Getting the inside scoop on landing public health jobs, the resume, cover letter, and interviews, with public health recruiter Brooke Mootry

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Brooke Mootry, a public health recruiter who has years of experience working directly in public health. They chat about The Public Health Network, a recruitment firm founded by Brooke that focuses on those in public health, and give tips for public health professionals seeking work.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Brooke’s career path and how she went from working in public health directly to being the one recruiting public health professionals
  • What The Public Health Network is and its goals
  • Brooke’s motivation for starting the Public Health Network
  • How recruitment companies work and the typical process for a recruiter identifying potential candidates 
  • Insider tips on what recruitment companies look for and how you can increase your chances of being recruited
  • What challenges and opportunities there are for public health professionals navigating the job market today
  • How LinkedIn is an important resource for both those looking for and recruiting work
  • Tips from Brooke for early career public health professionals putting forward a strong application
  • Red flags to avoid that recruiters see when reviewing or screening applications

Today’s Guest:

Brooke Mootry is the CEO and Lead Recruiter of The Public Health Network (TPHN), a full-service firm specializing in the recruitment of public health professionals. Since 2019, TPHN has led national and international recruitment searches for community organizations and businesses seeking talented public health professionals. 

Brooke Mootry, has nearly 20 years of public health practice in non-profit and government settings. Her background includes program design and management with specialized experience in HIV/AIDS, adolescent health and tobacco prevention. Ms. Mootry is CHES-certified and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Education from Florida State University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Florida Atlantic University.  When she is not recruiting top talent, Brooke is an avid reader who enjoys spending time with family.

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Episode Transcript

Brooke 0:00
Don’t hesitate. If you’re interested in making a connection with someone, even if it’s someone that is very senior to you, just be available and be willing to reach out, build that network. And just be open and be ready for the next thing.

Sujani 0:18
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Hey, Brooke, thank you so much for joining me on this podcast. And welcome.

Brooke 0:39
Thank you so much for having me, Sujani.

Sujani 0:41
Wonderful. And I think you might be kind of like the first person in this area of work that I have come across. And I think I read on your website somewhere that you are the only full service firm specializing exclusively in the recruitment and staffing of public health professionals. And so who better to speak on our podcast than Brooke, thank you.

Brooke 1:04
Yes, thank you so much. I’m excited. And yes, as of today, we are the only recruitment firm that focuses 100% on public health professionals. So we’re excited to be in this space and really, you know, really own it.

Sujani 1:17
And I think it’s such an important space that you’re in. And I’m sure we’ll cover the reasons on today’s episode. And I’d love to hear your journey into public health. But before that, the question that I’ve always had on the top of my head, and I made this one post on LinkedIn a few months ago is how relevant are the advice that we read about in say, Forbes or Ink Magazine, some of those popular magazines around career and advice and tips? Have you seen that those are pretty applicable to our field in public health? Like, what’s your thought on that?

Brooke 1:53
Great question. So I definitely think that the stuff that’s out there in terms of career advancement and starting your career, I think that’s going to be consistent across the field or across the, you know, the area that you work in, as far as public health. The one thing that I think is just a little bit different is that now more than, you know, anytime before over the last two years, public health is now at the forefront of people’s minds. And so previously, you know, at least for myself, a lot of times when I started in this career, I had to kind of give more education about what public health was and what we did. Now, I think the difference is, particularly in the job market, people know what public health is, and there’s a demand for public health professionals. And so I think that traditional job advice is going to be the same in terms of networking, and, you know, keeping your resume current, that’s going to be the same, but maybe not having to sell public health as much would be maybe more of the difference.

Sujani 2:46
Okay, now, that makes sense. And I’m curious to see if those websites, the big ones that I just mentioned, will now start adding in public health related career advice and tips or even, you know, accepting more submissions from people with a public health background? That’d be interesting to see.

Brooke 3:05
Definitely. And I think- I think we will start seeing it may not be, you know, a huge amount of articles that are public health specific that you’ll see, like you said, in Forbes, or, you know, any other career magazine, but I think you’ll see it in the past, it’s kind of been hidden under health care, I think is where, you know, public health has kind of fit in, but you may see it teased out a bit more particularly as maybe a more growing field of people that are entering.

