Network like your public health career depended on it, with Sarah Martone

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Show Notes

Networking is undoubtedly one of the most important things you can do to build your public health career, but it’s a topic that doesn’t get enough attention or training in public health. It is also an activity that most people don’t enjoy (at least the conventional idea of networking). You’ll be happy to know then that when we say “networking”, we are not only talking about attending large events to pitch yourself to strangers. To us, you are always networking, and it’s about more than meeting someone once for a favour, but rather about building meaningful relationships with them.

Our guest today, Sarah Martone, shared networking as her number one advice in a University of Guelph feature of Graduate Students. When we read this, we knew we needed to get her perspective and dive into networking a bit more!

You’ll Learn

  • What it means to network (hint: you’re always doing it!)
  • Why Sarah thinks networking is the number one thing you should do for your career
  • Examples of how networking has helped Sarah in her public health journey so far
  • A walk through of an example of how Sarah connected with someone she really wanted to meet (who funny enough ended up being someone we knew very well)
  • Email and LinkedIn etiquette for when you are reaching out to connect with peers and mentors in the field
  • How to take control of what pops up when people google you (because people will Google you if you reach out to connect with them)
  • The importance of turning around and paying it forward to the next generation if someone offered you their time

Today’s Guest

Sarah Martone

Sarah Martone is from Markham, Ontario (Canada) and completed her undergraduate degree in 2017 at the University of Guelph in Honours Zoology and took a year after to work and figure out what she wanted to pursue for graduate studies. In 2018, she was accepted to the University of Guelph’s Master of Biomedical Science program, specializing in reproductive biotechnology where she completed her masters research project at the Toronto Zoo. During her program she decided she wanted to pursue a career in public health to use her animal science background and interest in human health. She was accepted this year to the Master of Public Health program at the University of Guelph for the Fall 2019 semester and has been loving every minute of it. She is enthusiastic about pursuing a career that focuses on zoonotic disease. In her spare time Saraha enjoys horseback riding, playing soccer and just being outdoors!


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Episode Transcript

Sarah 0:00
Because I always thought networking was like super schmooze, business people being like, “Oh, let me tell you about this million dollar deal that you will be missing out on.” I, basically, basically yourself the classic like, elevator pitch, all that kind of stuff about but essentially, every time you’re in the world, which is all the time.

Sujani 0:20

Sarah 0:20
You are marketing yourself and you are networking with anybody.

Sujani 0:26
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 to your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Hey, what’s up, everyone, thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight, a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career. Today, we are talking about a topic that I feel does not get as much importance as it should, when we are training the next generation of public health professionals. And that is networking. Okay, don’t turn this episode off just yet. I promise you that it’s going to be a fun one. Even if you don’t like networking, it’s going to be fun, because we have Sarah Martone joining us to talk about networking. And she just has so much energy, and so much passion for this topic and a perspective on it that I think you too can get behind. Sara comes from training in zoology from her undergrad and a master’s in biomedical sciences specializing in reproductive biotechnology. And during this program, she decided that she actually wanted to pursue a career in public health to use her animal science background and interest in human health. So she goes back to the University of Guelph where she got her undergrad and first master’s, and completes her Master of Public Health. And that’s where she’s at now. And in a spotlight article from the University of Guelph, I read about Sarah. And in that article, she mentioned that her number one advice for anyone would be to network. And I totally agree with her. Networking is undoubtedly one of the most important things that you should be doing to build your public health career. But I know what you’re thinking of. The idea of just attending an event, going up to people you don’t know, shaking their hands, and telling them about you is not something that you want to do all the time. And it’s something that takes a lot of energy, right? But the idea of networking is not about attending events. And you’ll hear that from Sarah, because she tells us that you are always networking, whether you recognize it or not. But then of course, there’s more that you can do like attending events, if you want to meet certain individuals to help build your career. Anyways, we get into all of that in this episode. So I hope you’ll stick around because it’s going to be a fun conversation. And Sara’s energy is just so contagious. We talk about email etiquette, she even walks us through an example of how she connected with someone that she didn’t know previously. And funny enough, this individual ends up being someone that I know very well. And then we talked about, you know, if you reach out to someone to connect with them, they are going to Google you. So how do you take control of what pops up when someone looks you up on the internet. And then at the end, we talk about something very important, which is turning around and paying it forward to the next generation. And so here’s Sara, and the conversation we had around networking.

Sarah 3:59
Hi, there. Thank you. I’m very excited. Excited to be here in the void of the internet.

