Career coach Marissa Marsala offers tips on how to find and keep jobs in the ever-evolving medical device industry.

Susan Shepard

February 13, 2024

7 Min Read
Image Credit: Ridofranz via iStock / Getty Images

At a Glance

  • The biggest hurdles candidates face are not having enough industry experience, not having the right college degree, or both.
  • Marsala stresses adapting to the changing job market dynamics through effective self-marketing and networking.
  • Job seekers should make it widely known what company and what type of job they are looking for.

Marissa Marsala, an executive recruiter, career transition strategist, and career coach who manages her consultancy service, Employer & Candidate Connection, offers her tips on how to find and keep jobs in the ever-evolving medtech industry.

There are more than 6,500 medtech companies in the United States, employing nearly 519,000 people, according to advamed.org. And these companies are always looking for qualified candidates, Marsala said. Besides the expected fields such as engineering and regulatory affairs, she said there is now a demand for AI or machine learning specialists and what she calls visualization people.

“Visualization people take the information that is crunched, and they use Tableau, Power BI, or other programs that generate results, and they create a dashboard so that management access, visualize, and understand it clearly,” Marsala told MD+DI.

Companies are looking for all types of engineering roles, she said, from sustaining mechanical engineers to new product development engineers, especially those for combination products. Technical documentation professionals are also highly sought after, as are automation people who might redesign and make manufacturing more efficient. And supply chain personnel, human resources, and marketing professionals are always in need.  

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Although those statistics seem encouraging for job seekers, there can be challenges for those who want to break into the industry and also for those who currently are advancing on their career paths in medtech. The biggest hurdles that Marsala believes candidates face are not having enough industry experience, not having the right college degree, or both. 

The good news, though, Marsala said, is that job seekers can overcome many of these challenges by using some smart strategies. “Having a good reputation and a strong referral network can trump [these challenges] and your ability to leverage it effectively,” she said. 

Marsala explained that she has seen studies that claimed between 66% and 88% of people land their jobs through a network connection.  “And even if you average those, the percentage of networking is pretty high, but coupled with a good reputation, meaning people have either seen your work product, worked with you directly, or know of your work product,” she said. “So networking is very critical.”

Persistence is also key, Marsala said. If someone does not have any experience in medtech, what she calls a stepped approach can help them get their foot in the door. With a stepped approach, someone might first consider a position in customer service in their target company, or even an entry-level sales role, just to get experience in the industry.

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Or, she said, there are companies that are willing to train new salespeople. “That’s a great way to gain entry if you have any interest in being on the road and learning about a medtech vertical,” she said. Companies that produce Class I devices rather than more complex higher-risk Class II or implantable Class III products are usually a little easier to break into, she noted. 

Tips for honing networking skills

Since networking is such an important tool, Marsala offered a few tips on how to network successfully. First, job seekers should make it widely known what company and what type of job they are looking for. She likened networking to the LinkedIn concept of a second- and third-level connections.

“Someone who you know may know someone else who has a good foothold into one of your targeted companies,” she said. 

The “six degrees of separation” concept where everyone is connected through at least six different people, has decreased drastically with the use of social media these days, Marsala noted. “I think it’s critical for people to understand the value of networking and that it has changed over the years,” she explained. “It requires far fewer levels to go through to find or get access to the hiring manager.”

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Another strategy that can pay off, Marsala said, is to attend industry networking meetings, but those seeking their next career move should have specific and ideally, quantitative goals about who they want to meet and what they want to learn before they go. “So many people go the first day, especially the executives for these events, and then they go home after that, so attending on the first day is often the most ideal day” she explained, “but the bottom line is to have viable goals such as ‘I want to meet or get the names of x amount of hiring managers’ or ‘I want to talk to x amount of people in the booths who know something about a specific product.’”

For someone who is already in the medtech industry, and wants to advance in their career, Marsala advises them to step up and volunteer for additional tasks or projects/initiatives. “Be a ‘can-do’ versus a ‘no-problem’ person,” she said. “A positive attitude goes a long way and gets noticed.”

She also mentioned that professionals should be meeting with their managers to discuss their career aspirations. “Maybe they can open some doors, or they may set you up with a mentor,” she said and encouraged people to seek out industry mentoring groups or programs, or individuals who can give them an inside track or otherwise help prepare them for their next job while they are in their current job.

The target list and profile

Marsala has created what she calls a target list and profile that can be a powerful networking tool. A template that anyone can download can be found on her website. The ideal target list looks much like a resume. The profile portion includes a summary of who the person is and their contact information but also features their photo. The target portion occupies the lower two-thirds and contains a targeted list of industries, specific companies, titles, and locations that the person is interested in. 

“You want to put the cream of the crop in terms of companies first, and then every month you use this, but update it because you’re meeting people you've been referred to, and you know enough about certain companies. Therefore, you can remove or replace those companies with others that you’re interested in,” she explained. 

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People can circulate this document digitally if they are already in transition, she said. “It’s essentially like one of those holiday letters, greeting those on your list and just saying ‘As some of you may know I’ve left such and such company and I’m excited about the next chapter, here’s a one-page document targeting what I’m looking for,’” she said. Ask them if they would be open to perusing it and referring you to connections who may be willing to provide some quick insights into those companies. “Keep it upbeat and the next month you send it again after updating the list with your newest targets, and adding any new recipients,” she continued. “Thank those who provided suggestions and introductions and ask all to review your updated list of targets and refer anyone who may be connected with those targets for a brief 10 to 15-minute call or another encounter.

The target list can also be used as an especially effective “leave behind” when meeting people in person, Marsala said because it affects people’s senses in three different areas—touch, hearing, and sight. This can enhance their memory of the encounter.

Tips for creating a successful resume

A great resume will make a candidate stand out from the crowd. The biggest mistake Marsala sees on resumes is that people list their qualifications, but do not explain how or why they completed certain duties. “So, I tell people to make sure it’s results-driven, try to make it quantitative,” she explained. “People look at numbers.” 

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Being specific about what job they are seeking is crucial. “Here’s a mistake people make,” she said. “Let's just say they're in a sales position and they state in their last job that they were in a sales position, and they expect the recruiter or the direct hiring manager to whom the position reports to know that they're looking for a marketing job,” she said. 

She suggests using a headline at the top of a resume that ties to their target role and briefly summarizes their value, and then listing a menu of core competencies. “This is a good use of the top third of a resume,” Marsala said. “I call it a bridge because it is intended to get you from where you are currently to where you want to go.” 

Finding a job in medtech might not be easy, but with good networking skills and persistence, job seekers can land their perfect jobs. As Marsala says on her website, “Aside from the sea of candidates on the market, social media and the digital age have radically and forever changed the dynamics of the job market. Candidates need to change with the times, and the ability to effectively market oneself and “network into a company” can make all the difference between getting “a chance at bat” or being left on the sidelines.” 

Marsala offers a variety of career counseling and recruiting services, as well as some free downloadable resources on her website, https://employerandcandidateconnection.com.  

About the Author(s)

Susan Shepard

Susan Shepard is a freelance contributor to MD + DI.

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