Sujani 3:30
Oh, that’s interesting. Okay, so maybe we can, you know, start from the beginning and hear about how you entered the field of public health and then how this transition happened from you working in kind of like the field of public health, doing public health work, and then now being someone who’s recruiting public health professionals so that they can go out and do all this wonderful work.

Brooke 3:53
Absolutely. So, you know, kind of fell into public health. I first learned about public health as an undergraduate student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Initially, when I entered university, my plan was to continue and go on and become a physician going to medical school, but just being you know, fully transparent. I struggled with math and science. And so I would say maybe my second year in college, I was taking, like biology and some of these other classes. And I had to repeat them a number of times. And I’m the type of person that likes to have a plan and likes to kind of know what I’m going into and be on a certain schedule. And so I wanted to graduate in inter, you know, what I call the real world, which that was a mistake. I should have just kind of slowed down a little bit.

Sujani 4:40

Brooke 4:41
But with having to repeat classes, it felt as though I was delaying this entry into you know, my career. And so I just was in my dorm one evening and kind of just acknowledging like, hey, math and sciences, it’s not really your thing. Do you want to continue to take these classes or, you know, what do you want to do moving forward? And I just remember scrolling on the computer looking at the majors that were available, I stumbled upon what they called community health education. It was in the College of Education. And I just read more about the courses that were available. And maybe my first or second course I was hooked. And I just felt really fascinated by the theories of Public Health and Health belief models and stages of change, and how you can really change somebody’s health and ultimately impact their life by following certain models that really intrigued me. And so that’s where I really got my start in public health and undergrad. And I participated in a couple of clubs that they had on campus around health education and doing some work around HIV. And it’s just been a passion since then.

Sujani 5:45
I guess now, who are running this great company? How did that transition happen?

Brooke 5:51
Sure, so much of my public health experience, after I graduated, undergrad, I went to work at the local level, I did some work at a community based organization around HIV prevention. And then I also did some work at a local health department, as well as a state health department in adolescent health and HIV prevention, tobacco prevention. And I spent a lot of my career at the government setting, local and state. And I was kind of at this place where, you know, I mentioned before, like a great plan, like, okay, what’s next, what comes after these jobs that have been in and at the time, I think I had been in public health, probably for about 15-16 years. And a lot of my colleagues, kind of the natural progression for them was, okay, maybe go to the federal government, maybe CDC or another agency, or work on a national level. And so I really started to kind of sit with what I want to go after this career after this job. And I just made a list of some of those areas that I naturally excelled in, which for me is building relationships and keeping in contact with people presenting speaking, when some of the areas of my public health career that I wasn’t as excited about, and I just gave myself, you know, some time to sit with it. And what came to mind was having a need for a recruitment firm, which was very interesting, it wasn’t something that I had definitely conservative before even thought about. But what led me to that was also my experiences in public health, and as a manager, and as a supervisor, dealing with the natural trajectory of staff and turnover, and being left with vacancies and positions. And as I mentioned, a lot of my experience was in government settings. And so having to hire staff in those settings, a lot of times, there’s a lot of red tape, and it can take upwards of you know, three months, five months, six months, before you get somebody that’s on board. And then the other part of that is sitting through interviews and, and kind of dealing with the work that is piling up from having that vacancy. And so really just reflecting on, you know, my experience as a manager, where there was this deficit and kind of this blank area in public health. That’s how I came up with the Public Health Network is a recruitment firm. And then from there talking with some colleagues as well as some other recruiters, it just became even more apparent that there was a need for a firm that was focused on public health.

Sujani 8:07
Yeah, I can certainly see the need for it from both sides. And I think we’ll get into that a bit more. And it was interesting, you, you said that you sat and did a bit of reflection to see where you could take that next step in your career. And before we started recording, you and I were just chatting about that, that it’s important to do that reflection, not only as an early professional or new grad who’s stepping into the career workforce, but kind of at- at different points in your career, whether you are looking for a change or not, it’s kind of nice to look back, find some common themes that have emerged throughout your career and to really like ask yourself, are you enjoying what you’re doing? Are you working in your strengths? And then that kind of helps you take the next step in your career. So great to kind of hear that as an example here.