Sujani 4:06
Oh, yeah. And I can see your excitement because you want to do this very early morning. So,

Sarah 4:10

Sujani 4:12
So I wanted to have you on this podcast to speak about a topic which I feel personally doesn’t get much attention in the field of public health and something that’s certainly not encouraged. I think, from my perspective, at least enough. When I hear from my friends in the business field, for example, they’ve been encouraged to attend networking events and meet people and I’ve just been hearing about how much importance they’ve given this. And I felt that when I was in school, it did not get that kind of attention. And even looking around now that I’m sort of in the workforce, I don’t see my peers put as much importance when they’re in public health versus the ones that are kind of in the business field. So when I came across you and you had sort of written a feature for the University of Guelph website, there were two things that popped up. And I was like, “Okay, this is a person I need to speak to about networking.” You had said that in addition to, of course, the University of Guelph program being amazing, the practicum option, you said gave you the opportunity to network and then you went on to say that one of your best advice would be to get out there and network and I was like, “Okay, Sara is a person I need to speak to about this.” Why do you feel that’s the best advice that you can offer like a student that came across you and your feature on the website? And for you to go out and say, like, “Networking is the best advice I have for you.”

Sarah 5:47
Yeah, so networking to me, definitely not touched upon in my undergrad. I did that at Guelph as well. But obviously, there’s no classes on how to market yourself afterwards, unless you’re really in business. So I knew when I was approaching grad school, I didn’t really know the best way. And I was kind of like a fish out of water like flailing about, I had no idea what I was doing. So I’ve always been very outgoing. And I’ve definitely been very persistent with my professors and undergrad in my upper years, I was never afraid to kind of go speak to them and just be like, “Look, I’m not getting this.”, or, “Hey, you talked about this topic, it was really interesting to me.” And I kind of just thought everyone did that. I definitely thought that I was not unique for being really persistent and approaching these professors and different people, not only profs but in different fields. And that’s actually how I eventually got to my public health masters that I’m in right now- is through, like a prof led me to my last Master’s. And then I went here and I read a bunch of things online, I sent a bunch of cold call emails to a lot of people. And I got a lot of help from previous mph students that I had found that I, are found online, or found through volunteering, who were really willing to help me not only, like, write my letter of intent, give me some good advice on application processes, because they had been through the program before. And honestly, like our best resource is other people. So to me being able to highlight that was so important, especially in my grad profile that I knew other students would look at, because I was never the most impressive student on paper like my, if you looked at just my academic transcript, I’m pretty average, if not even below average, especially in my first two years, which is common theme.

Sujani 7:43

Sarah 7:44
I’m sure. So I didn’t really know how to make myself stand out. And I wish I had met someone in my like first and second year that was just like, “Oh, like, don’t worry about it. Like you will be able to still pursue grad school if you don’t have like absolute 90s in every single class because being able to communicate to different people and finding those little niches is actually going to be much more helpful.”

Sujani 8:09

Sarah 8:10
Acing a test. And I would really like to be that kind of beacon for other people to just be like, these are some great tips. This is some great advice that I wish someone had told me. And you will get through it no matter what.

Sujani 8:23

Sarah 8:24
Different ways to network that- I also love that. It can always be like adapted, like, you don’t have to be like a super crazy extrovert to network really well. You just have to kind of be yourself and pursue your passions.

Sujani 8:38
So were you- when you are approaching these upper year students or your professors, were you intentional? As in, did you know you were networking? Did you kind of like define it, “Okay, I’m going to be networking now.” Because I think the term networking is something. So at least when I pitch it to people, they think of it as attending an event where they know absolutely nobody putting themselves out there constantly pitching for a whole hour. And I think that’s the definition of networking that most people have. How are you kind of defining networking and has that evolved over the years?

Sarah 9:15
It has evolved over the years especially since my mom is a big proponent of networking and networking yourself. Especially since she knew that I was relatively going anytime I told her like “Oh, I talked to so and so today and like we chatted for like an hour and then she told me about this program. So I’m going to look at it.” And I would be like, you do realize that this is all networking experience and like you’re not like, not good at it. There’s no way to be like, I mean, there is a way to be good at and effective in networking, but I mean, everyone can be good at it. For sure. So that’s definitely changed over the years because I always thought networking was like super schmooze business people being like, “Oh, let me tell you about this million dollar deal that you will be missing out on.” I, basically, basically yourself. Classic like elevator pitch, all that kind of stuff-

Sujani 10:02

Sarah 10:02

  • that the tell you about but essentially, every time you’re in the world, which is all the time,

Sujani 10:08

Sarah 10:09
You’re marketing yourself and you’re networking with anybody. I found that even when I work, I work in Toronto as like, like part time when I’m home and stuff, I work for a catering company. And anytime I’m talking with a client, I’m always like, “Oh, like, yes, I am Sarah Martone. I am masters of public health student”, and I always just, I’m waiting for the day I run into someone who’s like, “Oh, yes, we are hiring. Would you like a job?” So for nothing, but it’s not impossible. So you’re always networking yourself, even when you don’t really think about it. And it doesn’t have to be like an on switch, per se.

