By: Danielle Buechler, HBHE 2nd Year
Once you get to graduate school, the days when the biggest decision was deciding what to have for lunch or whether to wear pajamas to class are long gone. You are now faced with the daunting task of deciding on a career? This should be an extremely exciting time, but the worries of actually finding a job that’s right for you, pays well, and is in the exact location of your dreams seems to mask embracing this next step of life. Or maybe you have already started your career, but feel as though your current position is not utilizing you to your best abilities. But have no fear; Kathleen Lawrence is to the rescue. As a graduate of the HBHE program last year, she understands the ups and the downs and everything in between.
As soon as you become a second year MPH student, everyone wants to know what you are going to do when you graduate. “I felt so out of the loop,” Kathleen said. “Everyone else had a specific population and a specific disease, and I didn’t so I thought I was screwed.” Kathleen made appointments with her favorite professors about where to go next and how to look for a job. Her professors helped her narrow it down.
“Find out what you don’t want to do. Like I knew I didn’t want to do just one thing – I didn’t just want to be a program evaluator or just a survey writer. I knew at least that I wanted to be a program coordinator and that I wanted to have access to a population that was disenfranchised.”
Talking with professors not only gave Kathleen’s spirits a lift, but also helped her build skills to actually get a job. “Develop strong relationships with your professors. If you send an e-mail to a professor, and they do not respond there is nothing wrong with sending it again.” She had her professors critique her resume and show her examples of cover letters. “I had never written a cover letter before. Seeing one really helped because it gave me an idea of how it is formed. Basically it’s the stuff you can’t fit on your resume.” Kathleen really stressed the importance of formulating a good cover letter. “A cover letter is where you get to show why you are passionate. You can say, I’m great and I’m wonderful and you should get to know me.”
Getting a job can be scary. “I was so scared of being rejected, and it (getting a job) really meant something to me.” Kathleen recommends utilizing your friends as a network because everyone is doing something unique and has a network of their own as well as faculty. It is also important to keep your network as wide as possible, which means employers who did not offer you the job. “You can say something like ‘I really enjoyed interviewing with your project, and please keep me in mind if anything else comes up.” Kathleen actually got offered another job (not her current job) this way.
Kathleen’s future is exciting as this is a great position to start her career. “I get to start and finish a job from development, implementation and evaluation.” She does not exactly know what she wants to be “when she grows up,” but she does know that she wants to continue to work directly with people and stay true to her ambition of working with health disparities.
The other thing to keep in mind is what University of Michigan stands for in the professional world of public health. “I didn’t know how much it meant by just the fact that I was at U of M.” Whether a new alum or a Michigan legend, there are many advantages of being a Michigan alum!
For more information about possible job and field placement opportunities go to HBHE.Network. Visit the Career Services Website at http://www.sph.umich.edu/career_networking/.