Brooke 8:54
Oh, definitely, I definitely believe in, you know, reflecting on where you are, you know, in your career, and you know, life in other areas. And as you mentioned, I think when you sit down and you’re still and you ask yourself those questions, even if they’re uncomfortable, even if you’re sitting in a job that once you are excited about and you’d like to enjoy it, it’s okay to be honest and say, hey, this isn’t what I thought it would be, or I’m not enjoying it to the extent that I expect it to and it’s okay to sit with that and make adjustments and pivot and move.

Sujani 9:23
Yeah. And that is an uncomfortable question to ask yourself, right? Like, do I want to make such a drastic change in my career? How do you sit with that uncomfortableness? And then I think beyond that, how do you take the first step, especially for big move that you made stepping out of something that was a comfortable job with all the Securities and then stepping into entrepreneurship in this case, but even if you are looking to move to a different organization or a different city, I think those are all still big steps for one to make and it could be very difficult to do if you’re already in this secure quote unquote, like, great job with all the great benefits.

Brooke 10:02
You know, it’s definitely is it’s a big step. And as you mentioned, whether you’re entering entrepreneurship or you’re thinking of, you know, moving to a different city or just changing a different focus area of public health, because it’s such a could be such a big step, my recommendation, and what I did was just kind of take it one step at a time, you know, I didn’t necessarily make the transition. And once I had this idea about the Public Health Network, quit my job two weeks later, there was definitely a process. And so you know, my advice for anyone that that finds himself in that situation where they’re realizing that they need to make a change, is to first get as much information as you can about where you’re looking to go, what you’re interested in, we talked about reflection. So if you spent some time doing that, you’re jotting down what you’re interested in, what cities you’d like to live in, what companies you’re interested in working in, and then take that information and try to build upon that, who do you know, in that city that you can talk to, to get an idea of whether it’s cost of living or even the job market in that city? Or who do you know, that’s an entrepreneur that you can speak with? And just taking those steps, I think, for me, at least helped to alleviate some of the stress and the anxiety and giving yourself permission to get to that spot or that destination over time. You know, I think that was helpful, because in my case, it was a very drastic change. Yeah, as you mentioned, it was a very comfortable job working for government, you know, getting paid every two weeks, there’s a lot of consistency benefits. And so there’s also some risk that was involved in that. And there was a level of excitement to that for me as well, you know, just seeing how big I could build this business. And what it could eventually become was exciting for me.

Yeah no, those are some really great advice. And I feel like we might have to do a separate episode on just this topic alone.


Sujani 11:46
So I think it’s great to, you know, have you here because we get to really ask you questions from the inside of how like HR works, for example, and even themes that you’re seeing when you are out there recruiting for some great public health professionals. So maybe we can start more high level and asked you how does a recruitment company work? So what is the typical process that you would follow when you’re identifying potential candidates for public health organizations? And, you know, there’s always this question of like, do you go out and pitch to people on LinkedIn and solicit individuals that way, so I’m curious to hear like how this whole process works.

Brooke 12:26
So as a recruitment firm, our clients are agencies and organizations that are in need of public health professionals, and so we use that word public health professionals pretty broadly. And so there has been some jobs that we’ve worked with that, you know, won’t say health educator, but they may say, Project Coordinator.

