Public Health Resources Series: Public Health Connect, with Harman Sandhu and Aditi Garg

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On this episode, Sujani sits down with Harman Sandhu and Aditi Garg from Public Health Connect (PHC). They discuss what PHC is and how it supports students and early-career professionals to succeed in the workforce.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What Public Health Connect (PHC) is and what problem space it focuses on
    • The history of PHC
    • What services are offered through PHC including networking events
  • What the monthly opportunities round-up posted by PHC is
    • How the team’s own experiences inform the varied opportunities the round-ups  include
  • The diversity of public health opportunities that are out there
  • The current trends of public health jobs
  • Where else to find jobs for those looking to work
  • What the hidden job market is and how to tap into it
  • The benefits of networking in seeking career opportunities

Today’s Guests:

Harman Sandhu is a public health policy and research professional who is currently completing a PhD at the University of Toronto. Prior to PhD studies, Harman worked in the Government of Ontario conducting race-based data analyses, disseminating research, and managing projects. He has published research on mental health stigma, smoke-free policies, and cannabis legalization. Harman co-founded Public Health Connect (or PHC) in 2020 as a volunteer-run community organization focused on supporting aspiring public health students and early-career professionals in Canada. He holds an MPH and BSc from McMaster University.

Aditi Garg is a clinical research professional and health economics and epidemiology-based PhD trainee who currently oversees smoking cessation clinical trials in the Division of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Prior to her current role, Aditi worked in both academic and professional settings in both national and global landscapes with organizations such as Swiss Paraplegic Research Institute conducting population health data analyses and managing projects in areas of chronic disease prevention and management. She has published research on disability and rehabilitation policy, global health, and smoking cessation policies. Aditi also held an executive position as the Co-Director of Research and Marketing with Public Health Connect (or PHC) in 2021 as a volunteer-run community organization focused on supporting aspiring public health students and early-career professionals in Canada. She holds a masters degree in health economics and policy and BSc from the University of Waterloo.

Featured on the Show:

Other Resources:

Episode Transcript

Harman 0:00
Sometimes you do just have to jump on opportunities because they will provide some benefits, even if they’re not exactly what you want. If you keep going, I promise that you’ll end up there and along the way, the lessons you learn from different roles might actually be super helpful.

Sujani 0:15
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, Aditi and Harman. Thank you so much for joining me on the PH SPOT podcast and welcome.

Harman 0:41
Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having us.

Aditi 0:43
Yeah, great to be here.

Sujani 0:45
Yeah. And, you know, before we started to record, we were saying how Harman and I connected a number of years ago over a article that you had written for PH SPOT, which was quite popular, I want to say because you compare the PhD and the Doctor of Public Health. So if any of our listeners remember that post from, I think it was over three years ago, maybe two or three years ago. This is the Harman who wrote that. So thank you, Harman for that article, and for sharing your insight with the public health community here in Canada, in the US and internationally as well.

Harman 1:17
Of course, and how interesting to see how things have changed since I wrote that article. For instance, now I’m actually pursuing a PhD at the University of Toronto. And that’s the same institution that just introduced the first DrPH program in Canada. So definitely progressed.

Sujani 1:36
Absolutely, yeah, it’s interesting to see how public health has advanced and with the pandemic itself, how things are just changing. And that’s why I’m so excited today, actually to chat with the two of you who are behind an organization that you both co founded called Public Health Connected. So for some of our Canadian listeners, they may recognize this name, Public Health Connect, and Aditi and Harman are the founders of this organization. And I think I might start with the question, which is interesting to me and obviously, because PH SPOT kind of also focuses on this problem space, but maybe I can start with you, Aditi. Why did you both want to focus on this problem space of the workforce and employment related to public health professionals?

Aditi 2:23
Yeah. Well, firstly, I’d like to start off by saying, I’m actually the director of marketing. I actually was PHC. So Zohan was actually our co founder. But yeah, I think that’s the in terms of the workforce. And Harman can expand on this a little bit more. But we were kind of looking to create this kind of community of individuals that are interested in public health opportunities, specifically, and help them kind of get a footing, at least in entry level positions. And what’s nice is that we wanted a way that we could gather opportunities for everybody that was interested in different fields, because public health is such a broad field. And it comes as a lot of different sectors. So kind of getting that sense of where we can foster opportunities for everybody, kind of the goal.

Sujani 3:06
Yeah, yeah, the diversity in the field is kind of something that attracted me. And I think we hear we hear that quite a bit from other professionals. It’s just that you can go in for a public health degree and the world is your oyster, like you could really work in any industry in any area, which is amazing.