Sujani 10:46

Sarah 10:46
You don’t have to be like, “Alright, networking mode activated.” It’s just kind of like, you just kind of have to go with the flow and have some intent. If you find you’re talking to someone in a professional setting that you know, maybe they have the job that you want, or maybe they know about a program that you’re hoping to get into. You just kind of have to gear yourself towards just putting yourself out there and being completely honest. And being like, “Look, this is my passion. You either know how to do it, or you’ve done it. I’m really interested to know your thoughts. This is me, this is my background.” And just it’s not always about selling yourself. It’s not like a huge, like, they don’t have to buy everything. But as long as they can tell that you’re genuine in your intent with your conversation or email. I think that’s kind of what shows through more and persistence. Persistence is probably my second most my top piece of advice for anybody is being persistent. I have literally sat outside profs offices before like just waiting.

Sujani 11:46

Sarah 11:47
Just because I’m, some people would call it annoying, I call it persistent.

Sujani 11:52
I call it persistent as well.

Sarah 11:56
Because that’s what I found- is that not not every time you put yourself out there, it’s gonna work out.

Sujani 12:02

Sarah 12:02
Because that was something that I also dealt with. I was really, I was like, “Oh, well, if I just tell them that I’m interested in this, they’re obviously going to send me this elaborate email back. That’s telling me exactly what I need to know. And they are so happy to hear from me.” But that’s sad. I mean, people are busy. People’s careers are crazy. Not everyone’s going to have the time to give you that entire focus and attention back. But,

Sujani 12:02

Sarah 12:02
That’s just something that you’ll learn with, over time. And if it’s something that is truly, like, “No, this is the person I want to talk to.”, you’ll eventually be able to crack the ice and breakthrough.

Sujani 12:12
Yeah. And it’s, you shouldn’t take it personally, if they don’t get back to you because they’re slightly busy or just, you know, keep trying again, I think if you keep trying, once, twice, three times, they’ll kind of see that you’re, you’re serious about this and reach out to you. You mentioned a few types of networking sort of initiatives that you’ve taken one, you know, sitting on the floor of a professor’s office, reaching out to some upper year students. And then you mentioned just briefly right now that even emailing is a kind of networking. Have you done any formal types of networking events? Either I would like, you know, conferences, or any of those?

Sarah 13:17
I’ve done, I’ve been to, I went to the south, Southern Ontario reproductive biology conference last year at UFT, but I didn’t network per se. I was just kind of still feeling like a very small fish. So I was kind of just reading posters, and I would still, I would still chat. And I definitely think it can be intimidating, especially at conferences, because you’re like, well, everyone here is an expert, and I am but a lowly-

Sujani 13:46

Sarah 13:47
-student still.

Sujani 13:48

Sarah 13:49
So I’ve actually never done, excuse me, formal networking. Initiative, we are hosting- I’m a part of the One Health student committee at Guelph that just launched and we are planning some, not only just, I mean, they’re all networking events, but networking between grad students and undergrad students. And then we’re also going to be planning some faculty and public health professional networking events-

Sujani 14:14
Ah, wonderful

Sarah 14:15

  • setting.

Sujani 14:15

Sarah 14:16
So maybe those will be my first is not only attending them, but also planning them.

Sujani 14:19

Sarah 14:20
And facilitating them.

Sujani 14:22
So in hindsight, or now that you’ve got some additional experience, and you know, you’ve been doing this for a while, do you think whether it’s at this upcoming conference, or any other ones that you go to, do you think you have a certain approach that you would take when you walk up to someone and want to introduce yourself? I mean, you’ve done it because as you said, when you even work for your catering company that you often will introduce yourself. I think what I’m trying to get at is, people are often very nervous to approach someone they don’t know to say “Hi, my name is Sujani and I’m in public health.”, and kind of start off that way. How do you approach it when you meet someone that you don’t know?

Sarah 15:07
So when I don’t definitely, have, yeah, I’m very good at trying to curb my anger or, sorry, not anger. My nerves, which I’m nervous a little bit now, but that’s okay. You kind of have to approach it instead of being like, “Okay, that is the person I’m going to talk to. I’m going to ask these five questions, I have to make sure I hit these three points.” It’s kind of just got to you got throw that out the window and kind of just let it be a more natural conversation. Obviously, the introduction of being like, “Hello, my name is so and so I am this student.” You can still have that and that’s, that could be shaky. It’s okay. But I think as long as you approach them like they’re a person, and I’m just going to have a conversation with them. I just obviously need to tell them why I would be bothered like, why I’m bothering to chat with them right now. Before they like run away.