Sujani 12:44

Brooke 12:44
So the roles that we accept, and that we recruit for have to touch or improve public health in some way, they may also have some type of social service lien to it, or broader social impact lien or focus, but as long as it deals with public health, and you know, that’s kind of our space. And so once we’ve identified a company or agency that is in need of our services, it really depends on the needs of that client or that organization. So some companies come to us and say, hey, you know, this is the candidate that we’re looking for, these are the skill sets that we need, here’s the job description, take it and run. And then you have other companies where it’s their first time working with a recruitment firm. And they may need some assistance with developing a job description or making some tweaks to it. And maybe they’ve posted it before on Indeed, or LinkedIn, and they just really didn’t get a lot of traction. And so in that case, we may help them with developing a writing a job description. And then you also have some instances and where you have a company that’s recruiting for a more public position. And they don’t necessarily want people to know that they’re working with recruitment company. So we do some confidential searches as well, where it will appear as though the public health network is recruiting for a position. And we won’t disclose the name of the company until we’ve met with some candidates. So just depending on what the company has a need for and where they are, we’ll start there. And then as far as you know, searching for candidates, it happens on a variety of different platforms. And so with the Public Health Network, we do maintain the database of public health professionals. And so it’s free to join, you can visit us on our website and upload your resume. And so with that database will usually start internal and say, okay, who do we have internally that has reached out and has expressed an interest in public health work. And we can do some queries in our systems look for certain skill sets, areas, as well as salary expectations. And then from there, depending on what we have in the system, we’ll also do a more targeted and focused search. And that’s more of a passive search. And so these are for candidates that aren’t necessarily looking for jobs. They’re not actively applying, but they have the skill set and the experience that the company needs. And so in those cases, a lot of times LinkedIn is really my best friend and my go to and so I will go on LinkedIn or my colleagues will go on LinkedIn. And we’ll start searching for profiles that meet the needs of the client. And then we definitely message them and you know, try to get them on the phone and talk with them and see what their interest is in a certain company or even in their next position. And then we also have some other clients that have a job description. And we may do more of an active recruitment, and those so those are the candidates that are actively looking for jobs, and will post that on job boards, similar to indeed idealist kind of the more traditional job boards. And with those, we definitely get a lot more applications. And so we have to be a little bit more specific when we’re putting something on a job board, because there’s going to be a large return.

Sujani 15:36
The job description is always this piece that I think people look at. And I think, a lot of atleast younger or new grads, and you know, read stats that women also want to make sure they meet 100% of the qualifications before they apply to that job. So being someone who produces the job descriptions for public health organizations, I guess, are there any tips that you could share when individuals are reviewing a job description? And how to really understand it and kind of take action from there?

Brooke 16:08
Great question. So I definitely would say with the job description, consider it an outline, it’s not necessarily black and white, you have to have these five things, or else you may not apply. And so to your point, Sujani, I see the same thing on this man, where I’ll meet with a candidate that may have, you know, three out of the five things that are listed. And for whatever reason, the person doesn’t apply, or you know, they just kind of pass it up. So I would say, consider the job description to be an outline, really read it and really pay attention to what they’re looking for. And make sure that your resume reflects what they are looking for in the job description. So for example, if the job description wants someone that has had experience in Asthma Prevention, make sure that that is in your resume somewhere, even if you haven’t directly had it. And maybe you have a passion for asthma, because when you put certain keywords in, that’s what’s going to flag your resume. And so if your resume does not include the word asthma, it will not come up in my query for the database that we have, nor for LinkedIn. And so I would say make sure that you have those keywords in there and that your resume directly speaks to what they are looking for in that position. Another statistic that I have found very true is that recruiters look at resumes, it takes us anywhere from seven to 10 seconds to review a resume determine if it moves forward. And so I’ve kind of timed it to see if that’s accurate in it. For the most part, it’s very true. We’re gonna see a lot of resumes throughout the day, we are often on a timeline to get jobs filled. We’re not spending, you know, 20 minutes on each resume. And so if things don’t stick out, then unfortunately, they’re probably going to get looked over.

Sujani 17:46
That’s wonderful that we heard some evidence for those stats that you know, it takes you seven seconds to review a resume. So really, the the first impression does matter here.

Brooke 17:56
It absolutely does. And it seems kind of harsh, you know, initially, when I read that I’m like, oh, there’s no way it couldn’t be like that. But you know what I’m kind of in it and doing the day to day and I’ve talked with my colleagues are also in this field, they say the same thing, because it’s really just time and just having to comb through something. And if I have to look at a resume, and really reach and say, oh, this candidate, I think I see where they’re going, then, you know, unfortunately, it may not pan out. And that’s reaching out to that person.

Sujani 18:24
Right. Yeah, your database. That’s very cool. And I will definitely link that in our show notes page. Could you share a bit more about that? And are you often only looking for candidates who are US residents? Or do you seek out others as well?

