the departing employee is given a reference letter that is signed by HR and the Hiring Manager.

If you have left a company or emoloyer the next company will ask for that letter as part of process. Here one runs in to the same issues in the US - either the refree doesnt care much so they write yiu a standard letter with formal job description that may mean you were a mediocre employee or you get a glowing letter of praise, most like likely meaning you are the one who wrote it and HR and the hiring manager signs off - usually meaning the hiring manager was too lazy to write the the letterbut still like the employee to allow that. So enter the validity of Dave's comments and exactly how i've managed it. In other words still useless. And employers here in DACH, know it - a few didnt even ask me for them including my last job. And HR can take forever to give them. Its quiet useless actually. So enter my reference contact info when asked!

From the Large Kanton to the South,

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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby MPB » Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:08 pm

So, I'm just going to skip over all the commentary about how the job market in general and focus on the freelance issue that was raised at the beginning. I've been a freelance medical writer and editor in the pharma industry (US) for over 20 years, so here are a couple of observations.

Regarding editing -- do you have rock-solid grammar and usage skills? Can you understand clinical studies (not basic science -- it's irrelevant 99% of the time) and identify errors of fact as well as errors of usage? Can you clarify a passage without re-writing it? Are you up on the appropriate style manuals? Do you understand the laws regulating drug promotion and advertising in your area? You can't just walk into an editing job because you have a PhD -- it's actually a highly professionalized field with certifications and people who have been doing this day after day for a long time. Most positions require editing tests, which usually are pretty exacting.

Medical writing isn't writing basic science manuscripts (usually) or science writing. It's knowing how to tell a story and build a narrative. It's knowing what to put on a slide and what to leave off. Being smart or having an advanced degree doesn't make you a good med writer -- some of the best writers I know are nurses who don't necessarily know a ton of basic science. There are many many brilliant people who can't write their way out of a paper bag, which is one reason I have a job. PhDs do transition to med writing careers all the time -- I've talked to many who have done it. But freelancing in particular is all about personal relationships. It's about giving someone a reason to call you rather than the other 20 writers in theri contact list.

If you want to persue a job like this, the best thing I can tell you is to get your hands on something called the Pharmaceutical Marketers Directory (PMD), which is a compendium of companies that do all different kinds of medical communcations projects -- advertising, scientific and medical, professional education, patient education, etc. Or look on linkedin. Start by talking with people about what they do and how they did it. Read up on how to do informational interviewing.

Woody Allen once said that 90% of success in life is showing up, and that goes double in scientific and medical freelance work.
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Wed Sep 21, 2016 4:44 am

Let's assume that I have the skills, that I'm a writing prodigiy, and that I can nail any test. Where do I go from here?

As I despairingly mentioned before, I'm yet to see an ad (at least here in Europe) where "entry level medical writers", or, for that matter, entry level anything, are looked for. No experience: don't bother applying. How will a compendium of companies serve me in this regard?

You mentioned certifications. Highly professionalized. Can you empathise with me a little when I say that I never wish to hear of any further education ever again? When I started studying biology 12 years ago it was the next hot thing. Computers out, biotechnology in, everyone said. Twelve years later I'm on the verge of collecting deposit bottles in the street. You're suggesting I take some kind of expensive, lengthy medical-writing course so that two years from now some cryptic "personal relations" will make everyone call the other twenty writers in their contact list?

(Don't take my tone personally, as some here have. I'm simply jaded).

"Start by talking with people about what they do and how they did it". Here, I'm talking to you.
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