How to Network for a Job in Public Health After Grad School
A Master of Public Health can give you the necessary training and skills for a career in public health, but a degree alone doesn’t guarantee you any job opportunities, especially in today’s economy. Who you know is far more important to your future career prospects than what is on your resume. Ninety percent of jobs are found through some form of networking, and only four to 10 percent come from submitting a cold resume to a company where you have no contact information.
You don’t want to wait until you graduate to start building a professional network that can help you find a job. By then, it will be too late. Start building your network of contacts as soon as possible after starting your degree program. Attend as many conferences and networking events as you can. Establish an online presence. When you make a new contact, ask the right questions, and never forget that you’re not going to get anything from someone unless you’re willing to give them something first.
Go to Conferences and Events
As a grad student, you’ll be pressed for time. So going to school online for your graduate degree can really help you fit courses into your schedule, and that’s a good thing, because aside from your familial, academic, and day job responsibilities, there’s one more thing you’re going to have to squeeze in — the networking events. Start going to networking events as often as possible, as soon as you know you’re going to be going to grad school. Conferences, seminars, exhibitor shows, and meetings of local professional organizations put you face-to-face with people who may be able to help you someday, or who may be able to introduce you to people who can help you some day.
Don’t confine yourself to attending events and conferences within your own field, either. You never know which contacts may be valuable someday. Even if you’re still a student, have business cards made so you can hand them out to people you meet at networking events.
Build an Online Presence
When you make an impression on a new contact, that person is bound to go home and type your name into a search engine to learn more about you. You want to make sure something comes up when that happens — if the search engine returns no information at all about you, your new contact may decide you’re not a valuable connection. Establish an online presence through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other major social media sites. Set up a professional website for yourself. You might even start a blog about matters relevant to your field. Remember to keep it professional — that means no profanity, and no pictures of yourself doing shots with your friends on a Saturday night.
Ask the Right Questions
One way you can learn about opportunities in your field is by setting up informational interviews with people who work within your industry, preferably people who are rather high up. It’s usually best to email these people within a few days of your meeting instead of springing this request on them in the middle of a conference. You can also send a cold email to someone you haven’t yet met.
Explain in your email that you’re a graduate student at Such-and-Such University, and that you’re interested in entering the field, and you’d like to arrange a time for an informational interview to discuss opportunities. Most people will be happy to grant such a request — they know what it’s like to be starting out in the field. However, if your contact doesn’t answer the email, follow up, politely, one time, and then let the matter drop. If you do get the interview, use it as an opportunity to ask advice on how you can get into the field and how you can advance once you’re in. Don’t be afraid to ask the person to take a look at your resume and give you feedback that could help you better tailor it to the position you want.
Give Something Back
The secret to networking is often giving your contacts something that they want or need before you ask them for their assistance. People are more likely to be generous toward people who have already proven themselves to be valuable contacts. Figure out what you can offer your new contacts. Maybe you’re great at social media or have a marketable skill set from a previous career. At the very least, you can show genuine interest in your new contacts and spend time getting to know them as people before you hit them with requests for help.
A degree can give you the skills you need to succeed in a job, but you’ll need to network in order to get the job. Start networking long before you finish grad school. By the time you have your degree in hand, you’ll have companies lining up to offer you a job.