Brooke 18:40
I’m so glad you asked that question. So you can go to the website and you all you do, it’s very simple. You just upload your resume, I believe you enter your first name and last name, and then just upload it as a PDF. And as you continue in a career, you can go and upload and revise it as much as possible. But our recruitment database is not specific to the United States. So we do have experienced recruiting for public health positions outside of the United States and in various countries of the world. And so I am so glad you asked that. Definitely make sure that you upload, it doesn’t matter what area of the world that you’re from, as long as you’ve touched public health some way we would love to have you in our system.

Sujani 19:16
Great. Okay, well, I’ll definitely link that up. And I’m also glad you mentioned the piece about you going out and searching on LinkedIn because this process is common kind of in the business world and tech world because I certainly have friends and my husband, for example is in tech. So he gets a lot of people reaching out through LinkedIn, but it’s, at least from my perspective, a bit unheard of for public health professionals to land jobs through LinkedIn pages. And I had a friend reach out to me to say one time that she had someone reach out and she was asking me Do you think this is legitimate? And I remember telling her I’m pretty sure it is. You should definitely, you know, set up a chat to hear what the recruiter has to say. So yeah, glad to hear that. That’s also a technique that you use. Then another reason for public health professionals to boost up their LinkedIn profiles.

Brooke 20:05
Absolutely, I would say, you know, probably 90% of my time is spent on LinkedIn, looking at profiles. And even if we’re not recruiting, if we come across a candidate whose profile just really stands out, and we’d love to have them in our system, we may just reach out and you know, introduce our network and ask if they’re, you know, interested in joining. But LinkedIn, I would say one of the other things to maybe keep in mind for your listeners is just the need for individuals who are on LinkedIn to be responsive. And I mentioned time is one of the huge, you know, factor for recruiters. Because we’re working on deadlines, there’s been instances in which there’s been a candidate or two that I’ve reached out to, and they’re not active on LinkedIn, and their profile stands out, I’ve messaged them, you know, almost circle back around like two weeks, three weeks later. And you know, at that point, unfortunately, the position may have been filled, or they’ve moved on with the interview process. So I would say even maybe just flagging or setting notifications on your phone setting for messages for LinkedIn, would be huge. And to your point, usually, when I reached out to people about public health positions, this is the first time that they’ve been reached out or connected with a recruiter in public health. And so they’re really surprised by it. They’re excited, they didn’t really know that we were in this space. So it’s new, but I think it’s definitely going to grow even more in the coming years.

Sujani 21:20
That’s great to hear. I’m curious. And I’m sure our listeners are curious, when you say somebody’s profile stands out to you, and you’re encouraging them to add their name to your database. What are some things that really stand out for you? And maybe individuals can use that as a tip to update their LinkedIn or even their resume? So yeah, I’m curious to hear what are some things that you’re impressed by or could see people kind of focusing more on to really boost up their profiles?

Brooke 21:47
I would say, what really sticks out to me is when somebody is active on LinkedIn, LinkedIn has a recruiter side. And so there’s almost this back end, where I can go and look at profiles. And I believe, on the front end, you’ll receive notification, somebody’s viewed your profile, but going in their profile and seeing that they’re active, maybe they’ve liked a few posts, they’ve posted things that definitely stands out. Anyone that has posted or made any recent comments about public health, and even if it’s just their, you know, opinion, or their thoughts on a relevant issue is interesting, as well as recommendations, I definitely go through those and read and see, you know, who’s saying, what about the candidate what stands out about their work with this person. And then if they have their resume attached to their LinkedIn profile, then that’s just even more of a bonus on our end. And then having a profile picture is really a big thing. You know, sometimes it can sound a bit biased, like, Oh, you shouldn’t hire people based on you know, photo, but I think it helps just create a connection with that person. And it- to me makes it feel like there’s one another person on the other end and two, they’re interested enough in keeping their profile updated, and just making sure that things are as accurate as possible. So it’s not necessarily looking at the person and seeing what they look like as much as it is, did they take the time to really complete their profile on LinkedIn.

