Guest Blogger Ada Ruzer ’11

Caught in this limbo of looking for work after graduation, while still being in school, has pushed me to begin networking like crazy.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking hold of any opportunity that has the potential to help me in my job search. I joined LinkedIn and have been professionally reconnecting with old bosses (after making sure to post an appropriate and detailed profile that highlights my skills.) Also, anytime a friend mentions an acquaintance they have in the public health sphere, I jump on getting their contact info.

The most beneficial part of this whole process has been the informational interviews that have resulted from my efforts. For instance, I recently had the chance to accompany IPE students on a field trip to Path, a major international nonprofit based in Seattle. About fourteen of us visited Path’s headquarters where we were taken on a tour of the facilities by none other than Scott Jackson, Vice President of External Relations, and proud Puget Sound alum.

Seeing the work they do made me want to sneak in a resume while I was there. Unfortunately, the positions available are pretty much reserved for Masters in Public Health grads. Still, our group got to ask Scott and Lisa Cohen (an executive director of Washington Health Alliance which works in conjunction with and is housed within Path) about their experiences.

Surprisingly, Lisa did not major in a public health related field, but rather studied broadcast journalism (undergrad) and international communication (masters). It was through her work as a TV news producer covering the Bosnian war, focusing specifically on refugee and relief efforts in Albania, and then tracking the work of the Gates Foundation in South Africa, Ghana, and Gambia, that prompted her to explore a career in public health. Lisa told me that these travel experiences were vital; throughout our discussion she reinforced ideas of persistence and patience. While it may be hard to get a public health position right away, there are nonetheless creative ways to get involved. Volunteer, for instance. As Lisa suggested, “there is no one-stop shopping”–all types of experiences can lead to an internship and jump-start a career.

I further explored my possibilities at the Career Fair where I met Kathryn Briant, a community health educator working at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Kathy and I were able to conduct a phone interview, during which I learned about her educational background (environmental science) and how she got her start in the public health sector originally as a medical secretary.

Kathy was so open and willing to talk to me about her professional path—which, like Lisa’s, was not traditional. Hearing about the work she does was exciting because it made me realize how many different opportunities one job can offer. Kathy writes grants, processes data, develops cancer-related curriculum, provides clinical trial trainings, and promotes healthy living strategies in low-income communities. Not only was Kathy welcoming in her conversation, but she also sent me an entire list of job bank resources!

This experience has shown me how willing people are to assist college students in their professional development—networking and informational interviewing have turned out to be more rewarding than I ever expected!

Need help identifying prospects for informational interviews? Visit CES for a brainstorming session.

© 2010 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Kris Hay