Many of the people I know who have broken into medical device sales successfully have had a mentor who was in the industry. Often the mentor is a family member, or a friend’s older sibling. Sometimes it is a healthcare professional, a nurse or doctor, or someone who is in device sales. The mentor may be the person who first sparked the individual’s interest in the industry through stories of life in the operating room. Sometimes the mentor is a recruiter who offers career advice to someone who has potential and a strong desire to break into the industry. (I like to think of myself as your on-line mentor.)
A mentor can help you avoid many missteps along the way to a successful career. Research shows that mentors can have a range of positive impacts on their proteges’ careers, and that informal mentoring is often more effective than formal mentoring because it springs up from mutual interests. Some of the positive impacts of mentoring for proteges include: higher salaries, faster promotion rates, higher promotion rates and higher promotion rates (Eby 2010)… all great reasons to spend some time identifying a mentor.
Instead of a long and uncertain road to medical sales, a mentor with industry insight can help an aspiring medical sales rep find the most direct path to achieving their goal and develop realistic expectations about the hard work required for being successful in the industry. Particularly when considering a new job or company, a mentor can be an important sounding board for career moves. Right company? Right experience? Time to change or stick with it? If you get off track on your way to your career in medical device sales, it is sometimes very hard to find your way back again. A savvy mentor can help you avoid such mistakes.
Sometimes people mistake on-line discussion boards for sage advice from industry veterans. If you are looking for trouble, you are sure to find it on such boards where disgruntled employees grind their axes. Every company has its shortcomings, but they are sure to be amplified and distorted in such forums. When trying to learn more about a given company, you are better off asking a mentor who can keep things in proper perspective. A mentor can also be a valuable networking resource when you have the requisite experience to land your first job in medical sales. People like me (a.k.a recruiters) often reach out to experienced device reps to ask them for recommendations.
As many books (and blogs) as you can you can read on the subject, there is nothing quite like having someone with whom you can discuss your real life scenario. Hopefully this person will do you the favor of being brutally honest when necessary. They can often provide insight that will help you overcome an impasse or stumbling block that you are unaware of.
I consider it a positive sign when someone tells me they’ve taken advice from someone they respect. It tells me this person is serious enough about their career to do some research and give their choices some careful consideration. It also tells me that this person is humble enough to accept input from others and committed enough to do what it takes to be successful.
So find a mentor; ideally, someone you respect who has been successful in the industry. Stay in touch regularly, update them on your progress and travails, ask them for their advice. Most people will be flattered if you ask. The best repayment will come as sincere thanks and seeing you succeed.