I often talk with people who are beginning the job hunt — and wondering how on earth they’re going to find someone to hire them. Does anyone actually get a job by applying to those online listings? Do you have to have connections? Can networking really help?
The answers are yes… no… and absolutely! For this issue of the newsletter, I gathered real-world stories of the job hunt from four public health professionals who have jobs they’re passionate about, and they agreed to share how they got there.
Nanette Yandell, MPH
Katherine Kroll, MPH
Melvyn Chambers, MNPL
Mel Melmed, MPH
Nanette Yandell is involved in research that will improve the safety and efficiency of emergency medical care for kids. She just finished her MPH this past August, and it only took her a month to find a great public health job. How’d she do it? Nanette had been gathering work experience since she was an undergrad.
"As an undergrad, I worked for the California Center for Rural Policy, conducting multiple research projects, talking to policy officials and key community leaders, analyzing data and writing reports." Later, while pursuing my MPH, I worked as a graduate research assistant for my school’s department of global health, where I was able to utilize and enhance my basic statistical skills. I learned that many people are afraid to do statistics, so this experience gave me an edge. During this time, I helped professors write, edit, and publish several research papers. In my final semester, I completed a graduate student internship with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Branch. They place students all over the U.S. I was sent to Kentucky as an Epidemiology Intern. My internship gave me direct experience working for a health department, utilizing advanced statistical software, and creating a report that was beneficial for health policies across the state.
While I was still at my internship, I found my current job. This wasn’t easy and it took a lot of time, about 20 hours a week on top of my fulltime internship. I knew my background was more in research than in applied public health, so I focused on jobs at universities and state health departments. I applied to at least 8 different places before I began hearing back. A few places told me that I did not have the length and depth of experience required. There were other places that I never heard from. Then OHSU called. They did an initial interview over the phone and then asked me to fly out to Oregon for a final interview. I paid my own way, which was taking a risk, but I didn’t think I would have been invited if they weren’t serious! It probably took me a month from starting the search to finding this job, which I think was pretty fast. I’ve noticed that students who didn’t work during school have had a more difficult time finding jobs. People seem to think that they should wait until they have the degree to enter the field. I’ve learned that if there is a direction you want to head, it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible.
Nanette Yandell, MPH
Project Coordinator, Children’s Safety Initiative
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon
Catherine Kroll is an epidemiologist who tracks disease outbreaks, helps plan for prevention and keeps an eye on quality measures for a county health department. She says it’s just the right job for her interests and skills. How did she find such a good match — and just as she was finishing her public health training? Sometimes, networking is the key.
"I went straight from earning a bachelor’s degree in microbiology to graduate school for an MPH." While I was in grad school, I used their job connection service (which listed jobs available to students) to get involved with some national projects at the CDC. Through that experience, I discovered I was more interested in working at the local level. Later on, through my MPH program, I had the opportunity to go to Florida and work on a project with a local health department. While I was there, I made the effort to talk with people who could advise me on my career. One of the people I met was in the Florida Epidemic Intelligence Service, which is a fellowship program modeled on a national program at the CDC. It sounded like a good opportunity, and I decided to apply. I also had a good discussion with the health department’s Director of Epidemiology. She ended up writing one of my letters of recommendation, which I think really helped me get accepted. In the Florida EIS program, I did local work, such as investigating disease outbreaks, and I also spent one day a week at the state health department.
For my first long-term job, I wanted to be at a local health department that had strong leadership and ties to the national level. Near the end of my fellowship, I was at the annual APHA meeting, and a colleague told me, “You would be great for this job in Washington!” She had heard that a local health department was looking for an epidemiologist, and it turned out that the job was just what I was looking for. I sent off some emails, thinking it was a long shot. But they called me! They interviewed me over the phone on a Tuesday, and that Friday they offered me the job.
Catherine Kroll, MPH
Communicable Disease Epidemiologist and Program Lead
Clark County Public Health, Vancouver, Wash.
Read the Chambers and Melmed interviews
Did You Know?
The largest growing public health concern in the world is diabetes. In 2006, according to the World Health Organization, at least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. It's increasing rapidly, and it is estimated that by the year 2030, this number will double.
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