So, you recently found the Public Health Sciences to be interesting and want to learn more about how to succeed in the field itself. Maybe you were a pre-med major deciding to switch over while talking to your academic advisor, saw a live action video of a couple of United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees respond to an epidemic outbreak in another country, or wanted to learn how to “whip” a particular country’s healthcare system into better shape. The reasons of wanting to pursue Public Health are non-exhaustive and, like every successful career, one must gain a sufficient amount of rigorous education and relevant experience to succeed in it.
There are different ways to approach your career objectives within Public Health, but it is very important to research more about the various fields within it, see what skill(s) are essential and in-demand, and visualise yourself in your career within the next five to ten years. Education is certainly a good start on becoming officially trained, but relevant and contributable experience following one’s degree on any level often takes the cake and impresses hiring managers (and, when going back for another degree, admissions and funding committee members). Here are six #francesdeantwisttips on how to explore, select and become involved in the Public Health Job Market.
#1 Find out what interest area(s) intrigue you and what roles you want to perform within those areas.
Do you want to create and implement a program plan focused on physical fitness for elementary school kids? Or do you like to conduct clinical and community research investigations that look into the gender differences amongst people with HIV? Whatever areas and roles you have in mind, you would want to find out your interests and what to do with those. This is always the first thing to do before applying for anything.
#2 See which organisations focus on those interest area(s) and roles.
When considering the list of organisations, from government to non-profit, there has to be at least one that fits your career goals. There are the notable public health organisations, such as CDC and FDA; although, it is important not to limit your search to those two organisations. It’s best to list your choices in three’s – that is, for each non-profit, for-profit, government, education and non-governmental (NGO) organization.
#3 List technical and interpersonal skills that you currently have, as well as ones you want to gain.
Like any other occupation, a set of skills are required to carry out a role successfully. Do you have experience working with other people? Are you able to work under pressure? Have you worked with a particular group of people in a specific environment? Can you perform different types of statistical analyses with different types of software? These are the things you must ask yourself when looking at the positions that you want to be in and the skills that they require. If you happen to not have the skills at the time (or have limited exposure to them), platforms such as YouTube, Coursera and even your local library have classes and materials on mastering those skills (and they are FREE)!
#4 Ask anyone in your network (friends, colleagues, peers, mentors, professors) if they have served in the roles you desire to be in.
You may hear the common phrase “it’s not about what you know, but who you know”. The phrase has become more applicable in real life. HOWEVER, this is a good opportunity to network properly with other public health professionals, whether it’s a friend or a stranger. Networking properly with someone experienced in your desired interest area(s) may also open an opportunity to establish a mentorship and/or a colleague-ship. Remember to be professional and respectful at all times, in person and internet, when inquiring interest about a specific position. Etiquette is crucial!
#5 BE SPECIFIC!
This tip is stressed on enough as public health is very broad and there are plenty of organisations that participate in public health or health science-related work. If you are requesting to connect with someone about a certain company or position, it’s best for everyone to come prepared. Advocating for yourself and the skills you carry are also important when searching for a position or school you desire. This goes for looking at certain graduate programs – it is important to set expectations on what you’re looking for from the time you start to when you either graduate or land across a promotion of some sort.
#6 BE FLEXIBLE!
Last, but not least, being flexible will get you far in the public health field. The ability to identify transferable skills within each position and using them for future experience is a skill that should always be worked on as a part of building one’s better self. Everyone who has succeeded in the field has started at “ground zero” and working your way up comes with strategy, humility and flexibility. Being a Jack-of-all-Trades can only help you so much — and that includes not striving for just one organisation.
TL:DR – Find what catches your eye, search for multiple organisations you want to work for, list skills that you have and want to gain, keep your networking hat on, be specific and be flexible!
To find out about other organisations locally and globally, check out the guide that I have developed and see what catches your eye!
This content has no affiliation with any of the organisations mentioned whatsoever and the posts are for personal purposes only.
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