Sujani 15:59

Sarah 15:59
Just being like, “Hi, I’m a student. I’m really interested in your work. Do you have a second like, chat about some questions?” Like, “Oh, I loved your presentation.”, if it’s at a conference, or oh, like, you could even like, start with just like a little, like, talk either talking about maybe some of their previous experience, like, “Oh, I saw that, like your- I saw a recent paper you did on this topic.”, just kind of like, put your foot in the door a little bit per se. And just really approach it like a normal conversation. If you were like, talking to someone in the grocery store. If you’re like, “Oh, like I love your jeans.”, or just-

Sujani 16:33

Sarah 16:34
like, it’s, it’s casual. No one wants it to be like a super formal, like stiff handed introduction of being like, “Hello, this is so and so. These are my questions. Have a great day.” And that’s what I think people get nervous about emailing too because I have no idea with email etiquette. It is something that stresses me out. I constantly call my mom to be like, “How long do I wait before I send a follow up?” Or how many? “How many paragraphs is too many?” And that’s, so I try to keep that as brief as possible. Emails, emails should be brief.

Sujani 17:08
And so what what are your tips or your mom’s tips for email etiquette when you’re reaching out to someone that you’ve never met before?

Sarah 17:12
She was like, wait at least two weeks to follow up. She’s like people are busy. You are not the sun in their sky, which is totally valid. Because I was like, “Mom, why are they not emailing back? I am the bright future of public health.”

Sujani 17:27

Sarah 17:28

  • back right away. But of course, not true. I mean, I am the future.

Sujani 17:33
You are. You are absolutely the future.

Sarah 17:37
That was a big one, because I can definitely be like very antsy. So waiting at least two weeks before you send a follow up is pretty important. Personally, in person is better. But obviously with the way we are all spread out over the country all over the world, it’s very hard. If you can get a phone number you can also call to follow up is also really good advice. Just to put yourself like as a person as much as possible, I find emails are pretty easy to just kind of ignore. But people in this day and age I think are pretty good at responding to email. And if not LinkedIn, great tool. Great, great tool, LinkedIn. Your profile doesn’t even have to be elaborate on LinkedIn as long as you have, I find like a picture. That’s like, looks like you’re a human and not a robot. And then a little blurb about kind of like your background, I think is pretty much enough to sell yourself on LinkedIn. What’s her other.. Sorry, she’s like very good with she only talks to clients like all day, so she’s very good. And then yeah, short, keeping it brief, also very important, just like, kind of get straight to the point like “Hello, this is me and see it here are some of my questions.” Try to keep like your paragraph spacing pretty frequent just so that it kind of breaks it up for the eyes. So it doesn’t look like they’re just getting like bombarded with this paragraph right from the get go. And then maybe just like, if you, if you can- if they live somewhere near you where you could meet up for coffee. Try to book and either.. Yeah, by phone would also work or Zoom chat.

Sujani 19:14

Sarah 19:15

  • would work to trying to book like an in person, like one on one with them around their own schedule. That’s probably the most important is always being like, “Oh, like I’m home for the winter break, like from December to January like, would there be a time in there that we could chat further kind of more focused on x y Zed topic.”, because then you’re giving you’re putting the ball in their core, but you’re saying like, I am interested in like talking about more. And like that’s just, that just shows that you’re serious. It’s not just like a couple of questions in an email. You’re like, “No, I really want to talk to you more in depth. I would like to have some banter. Can we make it work around your schedule?”, and I think people really appreciate it when you go to them instead of being like, “Yes, like Tuesday at 4:30pm works for me like see you then.” It’s kind of like now you have to go on, you’d have to go on their schedule and deal.

Sujani 20:08

Sarah 20:09

  • but flexible.

Sujani 20:10
I think when you get right to the point, that’s also very helpful, I think back to when I used to do some email, cold or cold emailing. And I used to start my email with a paragraph of what I’m doing. And like, “I’m an undergrad student at the University of Toronto, and I’m doing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And now that I’m on the receiving end of some of those emails, I think to myself going “Holy crap, like I shouldn’t have written so much.” ? I just get to the point say, like, “Hey, I’m interested in maybe hearing about your journey.”, or “I’m interested in hearing about public health. Would you have time for a coffee chat?”

Sarah 20:47

Sujani 20:47
Yeah, get to the point. And that way, at least for me, it would be like, “Yeah, of course, I can respond back to this email right away.”

Sarah 20:54
Yep. I agree. That’s what I did with Tanis who we both know.

Sujani 21:00

Sarah 21:02
I have to tell you about how I got in contact with her because it’s absolutely wild. And it’s very much networking true story.