Harman 3:24
And actually, like, if I could add, it was sort of our personal journey, myself and Zohan, doing our MPH together at McMaster University from 2017 to 2019. There were a lot of conversations that, and I had when we sort of talked about the challenges with amongst ourselves as well as the broader, our peers, colleagues and broader public health community. And it sort of spurred I would say, like, a lot of the work that we do at PHC, including putting opportunities together was differed from those earlier conversations we had.

Sujani 4:00
Yeah, maybe you could talk a little bit about how you and your co founders and maybe a founding members made PHC what it is today, what did that journey look like?

Harman 4:10
Oh, for sure. That journey is quite interesting and challenging, as it sort of coincided with the pandemic playing out. And so very early on Zohan and I sort of wanted to add to the work that we were doing outside of PhD at that time, which was mostly either preparing for applying to graduate programs or professional schools, and we decided to sort of form a collective where we can help others advance their public health journeys, particularly early career. And so earlier on in our journey with Public Health Connect or PHC, a lot of it was just focused on putting platforms out there to help people connect. So we started off with the Instagram page, as we know that a lot of community members are active on social media and increasingly as the folks that are looking to enter into the field now are younger and younger, the spaces where they engage are definitely increasingly becoming on social media as well as with the pandemic, it sort of intersected in a way that the virtual space was the place to be. And so starting off on that, and sort of establishing our intent to sort of release content related to professional development, and start connecting with others, it became very apparent that there was almost like a hunger for this information and desire to connect and for people to come together and collectively pursue an advance public health work. And it was very amazing to see that and soon after, we sort of just had a stepwise progression, where we expanded our team, had folks like nifty come on, and do some great work, and sort of formalizing some of the things we did. So whereas Zohan and I sort of put together things informally, on our own time, we sort of expanded our team, which has gone through another iteration very recently, which is very exciting to sort of bring more consistency and more sort of quality to the work that we’re doing.

Sujani 6:03
It’s interesting, you say, kind of like you focused on that online aspect, because I remember graduating from my MPH back in 2013. And thinking, you know, the only place for professional development or even meeting people was that in person conference, where at the time, that was the place to be at if you wanted to build on your public health skills, or just meet other people to advance your career, and then also noticing that gap that other industries had this online platform or online ability to connect with their colleagues, whereas public health really lacked that. And it’s interesting to hear from you that you also recognize that gap.

Harman 6:43
Oh, absolutely. And wow, how things have changed, right?

Sujani 6:46
Yeah.

Harman 6:47
Conferences to now things being so so virtual and online. And the other thing we noticed was that there was a sort of a missing collective or connection between public health aspiring students and professionals coast to coast in Canada. So I found that at least within my McMaster University community, it was very connected and vibrant and great to be part of, but I had no clue you know, what other universities were up to what other students in other parts of the country were up to. That’s like, also been a sort of focus for us a PhD sort of broadening nationwide and being able to sort of learn and expand beyond just the communities that we already occupied before.

Sujani 7:28
Yeah, that’s, that’s really great to hear, turning into Aditi as the Director of Research and marketing for PC, anything that you’re kind of recognizing, as you’re spending a lot of time kind of online and bringing this amazing work to the forefront, to public health professionals that you’re kind of noticing, either pre pandemic or during the pandemic, and any anything that you could chat about there?

Aditi 7:52
Yeah, I think in terms of the public health workforce, I think it’s important to know that pre pandemic, I think informational interviews were a lot easier in a way in person ones, at least, you know, you could just message someone an email, and then meet up for coffee. Often, in my experiences, personally, I was job hunting myself during the pandemic, for about six months. And then you know, as soon as pandemic hits, you’re kind of forced to go out of your comfort zone a little bit. And use platforms like LinkedIn, and Twitter and those other things that exist to kind of put yourself out there like think of an elevator pitch for yourself, and really market yourself. So I think personal branding in that way goes a long way, when you’re trying to look for opportunity. So I think that whole landscape of things have really changed everything for the better in some ways. It’s really kind of like, as I learned to go to the comfort zone, learn to leverage opportunities that are of interest to you, especially in the public health space and be able to land those in the best way possible. And of course, the- in PHC similarly, we recognized that through our patreon experiences, and we will to put out some valuable resources for aspiring public health professionals that want to get into the workforce after their degrees or during their degrees even. We’ve also talked about that like during our takeover sessions on Instagram and everything on our other social media pages. So it’s been a great learning curve, I’m sure at Harman can expand on that a little bit.

Sujani 9:06
I think going back to what Harman was talking about across the country from coast to coast to try to understand that landscape as well. I think it’s become a lot easier in my head as well to understand that only because you know, everyone is remote. I recall graduating in Saskatchewan and then trying to come back to Ontario and it felt like I needed to reestablish my relationships in the new province where I’m wondering if you’re hearing from any of the individuals that you’re chatting with that it’s maybe a lot easier to make those connections across the country because of how the pandemic has pushed us to be a lot more online.

