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10 Tips to Boost Your Medtech Career

Medtech career experts offer advice on landing a job, advancing your career, and increasing your earning power.

  • Medtech is a great industry in which to work, but that doesn’t mean medtech professionals can put their careers in cruise control. To maximize your earning potential, keep the promotions coming, or land that first job, you have to be proactive.

    In a recent MD+DI webinar, "Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech," Phil Nachman, a medical device and diagnostics industry search consultant with Nachman BioMedical, and Jessica Levesque, senior manager of human resources at Instrumentation Laboratory, offered advice on how to make the most of your career in medtech.

    Click through this slideshow to read some of their insights, or listen to the archived webinar in its entirety for free by registering here. You also won't won't to miss the upcoming Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech panel discussion live on Center Stage at BIOMEDevice San Jose on December 7, 2017.

    [image courtesy of MARIE MAERZ/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM]

  • Be willing to make sacrifices for that first job.

    The first job is always the hardest to get, but it can also be critical.

    Nachman recommended looking for a relevant job or co-op with a company in industry rather than taking a job with a professor in a lab. The former jobs may be harder to find, but they’ll help you get ahead faster.

    Medtech professionals just starting out in their careers should also be flexible when it comes to landing that first job. Be willing to move to a less desirable location or take a salary that’s lower than you had hoped when you’re just starting out.

    “It’s not a lifetime commitment, you need the experience,” Nachman said.

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  • When considering which companies to target in your job search, consider what stage you’re at in your life.

    Medical device startups can be exciting and offer opportunities for fast learning and rapid growth. But taking a job at a startup also exposes employees to more risk than if they worked for an established company with products on the market and revenue flowing in. As such, Nachman said startups are often a better fit for medtech professionals who are either just starting out in their careers or who are getting closer to retirement (and who have perhaps have paid off their mortgage and already sent their kids to college).

    “If you’re 23 years old and have just gotten out of school, you can work at a startup,” he said. “It’s risky, but so what? You don’t have a mortgage, maybe you don’t have kids. Take a flyer on it. If it crashes and burns, you’re low enough on the totem pole that no one’s going to blame you, and if it’s successful, of course, it’s all because of your efforts.”

    For medtech professionals still paying down debt or who have a family to support, established companies typically offer a safer bet.

    [image courtesy of MZ-ALPH/PIXABAY.COM]

  • There’s no set rule for how long you have to stay at a job.

    It's often relayed that employees should keep a job for a minimum amount of time—typically a year or two—before jumping ship so as not to look like a flake. But Levesque dispelled that myth.

    “I don’t think there’s a rule of thumb of you must be there a year,” she said. “I think people should use their best judgement.”

    In other words, if you take a job with a new company and it isn’t working out, there’s no need to stay and be miserable. It’s even fine to make a couple of career missteps in a row, Levesque said.

    But after two short stints, it’s time to think about longevity.

    “Think about what worked or what didn’t work [at your previous jobs],” Levesque said. “Then, when you go into your next interviews, ask good questions and make sure you interview them just as much as they’re interviewing you. Job three or four needs to be a bit more stable if you can manage it.”

    [image courtesy of XAVIANDREW/PIXABAY.COM]

  • Don't stay in one place for too long.

    The old saying goes that a rolling stone gathers no moss. But when it comes to working for the same company, it can be possible to stay too long.

    "This isn’t 25 years ago, people don’t look askance at changing jobs," Nachman said, adding that it can be beneficial to evaluate your situation after staying at the same company for five or 10 years.

    “Sometimes, to jump salaries, you have to change companies because the company just doesn’t keep up with salaries,” Nachman said.

    But he also noted that money isn’t everything. “If you’re at a company where you have the opportunity for career advancement—not just your pay. . . but learning new things . . .” it might be a good idea to stick around.

    [image courtesy of GRAPHICS MOUSE/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET

  • A graduate degree is not necessarily a requirement for engineers in medtech.

    You might think that adding a few letters after your name will help you land that first job or get you to the next level in your career, but that might not be the case.

    “Someone coming out of a bachelor’s program who has had good summer jobs or co-ops . . . can be more valuable to a company right off than someone with a master’s [degree] and zero experience,” Nachman said.