Sujani 21:10
All right. Let’s hear it. And I think it shows how interconnected public health is as well. So,

Sarah 21:14
Exactly. So I, when I was first looking at public health, I found the PH SPOT. And I was like, wow, this is actually perfect, because it has so many different perspectives and different topics of public health. Because to be honest, when I first looked at public health, like a year and a half ago, or however long, I was like, “Oh, it’s a lot of policy. That’s pretty much all they do.” And I never really thought of anything else. And I don’t know why. And the more I looked into it, I was like, “Wow, this is actually probably the most perfectly tailored, like path for me.” And I was like, great. So I found the PH SPOT and I was thrilled because there were so many different perspectives. It wasn’t just like, “This is why public health is good.” It was like, oh, like, I just loved how many different articles there were. And I found Tanis’s fantastic three piece about the field epidemiology program. And I was like, “That’s what I want to do. That is so cool.” Obviously had to get into an MPH program first. So that was step one. And then I did some digging, and I like tried to find who she was. And like she had, like, if she was at the university or where she was. And I saw that she was in Guelph, and I was like, “Okay, this is too perfect.” I absolutely, yeah, I mean, that is very rare. I would say that you end up in the same city as the person you’re trying to find, but I will take it as a sign. And so the only thing I couldn’t find was, she only had like her, it only had her office phone number listed. And I was like, I don’t want to just like call her out of the blue and trap her. Because people don’t like, people don’t appreciate it if you’re just like, Hi. And they’re like, Well, I can’t hang up. Yeah, I guess. So I was like, “Okay, I need to find her email.” So I tried to find her email, tried to find it on LinkedIn, couldn’t find it anywhere. And I was like, Okay, I’m gonna have to figure this out as an approach. So I, we are in- at the University of Guelph, for the Master’s of Public Health, we get matched up with a second year mentor, who kind of just like basically will show us the ropes, talk about how practicums work. And my mentor, Melissa was fantastic. And we had great chats. And she told me that she worked at the Public Health Agency of Canada for her practicum in the summer at the Guelph division. And that was like interesting. “This is really creepy. But do you know Tanis Kershaw?” And she was like, she’s like, “I don’t.” but she was like, “But one of the other girls in MPA- in MPH has like, had some meetings with her and worked with her.” And I was like, “Great. can I have her like, contact info?” She’s like, “Sure.” So she gave me this other upper year. This is all in like my second week of mph, like very green. But I was like, I can’t not pursue this. This is too good. So she gave me, she like told me to add her friend on Facebook who I did, that I sent her a message to be like, “Hello. This is why I’m interested. I’m currently a student at club like we can meet in person if you want to make sure I’m a real person.” And Meghan was like, no, no, that’s okay. She’s like, I’ll talk to Tanis and see if like that’s okay. And she’s like, yep, she, you can just like send her an email and she gave me her email. And then I finally got into contact with Tanis.

Sujani 24:28

Sarah 24:29
It was obviously an incredible story but a great story about how networking can really pay off if you are persisted at adaptive.

Sujani 24:36

Sarah 24:37
Took me a long time. But I found her and then we went for coffee on her schedule. We went to Starbucks and I picked her brain for like two straight hours.

Sujani 24:44

Sarah 24:45
And it was great. And then yeah,

Sujani 24:48
And that, and that kind of like shows that you can definitely get someone’s time if you’re willing to go through the right avenues, and I think, you know, the worst thing you want to do is jump on LinkedIn which you didn’t do and go, “Hey, Tanis, can I talk to you?” Or like, “Hey, Tanis? Can you get me a job?” Like,

Sarah 25:12

Sujani 25:12
That is, those are like two of the worst things to do. And often, if you can find those different people that can connect you to various other people who then eventually will get to the person that you want to speak to. I think that’s the best way to go about it.

Sarah 25:27
Yeah, there’s, do people actually email you just being like, “Can I get a job?”

Sujani 25:32
Well, on LinkedIn, sometimes it’ll go-

Sarah 25:34

Sujani 25:34
Yeah. Or I was gonna say like, or “Yeah, if there’s, if there are any roles, like, could you keep me in mind?” And it’s like, yeah, like, PH SPOT is what I keep in mind and the community there. So yeah, that’s one way you could get on.

Sarah 25:51
Sorry. No, that’s, that’s a definite no, I know.

Sujani 25:54

Sarah 25:55
But it’s hard. Like you don’t know how much to put yourself out there. And that’s why there’s no correct way to network, there’s no proper formula, you have to kind of figure out what works for you. And like I said, you really don’t like, I am incredibly extroverted. So to me, this is very second nature to put myself out there. And I know that might sound discouraging if you’re not really extroverted, but it’s just about trying to figure out what works for you. So if sending an email first is easier for you, that’s fine. Some people will appreciate because not everyone wants to be- not everyone wants to meet in person. Some people love the phone, some people love email, it’ll be different depending on your, whoever you’re choosing. And honestly, as long as you show that you’re interested for the right reasons, I think people are pretty receptive no matter what.