Harman 9:42
For sure. I think of some examples where it’s an interesting situation where students might be studying their program which has now become online so they usually might be moving back into their home province or home city. It’s almost the challenge of developing a network because on one end you know, you have your institution maybe that you’re a part of where you’re studying, and you’re able to connect with your professors or other sort of researchers or other folks connected to that institution. But if you’re spending a majority of sort of your physical time in a particular city, where your home might be, I think it’s a talent to think about how are you expanding your networks in different ways, in terms of being able to connect with other people. My sense is that, personally, it’s been a lot easier for me to reach out to folks and align. And one example I have is, I was looking for input on some of my thesis ideas and my research ideas. And it was easy for me to even reach out to and connect with university professors out in BC, Victoria easily, and the availability and interest and even competency, I would say, of folks to be able to meet effectively online has definitely been a benefit for me to be able to connect with others. But in terms of those connections, I can’t say I have any insights. But I’m curious about how they’ll change moving forward. And if our networks are changing from physical to virtual and online, I wonder what that means for public health professionals who are now graduating and now forming their early network.

Sujani 11:14
Yeah, it’ll definitely be a good area to keep an eye out on especially both for Public Health Connect, and PH SPOT and understand how that’s changing. So we can deliver services and products and everything else that we are doing for this community of individuals. And that kind of takes me to another question. I know some of the services that Public Health Connect is offering to public health professionals, mainly the the roundup of public health opportunities. I’ve seen that quite a bit on LinkedIn, that you pulled together, as well as a few panel discussions about different opportunities that exist, could you maybe chat a bit about the different ways that you offer support for the public health professionals? And then maybe we can dig into the job search component a little bit later on?

Harman 12:02
Absolutely. So yeah, essentially, I kind of view it as different buckets of work that we do. And just being in the health space, I acknowledged that it’s very complex and adaptive, the work that we do. So one of the buckets that we have sort of ongoing is actively engaging in organizing events, we’ve probably had close to five to six public events in the past so far, and planning others currently. And they range from topics. For instance, I know we did one entire webinar based on just personal branding. And it was an awesome way to sort of advance discussion and questions and connect others in relation to personal branding sort of intersects with public health, career development and thinking on you know, how to sort of grapple with this concept and use it. There have also been other events that we’ve had where, again, this sort of theme has come up for us during the pandemic, where I remember one of the events we had, we didn’t organize enough time at the end for audience members to connect with each other. And so we got this overwhelming feedback, which we really appreciated, where folks are saying, oh, I want more time for connecting with people, I want more breakout rooms, I want this, I want that. And we sort of took that and said, okay, let’s just create an entire series where we can sort of bring people together on a shared basis. But that might be whether folks are all sort of interested in connecting and applying to graduate programs so we can connect them. So we have our Connecting chats series. And we- we approach it in a semi structured way. So we appreciate giving folks questions and things that they can use to structure the conversation. Also encourage them to just connect and like here’s a space that we’ve created. Hopefully, we made it open and comfortable enough and go do your thing and connect them. And let’s see what happens.

Sujani 13:54
Yeah.

Harman 13:54
So that’s- that’s sort of on the events side of things. On the other hand, we had sort of rotating services that it really depends, you know, on the- on the context and our availability and capacity at that time. But we did do a dedicated service to provide personal statement reviews to folks that are looking to apply to graduate programs. But that was sort of like a pilot series that we ran that we may revisit again in the near future. But that’s not something that we currently offer. And then a lot of the other content that we post, we did try to bring in current professionals to share their stories put stories out there, and also sort of advanced just an understanding of public health and various topics. I remember one memorable series that I contributed to was around understanding the concept of upstream thinking and upstream public health work versus midstream and downstream, through that we’re hoping that there’s a sort of broader awareness and engagement with public health topics because I know for myself earlier on, I knew I was interested in public health, but I couldn’t tell you how it works and you know, different things that are relevant. There’s just so much in public health.

Sujani 15:01
Yeah.

Harman 15:01
So it’s been, I think, great to sort of bring that to the forefront through PHC. And I’ll ask Aditi if you wanted to add anything to what I’ve said here.

Aditi 15:11
Yeah, I think you summed up pretty well. Yeah, I think just a broad range of content that we provide directly on our social media channels is providing a good overview of the different kinds of fields that public health is engaged with. So there’s something for everybody. Like, for me as well, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. When I joined PPC, I was like working as a clinical research coordinator, and I’m going to be doing a PhD next year, I think it really broadens your horizons, in terms of the vast amount of information, there really isn’t public health, and I’ve been able to contribute as well, to different topics like food insecurity in Canada, and as well as a lot of professional development tips, I’ve been able to carry that forward through what I’ve learned in my personal journey and public health, and carry that forward. So having that variety of information has been really valuable, as we’ve heard from testimonials from our PHC members.

