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How does it look to future employers if you work in a different field for a while?

I am hoping to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. However, I will likely work in an electrical product engineering position for a non-biomedical company following graduation. How will biomedical companies I apply for in the future see this? Will this experience help me or will they assume I am unfamiliar with biomedical technologies and pass on me?

#electrical-engineering #biomed #engineering-industry #engineering #biotechnology #first-job #biomedical-engineering #career-change #career-plan

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Christos’s Answer

Hi Kristen,

Biomedical and biotech companies are having issues currently with recycling of talent among the same companies and are always looking for people with diverse backgrounds but with solid engineering knowledge. Your electrical engineering experience will be invaluable towards developing devices that have electrical components, but be careful; if you stay in the electrical engineering industry for too long then your biomedical engineering career might become a lot more narrow in focus. I would suggest maybe staying at the electrical engineering product position for 1-3 years and start looking for biomedical engineering position after your 1st year.

There is always a long learning curve with biomedical documentation (FDA regulations and quality systems). Anytime you will enter a heavily regulated industry for the first time it will be difficult to find an entry level position but that's regardless of what previous experience you have.

Overall, since you're probably early in your career it should not have a significant impact and if anything it will help. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Ceil’s Answer

The kind of employer you probably want to work for is going to love the rich perspectives you can bring to her firm because of the experiences you've had. It's all how you position it - to yourself AND to potential employers. "I wasn't sure I wanted to work in [your field] so I kind of took a different job" doesn't get you nearly as far as "After a year in [other field] I have a great perspective on why [your field] is so important / a better fit / where it fits into the larger picture" (depending on if there was any relationship between the two fields.

Also, depending on your specialty, some skills carry from field to field. I've been a learning developer and manager in healthcare, high tech, financial services, and nonprofit - and believe me, the issues don't change!

Ceil recommends the following next steps:

Be sure the "different field" is one you're interested in.
Be prepared to talk about the similarities between the skills you used in the other field and ones you're being asked to use in the new one. For example, I don't have a lot of experience working with attorneys, but I have a LOT of experience working with "highly educated professionals who are justifiably proud of their accomplishments and often act like they're experts in areas they're not" - whenever I've pointed that out to hiring managers in, say, healthcare or law or startup tech, the response I get is usually somewhere a delighted burst of laughter and a rueful nod. It will be the same for you.
Be sure you're leaving the first field because you love the new one, not entering the new one because you just want to flee the one that didn't work out. Be transparent, with yourself and with potential employers, about why you started where you did.

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Peter’s Answer


It sounds like you have taken the electrical engineering job that has been offered to you, right out of college. There is nothing wrong with that. You will certainly gain valuable experience which is something that most companies (Biomed. included) like to see on a resume. I agree with the advice given by Kampouridis, above. If you are serious about the Biomed. Field, it is best to look for your job in that field after 2-3 years working for the electrical company. Otherwise your choices in your desired Field may narrow, unless you are willing to take a substantial cut the pay increases you will have already earned.

Peter recommends the following next steps:

See above.