Sujani 26:43

Sarah 26:44
Especially in this day and age, which is what I love about networking is that it always changes. And it always adapts depending on the situation.

Sujani 26:51
Yeah. And like, the intention is that you are going to be building a meaningful relationship with this individual. And I think if you have that in mind, you will find ways to do that. And it’s not just about getting in, getting what you want and getting out. And that’s not the approach you have to take. How do you build meaningful relationships with str- initially, who are strangers? I mean, like, I can tell you about how you and I met or to our lives. And I’ve been kind of seeing your name here and there. Across the PH SPOT community, I think there was a survey where I saw your name, when it came to the podcast, like topics that you’re interested in, or would you like to be on the podcast, and then you had reached out to contribute a blog to the- sorry, post for the blog. And then I had heard through Tanis that you guys had met. So your name was just like kind of popping up everywhere. And I can, I could kind of like see that you are someone who’s wanting to give back to the public health community. So I feel that we’ve kind of built a meaningful relationship before we even jumped on the phone today to record this podcast. So like, I find that one way, it’s when you’re contributing back to that person, or you’re finding different ways to help them out. And then you’re receiving something back in return as well. So how do you approach building meaningful relationships?

Sarah 28:18
Yeah, so that’s an excellent question. Because it’s, again, something that can be answered in so many different ways. And at first I, when I first started applying to grad schools, I was like, “Okay, I have to like delete my Twitter, I have to delete my Facebook, I have to basically go completely, like, go live under a rock. So no one can ever find me on social media.” Because that’s like, the big thing especially like, with kids growing up now everyone’s like, “Oh, like, you’re gonna regret, like, those silly photos of you with the movies. And like, all those dumb things you’ve ever said.” Because like, that’s totally true. People can find whatever. Sorry. And I was so nervous that there had been something I’d like maybe posted when I was like 14 that was gonna somehow resurface. And so I started to think like, how can I get everything off? And how do I like basically go off the grid, so no one can find me. And then I was like, but it actually might be better if you instead of trying to, I mean, obviously, like, maybe make yourself a little bit more scarce on social media in terms of like your, like previous, if you have any funny and embarrassing things, like I have a lot of. But trying to replace it with actually putting stuff out there so that when people search your names, like maybe your blog posts from the PH SPOT comes up, maybe your LinkedIn profile comes up, you’re like, my grad post from the University of Guelph will come up, my OBC profile, like a list goes on. Hopefully this podcast eventually will come up.

Sujani 29:44

Sarah 29:45
So kind of like trying to replace or like to put yourself out there in such a positive way so that you do pop up first. So that’s how I approached it last year when they were looking for grad students to have profiles taken of them for the University of Guelph. And I was so surprised that not more- I mean, they had a lot of people. But I was like, astounded that not everyone was like, “Yes, please take my photo, please put it on the website. Let me write all these amazing things about myself”, because you got to write it about yourself.

Sujani 30:12

Sarah 30:13
Like, that’s such an amazing opportunity that should be like, on the University website advocating for yourself entirely.

Sujani 30:20

Sarah 30:20
Like, not even biased. But I thought it was such a good opportunity. Because now when people Google me, that’s what comes up, my University of Guelph OBC. I mean, my MPH profile also comes up, but my LinkedIn, my OBC profile, and my graduate student profile at the University of Guelph come up. So those are three positive things that come up immediately when you search for me. And to me, that was such a, I mean, I thought it was like genius, to manipulate it in my favor.

Sujani 30:51
That was absolutely genius. I did not think about that. And now that I think about it, when you do go out and reach out to someone, they are absolutely going to, like open up Google and search for you.

Sarah 31:04

Sujani 31:04
And when, when they can see that you’re someone who’s dedicated, passionate about public health, and, you know, you just like build an automatic relationship there. And you’re like, “Oh, I want to talk to this person.”, right? It’s not just someone who you can if you need that social validation, I think. And absolutely, one good way to do that is to post about things that you’re passionate about and get people seeing the kind of person you are beyond your Instagram photos, for example.