Sujani 23:05
Yeah, it’s great to see similar advice from you. And we had Jeremy shuffling, he used to work at LinkedIn and did a lot of new grad kind of recruitment into using the LinkedIn platform and very similar tips that he shared, that you’re sharing in terms of, you know, recommendations, or something that you look at the piece about the resume being attached is new to me, because I guess in my head, I thought my LinkedIn profile is pretty much you know, identical to my resume, at least the experiences. So why is it that I guess you look for a resume being attached as well, you see more detail in there? Is that why?

Brooke 23:40
Yeah, that’s exactly it. So usually on LinkedIn, you know, people have the company that they’re working for the dates, and some may or may not have, you know, a lot of narrative around their activities or their responsibilities in that role. And for those that do have a resume attached, that’s exactly it. So we may see a bit more history about this person’s work history, as well as more detail in their responsibilities that they’re conducting in that role. It’s not that often that I see that resume attached to it. So when I do come across it, it’s like, oh, this is, you know, a nice bonus. The other thing that’s helpful as a recruiter is, you know, with LinkedIn, you can set your your profile to say that you’re, you know, looking for a job or you’re considering a job, you’re open to being hired. That’s helpful as well, because it’s going to let us know, okay, this person may respond to the message pretty quickly. And two, they may also be interested in what we’re having to offer. And I believe there’s a setting within LinkedIn where you can post that privately. So it’s not necessarily that frame that’s on your LinkedIn profile picture, but it’s flagging it in the system. And so we’ll see it on the back end. The other thing that we see kind of just sharing all the recruiter secrets on the LinkedIn recruiter side of the platform, there will be some language that indicates this person may be open to a new job, and so would essentially look at the company that you’ve worked for and look at the other employees that also work for that company and identify by maybe an average time period that their employees stay there. So, for example, Brooke has been with the Public Health Network for two years, the average employee stays there for two and a half, she may be open to a job. So that’s that’s a nice helpful hint for us as well.

Sujani 25:15
That’s very nice. Thank you for sharing all that. I think my husband and I, we were chatting the other day that even if people aren’t actively looking for a job, they’re always curious about what is out there, and what other opportunities are out there. And I think even with public health, we do great work, there’s a lot of impact that we make in the world. And sometimes, like we chatted about earlier, our interests might change and things in the world are changing, and you’re reflecting a lot more. And then you just want to do work that maybe is feeling a bit more meaningful at that phase of your life. So I think those are, those are great that you may not be looking for a job, but it’s always great to have your LinkedIn updated, because you never know what amazing opportunity is going to come your way.

Brooke 25:58
Absolutely. And I would say even those that you know, receive a message from a recruiter, even if they’re not interested, I would still respond to that message. And you know, if you have the time or the interest, have a conversation with that recruiter, because that recruiter will let you know, essentially, what they see in your profile, you know, what’s kind of flagging them as you being marketable for a position. And it just lets you know what other people are thinking. And so kind of give you some ideas around maybe how to better change your profile, or what else is out there. The other thing is, you know, having conversations with a recruiter, you’re going to stay top of mind. So if I’ve had a conversation with someone, and they may not be the best fit for the job, I’ll remember that person I’ve spoken with them, they’ll stand out before someone else that I haven’t had a conversation with. And so if they’re not the best match at that time, they may be, you know, six months a year down the road.

Sujani 26:46
Right. And I guess yeah no, that’s a good point you make is having a recruiter as part of your network. And I’m sure people follow the tips that you just provided, like being active on LinkedIn and making sure that your profile is updated. You’re going to come across some recruiters search and you will be part of their network, would you suggest that people also reach out to recruiters and establish a relationship there that way?

Brooke 27:11
I think so. Because even with the searches on the LinkedIn platform, I can still also search for candidates for those that I’m personally connected with. So it’s just another layer. And you know, if you’re connected to a recruiter on LinkedIn, you can go on their profiles, see what they’re liking, see what they’re responding to, that may just give some insight into what they’re looking for at the moment. So.

Sujani 27:32
Great. Okay, so I think this is a plug for everyone to go follow. And there’s that follow button. So that’s great. Like, you don’t necessarily have to create like a connection, you can follow the work that people do.

