When I graduated from Pitt Bioengineering in April 2016, I had no real plan. I wanted to work in the medical device industry, but I hadn’t lined up a position. I didn’t co-op, or study abroad, and had basically zero exposure to the field, and it seemed like a large group of my graduating class was in a similar boat.
A summer of relaxing and refreshing, a 10-month internship with Medtronic Infection Control back home in NJ, and almost three more long, stressful months of unemployment later, I finally started an amazing job in early November 2017. After struggling through the job hunt not once, but twice in a two-year span post-graduation, I realized I had plenty of advice and suggestions that might be helpful for someone who feels as overwhelmed as I did when I graduated without a plan. Here they are!
Yes...Networking…It’s really important…
I’ll get this one out of the way since I’m sure by now you’ve heard it a million times before. The importance of making connections in anything you do cannot be understated. But it doesn’t always have to be as awkward or overwhelming as it might seem. Your peers, classmates, professors and advisors are great places to start. Take networking as an opportunity to share your interests and discuss them with someone who has similar interests. You never know where it could lead down the road!
LinkedIn is an amazing tool
Beyond being a platform for your living resume, LinkedIn offers a ton of great features that aren’t immediately obvious unless you look for them. It seems like more and more companies are posting jobs on LinkedIn. I found setting up Job Alerts based on interest and location, and just checking new postings every day was an easy way to browse a lot of postings without being overwhelmed. LinkedIn also allows you to follow companies and see who their employees are. This is a great way to try to connect with someone within in the company.
Be not only willing, but eager to learn
I can’t stress this one enough. For almost any interview I went on, multiple questions I were asked dealt with my experience learning from failures, learning on the job, or my overall curiosity. If you can go out of your way to demonstrate that you’re not someone who will just do the job, but will also take in interest in developing yourself, the company, and the industry as a whole, you become a much more attractive candidate. One easy way to learn without having a position in the industry is to keep up with current events. Sign-up for daily or weekly medical device newsletters, either general or specific to a narrower field. I found these newsletters as a great way to be aware of what companies are out there, which ones are in stages of growth, and what those companies are working on.
Seek relevant industry experience, even if it isn’t your dream job
One thing I heard often when I started looking for jobs my senior year, was that finding that first entry to the biomedical field is a real challenge, and I found this to be true. You might find that "Entry-level” position require an advanced degree or 3-5 years of experience. Any chance you have to gain industry experience is valuable even if that doesn’t perfectly fit your interests.
Keep track of your experiences and accomplishments
This is something I actually didn’t start doing until recently, but it is a HUGE timesaver. When it comes to putting together a resume, it’s really frustrating trying to recall of the specific projects you worked on or accomplishments you made. Keeping a constant master list of all of your experience, starting with your work in school makes this so much easier. You never know when your undergraduate research or senior design project might be relevant to a position down the line.
Quantity and Quality are equally important
When it comes to applications, it certainly doesn’t hurt to apply to as many possible. One of the frustrating things about online job searching is that there are so many positions listed. Playing the numbers game is good, but this is also why quality is so important. With online applications all being pretty similar, it’s easy to click through them quickly. But make sure you take time to craft your resume, cover letter, and emails to each and every position. It’s obvious when you see a generic “copy-paste” application.
Engineering opportunities are broad: try as many as you can
One of the awesome parts of the medical device industry is how many things an engineer can do within it. But this also makes looking at job listings overwhelming. It’s hard to really know which areas fit your interests without trying them. In my internship, I got a taste of many things, and realized I hated manufacturing and quality, but loved research, product development, business development and marketing. Opportunities like rotational programs, or even something as simple as shadowing an engineer for a day, can go a long way in narrowing your search.
Sometimes, being aggressive is all it takes. Your goal for any position should be to put together a stellar resume and a comprehensive cover letter, and, simultaneously, networking within that company. Best-case scenario: you’re able to connect with either the hiring manager or recruiter for that specific position and have a conversation that leads to a formal interview. Don’t be afraid to follow-up if you don’t hear back the first time. Call instead of sending an email. If you live near the company, walk into the office and ask if you can speak with the person or drop off a resume. Apply to positions you might not be qualified for based on the job description. Those guidelines aren’t always strict, or the company’s needs might have changed since the position was posted.
In conclusion, this list is certainly not exhaustive. And there definitely isn’t one “right” way to go about getting your foot in the door to this industry. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try your best to stay patient. More than likely, you’ll have to deal with your fair share of generic HR rejection emails and positions you never even hear back from but it doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to work in the biomedical industry. You’re all more prepared for any entry-level job than you might think. Sometimes it just takes a lot of time, a ton of work, and a little of luck.
I would be more than happy to speak with anyone that has questions, needs more suggestions, or wants to hear more about my specific experience. Feel free to shoot me an email and we can work something out!
Associate Research Engineer
Globus Medical, Inc.