Sarah 31:33
Exactly, yeah, like, if you read my University of Guelph profile, which I know you have, like, you can learn about what my entire last Master’s was about, like my topic, how it gives back to science in general. And, obviously, my networking advice to future grad students, and you’d already feel like you know, a decent amount about me that’s beyond just like my picture, my, the letters after my name, which are very important, and all that kind of stuff. So it kind of makes you seem like more of a person, almost, when you get to put all of that basically, for yourself, like when you get to put yourself on the internet on whatever platform and be like, this is whoI am, this is what I really interested in. And it doesn’t have to be like exhaustive, but I think like definitely, if you’ve hook up a quality pieces that will come up when someone Googles you like, I definitely don’t go to like the seventh page of Google to find something, I only go to like the first three, they’re gonna come up. And that’s what I think is so important that it’s not necessarily about like being untraceable, it’s actually about the opposite and putting yourself like on the front page of your own newspaper, essentially, and being like, “Hello, this is me, this is where I currently am.” If you like I, I, on my University of Guelph MPH student profile, we can, you can put as much or as little as you want. And I intentionally put my email on there because I knew what it was like when I was applying. And it was really stressful. And I had so many questions, and I probably bothered Araya, our admissions assistant, like, several 1000 times to be like, “Hi, me again.” But I would always go to her in person. So she would be like, “Okay, like, come sit down.” And I was like, “Okay.” And I would ask so many questions. So I really wanted to, it’s important for networking, not only to, obviously network to other people, but to also be open for when people do come to you, because you will not always be, there’s like the two positions, and I guess the networker and the networkee. So you eventually won’t be a student anymore. You want to eventually be like someone approaching someone else who has something. People will eventually approach you because they want to be where you currently are. And that was something very unique to me excited always been like, “Oh, like I need to like, I need to get into school and like I need to get a practicum and all these things.” And I’m like, wow, like I am where I wanted to be like years ago, and someone else who was in like where I used to be, she is going to want someone like me to talk to who’s done this path in a unique way in different ways. So I was like, I’m gonna put my email on there because I want people to email me. I want people to ask me questions about the program, I want them to send me their letter of intent if they want me to proofread it, I want to be as helpful as I can because it’s really important to also give back, I think, that’s probably my, that’s like what I hold very near and dear to my heart is being able to help other people get through probably some of the most stressful years. In terms of like, I’m thinking speaking mainly of applying to mph programs because they are so competitive. They are such a great opportunity. And they can definitely make you feel like “Oh my gosh, like, am I gonna get in like, I probably won’t like, how do I manipulate this in my favor?” So I really wanted to be like a support system for people who would email me and I have had a couple of people email me so that makes me feel like some people are looking at it so you know people are gonna be, you know people are looking at your profile.

Sujani 35:01

Sarah 35:01
Especially like if your pictures on it, you took the time to like write a little blurb about yourself on whatever website, people will reach out to you. And that’s also I find that more, it just makes you more approachable. People are like, “Oh, well, she wants me to email or she wants people to email her. So I don’t feel as scared to approach her because, like she put it here. So she knows people will email her for this.” So it’s less like, “Oh, I don’t want to bother her.” It’s like, no, please bother me. Bother me, please. I love, I love taking the time to kind of give back because I really, like I basically, like people were my best resource and applying and trying to figure out my path to grad school and beyond. And I think it’s really important to give back to the people who want to be where you are now. I think that’s probably the most important part about networking is that you also have to be open to other people.

Sujani 35:55
I’m so happy. Yeah, I’m so happy you mentioned that, like the giving back of it. Because you’re always going to be in a position where someone else is going to look up to you, and someone else is going to want to ask you for help. And when you’re open to that, and when you can acknowledge that you didn’t get to where you are without other people’s help, and then kind of turn around and offer that back to somebody else. It really goes a long way in collectively building our public health capacity in the world. I, it kinda reminds me of when I was also applying to my master’s, I was moving from Toronto to Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. And I remember being like completely, lost completely, like, just nervous about the move. And I emailed a whole bunch of people and some of them got back to me. And so that’s always in the back of my head when people email me either, either through PH SPOT or LinkedIn. And I get back to every single email. And yeah, just because I know that I got to where I am, because of all these kind individuals who took the time to help me out. And I liked that you mentioned like, put your email down because that shows your willingness. And I think you could even go a step further to even like include a line to say, “Hey, reach out to me, I’m willing to talk to anyone who’s interested.” And that really helps with that barrier, that fear a lot of people have when they want to speak to someone and they don’t know if they’re going to bug them. But just getting that invitation or reading that invitation on their blog post or on LinkedIn, it gives them that additional, like, just additional, I guess comfort that you can reach out to the individual.

Sarah 37:38
Yeah, no, I totally agree. Because it can definitely be intimidating, cold, emailing, cold calling, cold emailing.

