Tag Archives: networking

How to Network for a Job in Public Health After Grad School


Networking is important for those looking for a job in public health

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.


How to transition out of academia (and why) once you get your Ph.D.

So you got your PhD ... great! Now, here's why and how to transition out of academia ... photo by CC user majkowska on flickr

Traditionally, the Ph.D. is intended to prepare students for a career in academia. Most Ph.D. students hope to obtain a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship, followed by a tenure-track professorship, upon graduation. But The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that 76 percent of the academic labor force consists of adjunct professors who can’t qualify for tenure and make about $2,700 per course.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t earn a PhD. Earning a doctorate gives you critical thinking skills, teaches you how to collaborate, and bestows a level of expertise in your field that employers place a premium on. A Ph.D. can still lead to a lucrative career path, as long as you look for opportunities outside of academia upon graduation. You just have to learn how to market yourself, and you may want to seek advice from other Ph.D.-holders who have successfully navigated the transition out of academia.

Decide What You Have to Offer Non-Academic Employers

The smoothest career transitions out of academia belong to those who hold Ph.D.s in STEM fields — industry has long valued experts in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering. But you don’t have to hold a STEM Ph.D. in order to have a lot to offer a company. Ph.D.s in all fields impart some of the following qualities:

  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to express complex ideas in a way that is easy to understand
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Self-direction

Translate the academic skills you learned while doing your Ph.D. into marketable job skills. You may have little industry experience, but if a company wants two or three years of experience, you can argue that work you did in the course of earning your doctorate required some or all of the skills needed for the job. Be specific about which of your skills meet the company’s job requirements. Customize your CV and cover letter to each position.

Allay Recruiters’ Fears About Candidates With Ph.D.s

Companies often fear that Ph.D.-holders will be too introverted, won’t be able to communicate with “regular” people, or will get bored with an industry job if they don’t feel intellectually stimulated. Let recruiters and interviewers know that you’re personable and down-to-earth, with great communication and people skills. An industry job can be just as intellectually stimulating as degree work or an academic position; make sure you can convey a genuine excitement about the job for which you’re applying. Point out that, in many Ph.D. fields, you need to be a team player in order to complete research or teach classes.

When you do a Ph.D., you’re essentially seeing a long and challenging project through to completion — play up that fact in interviews. Make clear that while you’re capable of working well with others, you’re also capable of working independently without a lot of supervision. Draw attention to your sense of accountability and remember, just because you have a Ph.D., you’re not inherently smarter than any of your future colleagues. Don’t act as if you’re owed a position.

Talk to Others Who Have Left Academia

You’ll have an easier time transitioning into an industry position if you complete a Ph.D. that prepares you for work in industry, especially one with strong, expected growth. But if you already have a Ph.D. in French, Russian literature, history, or some other field that appears to have a solely academic focus, don’t worry. You can translate any Ph.D. into a well-paid job.

Start by joining a professional organization for Ph.D.-holders who want to work outside of academia, such as Versatile Ph.D. Versatile Ph.D. sponsors nationwide networking events and more casual meet-ups for Ph.D.s who have, or want to, pursue careers outside of the Ivory Tower. You can discover more about your career options, find job listings on the group’s website, and get advice from other Ph.D.-holders about how to find jobs outside of academia. Registration is free, and members of one of the site’s many subscribing institutions can access premium content designed to help them find jobs.

Though the Ph.D. is traditionally meant to prepare students for a career in academia, the skills it teaches can be useful across a range of industries. Don’t feel that your Ph.D. limits you to teaching at the university level. In fact, it can open doors to lucrative, stimulating, and fulfilling careers in all kinds of industries, no matter what your field of study.