Brooke 27:45

Sujani 27:46
Switching gears a little bit, I am sure everyone’s got this million dollar question is, as a recruiter, what are some of the biggest tips that you can give to early career public health professionals who are in the job market, they are interested in applying and they’ve got their resume crafted? They’re working on their cover letters, they’re going to interviews. What are some things that kind of stand out for you as great candidates? Or maybe you know, it’s easier to answer the watch outs or red flags or things that you don’t want people doing because then you’re just going to the bottom of that pile? I know, that’s like a big open ended question. But feel free to answer it any way you want. Because I know there’s a lot to answer in that one question.

Brooke 28:29
I’ll start with my career tips for public health professionals early career, and this is its early career and just throughout your career is having and being intentional about building your network. A lot of the positions that I had when I was directly practicing public health, were based on relationships that I you know, achieved and facilitated and grew over the course of my career. I think public health is large. And as broad of the field as it is, it’s still a very small world. And so a lot of the individuals that early public health career professionals are working with, they’re going to see them years down the road, even those that are still in, you know, undergrad or graduate school, they’re going to eventually become your colleagues in your network. And so I can’t underscore that enough. Having and establishing a network is such a huge benefit to your career. And not just in public health, I would, you know, encourage individuals to reach beyond public health, mentioned your husband’s in tech, so tech fields, anything that’s related to public health, I wouldn’t shy against that. And in terms of, you know, kind of spend some time with the red flags. I think the biggest red flag is having grammatical errors on a resume or cover letter. I see it more often than I’d like to see. And it lets me know that maybe the person is in a rush to apply for the position and almost comes off as if they may not care or they may not just be a strong communicator, a written communicator. I do have one client that I recruit for pretty often, and they’re very clear or a company that if a profile or their materials have more than two grammatical errors, please don’t send them to us, we don’t care how much experience this person has. So that is something that is a huge red flag, I’ve seen cover letters that are written for one position, but they’re addressed to another company. I think that’s pretty frustrating. Because as strong as a profile may be, or the resume may be, you know, it’s just, it’s hard for me to move forward. And the other part of that is, as a recruitment professional, I’m representing a recruitment firm. And so if I’m putting forward a candidate, I’m telling this company, hey, this is the best person out there, this is top tier, this person has the background and the experience they have everything you’re looking for. And if this person has errors in their resume, then it’s a reflection of this company. And it’s not necessarily worth the risk of that. And on the other hand, you know, as a recruiter, I’ve been there before, as a public health professional and things slip things happen, I have had conversations with candidates and say, hey, you know, I’ve got this on your resume, you know, if you make this change, we can put you through, but a lot of recruiters aren’t going to spend the time to do that. And so I would definitely say that that is a huge red flag, and probably one of my biggest pet peeves. The other red flag is maybe just around cover letters. Some companies want them others don’t. If you’re applying for a job, and it’s an optional, then I would say definitely submit one, it sucks, there’s a lot of work, it takes a lot of time. But with the cover letter, I think it can really help to support your resume, and make the best use of it and make sure that whatever you write in that cover letter that it really speaks to the needs of that company and the position you’re applying for. And I gave the example earlier of you know, someone that is maybe applying for a job that has something to do with asthma, but they don’t have that experience, being able to speak to how your previous experience even if it was internships, classes that you took in university, whatever that was, use that cover letter to really tell that story of how your experience and how your knowledge translates.

Sujani 31:59
Those are, I think, you know, really great to hear again, for a lot of our listeners, I think they may have read a lot of this advice in a lot of these articles. And it’s good to hear that it’s something that is followed through it is something that people ask for, especially the grammatical errors, one, you know, we read that all the time in every possible article. And it’s great to hear how that’s actually put into practice in that organization that you mentioned, where they have a quarter of two errors. And we don’t want this resume, I think, hits that point home quite a bit.

Brooke 32:30
Definitely. And I would just add, if I can just another, I wouldn’t even call it a red flag. But something that just stands out with a resume is if there’s a lot of movement within one or two years, particularly less than one year, it tilts my head a little bit. It’s not a red flag, but it’s like, oh, what’s the story with this? And so I’ve had candidates that have said, hey, my family member got ill and I had to relocate or, you know, they’re just been very honest about it. I think being honest with the recruiter, or whoever you’re interviewing with at the time is helpful, but it may get a head tilt I think anything beyond you know, two years, it’s not really questionable. It’s more just curiosity of what’s kind of going on with the candidate.