Sujani 37:44

Sarah 37:45
Because you’re like, well, they’re just gonna throw this in their junk box. But it’s like, no, please. Because my last master’s, I did the same thing I put my email on. I mean, Guelph, I feel like every university you can kind of just look someone up if you’re at the same university, but for other people from other institutes. I put my, I put my email and I got some people, actually met with a girl from coffee or for coffee. I don’t remember what university I think McMaster, but from, she was applying to my last master’s program, which was a master’s in biomedical science. And she wanted to like pick my brain about my time, and how I liked it. So we went out for coffee. She lived like close enough to Guelph so we just met at a coffee shop and I’ve chatted with her for like an hour. But it’s so near and dear to my heart. It’s such a, it’s such a gift to be able to help other people I think it, some people might see it as like, oh, well. It’s kind of annoying to like, regurgitate that kind of stuff. But to me, it’s actually like, probably, it’s so flattering. And it’s such a, it’s truly a gift to be able to help other people that way. Like it’s an honor, almost, I would say.

Sujani 38:50
Amazing. So maybe we can wrap up the episode by reflecting on maybe some like really good outcomes that came out of either like you reaching out to someone or somebody else reaching out to you just on the topic of networking. Are there some things that stand out for you, and you know that you can connect it back to networking, and that’s why you got a certain opportunity.

Sarah 39:16
I can talk about I would love to touch on actually using networking to actually change my path, which was very vague. But when I was first applying to grad schools, I thought I was going to go to Western for their pathologist assistant program. That was what I was going to do. I had absolutely 100% told everyone I was like, that is what I’m applying to I am doing all this work. This is the path for me. I will be a pathologist assistant in two years time, blah, blah, blah. While I was applying, that’s the only career I thought I would do because I thought it was so interesting human body, all that kind of jazz and I had a friend of a friend, literally a friend of mine friend’s cousin is a pathologist assistant in Kitchener. So I reached out to him completely cold call, I was like, “hi, I met your, your cousin through my friend at a party, like, come like-“, this is what I mean, you’re networking all the time. Absolutely all the time. And I was like, I would love to shadow you because it’s, it’s definitely a career that you need to see what it is before you actually apply. And so I hung out with him for basically like two weeks, but just shadowing him at the hospital. And every day I would leave and I was like, oh, this is so great. This is like, what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life. And then I was like, it was so great to chat with him about like, what he likes about the job, what he doesn’t like, and then it came, I got an interview at Western and I was driving up to the interview with my mom. And I was like, “Mom, I don’t think I want to do this program.” She was like, she was like, that’s okay. She’s like, you’re still gonna do the interview, because we’re already off the floor. And I just like it was like a weight had been lifted. And I had just for so long been like, this is the career I’m going to like kind of squirrel away, this is going to be my career path. Like nobody talks to me, I’m going to be specialized in this one area until I literally was on the highway. And I was like, I actually don’t think I would like to do that at all. I would like to do the opposite. So every time you network, it’s kind of like that, it’s not always going to be an aha eureka moment, you’re not going to be like, wow, this is the career path. Like yes, this is tickbox check to like I am done. This was my like, final moment. Throughout, you’re gonna find out what you don’t like as much as what you do like, and that is so important. I tell that to a lot of undergraduate students approaching grad school, who are just like, yes, I will do this. And it’s like, it’s very good to be passionate, because I definitely can like sometimes let my head run away. But it’s also important to take in things if you’re like, oh, like, that doesn’t sound that great. It’s like, that’s fine. Like, it’s not going to be for everyone, every career you find doesn’t mean like on paper, it might look amazing. But when you see what they’re doing, you’re like, oh, that’s not that exciting. Or like that doesn’t seem like I would like that every day. And that’s so important. Sorry, I totally forgot her original question. But that’s-

Sujani 42:20
That’s kay, just, just an outcome that came out of network. And I think you kind of hit the nail on the head with that example.

Sarah 42:30
Knowing what you don’t want is equally as important to knowing what you do want. Sums it up really nicely and just absolutely being yourself. It’s not always about you won’t always be 100% confident sometimes. Like, it’s not about like, wow, that was a firm handshake like I am the best because there will definitely be people who you are intimidated by. I’m still intimidated by a lot of people. But just kind of being honest about yourself and just being like, “Look, I’m a student, or look, I’m in this job. I would like to get into this career. How do I do it? How did you do it? Can we talk?” because at the end of the day, they’re just people, they were either in your shoes, or they know someone who was in your shoes. They’re going to be receptive, as long as you’re just like, to the point. And just honest and passionate and just showing your true self is probably the most important part.

Sujani 43:22
Hey there. I hope you enjoyed that episode with Sarah on networking. That wasn’t too bad, hey? So I hope you’ll use things that you learned in this episode from Sarah to, you know, give networking a shot, whether that’s attending events, putting yourself out there reaching out to people on LinkedIn via email, and just connect with people to help you build your public health career. And if you want to get any of the links or information that we mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to our show notes page over at pH And we’ll have everything there you need. And I hope this episode leaves you inspired once again to go out and meet your peers. And 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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