    It might even be beneficial to wait to further your education. If you land at a big company, for example, they may be willing to help pay for your graduate work, Nachman said.

    In recent years, many engineers have begun pursuing technical MBAs, but Nachman and Levesque said just checking the box doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in for the next step.

    “To me, it’s really going to be circumstantial to the person and what they’re working on,” Levesque said.

    [image courtesy of 472301/PIXABAY.COM]

  • Don’t be afraid to take an online course—but choose wisely.

    If you think furthering your education could help advance your career but don’t have the time to commit to being a full-time student, distance learning is a viable option these days.

    Levesque said it’s often the commitment the employee shows more so than the class itself that can be attractive to employers. “I give a lot of points for initiative versus being sort of a snob for where the school is,” she said.

    But Nachman said if you’re going to go to the trouble of taking a class, you might as well make sure it’s up to snuff. “As far as online universities, be careful,” he said. “There are plenty of them that are diploma mills that are not quite real.”

    He recommended opting for online courses from accredited, not-for-profit colleges and universities. “There’s going to be no question about it, and there’s a good chance the instruction would be better and your fellow students would be more qualified,” he said.

    [image courtesy of FOTOMEK/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]

  • Look for multiple avenues to get into a company you want to work for.

    So you polished up your resume, applied for the job, and have so far heard nothing back. Is it time to move on? Not necessarily, Levesque said.

    “I have tens of thousands of resumes in my applicant tracking system, so I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s kind of hard sometimes to stay on top of the volume depending on the company and what’s going on,” she said.

    If you really want to work for a specific company, she recommended trying multiple avenues to get your foot in the door, including the following:

    • Apply through the regular website or job posting.
    • Use LinkedIn to find and connect with as many people as you can at that company and work your connections.
    • Find trade shows or other events where the company might have a recruiting presence and show up.

    [image courtesy of FOTOMEK/PIXABAY.COM]

  • Put yourself out there.

    Networking is key to building your career, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. If it doesn’t come natural to you, how can you get started?

    Levesque and Nachman suggested joining networking groups for startups or those associated with universities. There are also meetup groups around the country centered on medtech topics.

    “Press the flesh, get a business card, and hand it out,” Nachman recommended. The meek don’t inherit the earth . . . you have to stand out.

    If face-to-face isn’t your strong suit, try an email. Nachman said most graduates have access to an alumni association through their college or university. He suggested mining it for alumni working at companies you’re targeting.

    [image courtesy of TEROVESALAINEN/PIXABAY.COM

  • Know what skills are valued in the marketplace.

    Asked what skills are most in demand in medtech today, Nachman had a one-word answer: “Software, software, software,” he said.

    Levesque, on the other hand, said the industry is in need of people who understand systems and systems engineering.

    “At the end of day, what we’re doing is getting requirements together designing instruments, testing it to make sure we meet the requirements, releasing it out to the world, and then supporting it,” she said. “People who understand that whole system and who understand a regulated industry and how each step is so vitally important and how every little part that goes into it is so important . . . to my mind, those are the people who are really going to get it.”

    [image courtesy of GERALT/PIXABAY.COM]

  • Find a mentor.

    A mentor can give you advice and help you make connections that you would otherwise miss, but finding someone to give you the time of day can be tough. To make it easier on them, Levesque suggested keeping the commitment low-key.

    “Ask someone who you think would be a good mentor to you to spare 15 minutes to have coffee with you,” she said.

    Then, when you have their ear, make the most of it. “Tee up one question,” Levesque said. “Make it so it’s just a good use of their time, and they feel appreciated and valued.”

    Want more career advice? Listen to our free archived webinar or attend the Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech panel on Center Stage at BIOMEDevice San Jose on December 7, 2017.

     

    [image courtesy of TUMISU/PIXABAY.COM]

Jamie Hartford, editor-in-chief, MD+DI

Jamie Hartford

Jamie Hartford is editor-in-chief of MD+DI and director of content for medtech brands in UBM's Advanced Manufacturing Group, where she oversees content creation for the MD&M and BIOMEDevice conferences. Reach her at [email protected].

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How about some pointers for those who are not right out of school? What does one do to find a job when one is over 40? over 50?