Sujani 33:11
Well, that’s interesting, because if an organization is not working with a recruiter, and you don’t have that opportunity to explain it to someone, would you recommend putting somewhere in the cover letter, the reason that you moved? Or is that not something you would recommend?

Brooke 33:26
If you have a couple of jobs where you do see a pattern of you know, one to two years, if it’s just one? It I don’t necessarily, I wouldn’t speak to it. But if you see, if this person has held maybe four positions, and three of them have been, you know, within less than a year, I would definitely speak to it. And I’ve read some amazing cover letters that are very personal. I don’t necessarily know if you have to get in too much detail, but it helps give the reviewer more of a backstory.

Sujani 33:50
Kind of see this go in two ways, right? The individual wanting to move around. But then there’s also changes within an organization where you’re kind of recruited, or you go in for one role and the organization changes and they put you in another role. And do you highlight that on your resume and separate roles? Or do you then merge that as one role with multiple titles? So that that’s where my thinking was going with that point?

Brooke 34:18
Great question. So I think it really just depends on the job you’re applying for. So if those multiple titles will speak to your experience and almost give you an edge for the job you’re applying for, then I would definitely put it in there. If you feel like it’s not necessarily significant then it may just, you know, read better for it to say that you’ve been in multiple roles or when one role rather for two years or three years versus three roles for one year.

Sujani 34:38
Oh, those are great tips. And from this episode, I know there’s a lot of takeaways and I think one of my biggest takeaways for our listeners is definitely add yourself to the public health networks database because you can find great opportunities there and follow Brooke on LinkedIn. Are there any kind of additional advice that you would give to old public health students are already professionals, but also people in the middle of their career, or even they kind of feel like okay, maybe I have established my career. And I may not need this advice, I’m sure like you and I chatted, there’s a point in your career, and maybe you’re doing a bit of reflection, and you are wanting to get back into applying for jobs. So at that point, I think these pieces of advice that you’ve provided become equally useful and helpful. So for anyone in the job market, any last words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

Brooke 35:30
I would say, definitely the point about reflection, and if you find yourself that you’re in a job currently, and you’re excited, you have no plans to leave, I think that’s wonderful. There was some advice that I was giving years ago, early in my career. And a colleague said, I always work with one foot out of the door. I was like, oh, what does that mean? He’s like, no, I enjoy what I do. But I’m always positioning myself and just making sure that I’m ready for the next thing. So I’d say for those individuals that are ready for the next thing, give it some thought, figure out what you’re interested in, and where you’d like to go and start working that way. For the early entry- individuals think about where you want to be, and who’s in that position now that you can connect with and network with and never be afraid to reach out to individuals. I know, sometimes, it can seem a bit intimidating. I’ve spoken with people that are, you know, initially hesitant to reach out. But a lot of recruiters like to talk to people, that’s their way of kind of building their network. And so I would say, don’t hesitate. If you’re interested in making a connection with someone, even if it’s someone that is very senior to you, just be available, and be willing to reach out, build that network. And just be open and be ready for the next thing.

Sujani 36:39
And thanks so much, Brooke, for the great work that you’re doing in the field of public health. I think it’s not only super cool, but very important that there is a firm that specializing to just exclusively think about public health professionals or health professionals and hiring some great talent for the organizations that are doing a lot of great work. So thank you to you.

Brooke 37:01
Well, absolutely thank you so much for- for highlighting us. And thank you for having this platform where individuals can go and learn more about public health careers and really have a space where they can, you know, be themselves and get the advice that they need and the resources and the support that they need. This is absolutely huge. So thank you so much for you, Sujani, for recognizing this need and just having the courage to create the platform.

Sujani 37:27
Hey, so I hope you enjoyed that episode. And as always, if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, head over to And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about our hands on intensive training program that empowers early public health professionals, recent graduates and students with the mindset skills and tools required to land a public health job, advancing your career, and become future public health leaders. So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about building your dream public health career, then we can help you through this program. And right now you can join the waitlist at And we’ll notify you when the next cohort opens up. And so until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight, and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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