Sujani 15:59
And it’s interesting to hear you both say that, you know, you knew you liked public health, but kind of narrowing down that area of interest within public health itself or understanding how it actually works. It took a bit of time, and you struggled with that. And I’ve thought about that quite a bit early on in my career as well. And I’m hearing it more from some of our early professionals that we chat with too. So really great to hear that those are some areas that we could all focus on to really support the professionals kind of entering the field now. You know, one of the other things I’ve seen as the monthly roundup of public health opportunities, maybe we can chat about that a little bit, because we’re doing this series on kind of job applications and job searching, and really focusing on that for the first few months of 2022, when this podcast episode will be airing, what motivated your team to do these roundup of opportunities on a monthly basis?

Harman 16:53
So essentially, there definitely is an origin story to our roundup. And I think maybe perhaps it’s been sort of like sense that the team at PHC all have sort of diverse interest in public health. And we each sort of participate in active communities that are sort of subsets of the fields of public health. And as we sort of began coming across opportunities, we were sharing them on our platforms and pages. However, I think the social media algorithms sometimes don’t show every post to every single audience member, some posts will be visible, some weren’t. So what we decided was to just sort of come together and have a final sort of list during every period of time where we collate and collect and just list everything that we’ve sort of come across that we think is relevant for our community to be aware of. And so that’s sort of where it originated from, I would say it was very organic and very beneficial to have different interests represented. And I’ll give you an example of that. So for me, the spaces that I’m interested in are probably more towards research and academic public health. So I would be coming across academic conferences, and I would be collecting them and then including them in our roundup of opportunities, I would be sort of promoting and really interested in looking at where can I submit my research as an abstract to present a poster at a conference. And then on the other hand, we have another team member who’s totally interested in frontline work, and perhaps in health promotion, for example, with public health organizations. And so they’re coming across postings and other volunteer opportunities that are related to that. And then we have another team member who’s more in tune with volunteer organizations who have more volunteer organizations that are springing up in the past couple of months organizing and recruiting volunteers for some of the work that they do. And so the final product is actually a compilation of a lot of different interests and a lot of different screening and thinking about whether it’s relevant for our community. So we just decided to systemize and make this process consistent. And that’s- that’s how it sort of originated, and we’ve been doing it I think, for a couple months now.

Aditi 19:12
Every year, having said I think because each of us have our own diverse backgrounds and interests in the fields of public health, I think it’s been able to give us a resourceful, actionable area where we can compile opportunities from different backgrounds. And you know, like I said, like I come from a background of health economics. So I be able to easily find resources and opportunities that are available in the workforce, and healthcare consultancies and public health consultancies as well and be able to bring that to the table and other members are able to bring in health promotion and stuff. So I think that gives a wide range of opportunities that are available so it’s more accessible for people that are starting out and public out there looking for entry level stuff, for example, I think a lot of opportunities available and I think that gives some sense to help them best level as you offer yourself to them so they can have kind of a compilation in one way, so that they can best leverage those opportunities. And then reach out to those organizations and maybe do some kind of coffee chats or informational interviews, so they can best get the opportunities that they can and their future.

Sujani 20:16
Yeah, I think that human element of filtering out these jobs is so important. And I think I’ve seen Public Health Connect to and I’ve seen a few other individuals on LinkedIn also kind of compile jobs. And that’s what makes the quality of the list of jobs so great. I don’t know if a lot of people know that PH SPOT, we started off as a job platform in the early days back in 2016-17, were kind of experimenting with the idea of being able to bring in multiple different job boards or public health website career pages into one platform and having someone develop code to filter through 100 different public health job postings and pulling it into one platform, which was going to be PH SPOT, but we quickly realized that that didn’t really yield quality job postings. And then we then switched to having humans, which was initially me at the beginning. And then now our team members to filter out really good job postings that we thought was more relevant to our community. And I think that human element is amazing that you guys are throwing into the roundup of opportunities that you’re offering the public health community.

Harman 21:26
Yeah, for sure. And, and something that I think, at least I tried to push and talk about with our team as thinking about what public health is because a lot of opportunities are, you know, can be described as being in different sectors. And I think like the public health approach that we took, at least to defining and thinking about, it was very broad, as I think about it. And so that kind of helped us almost like broaden and diversify the postings. So you’ll see, for instance, in our last November roundup of opportunities, positions related to anti racism work. And while some traditional public health people might think, okay, maybe that’s not like a traditional frontline public health role, because of the way we’ve broadly conceptualized what public health is including work that happens at the determinants of health level, I think we’re able to sort of bring, bring a more adaptive lens to it and also capture I think, like, there’s a lot of trends that I think we at PHC are also trying to look at and attune ourselves to. Because public health, the landscape is changing for sure. So being able to bring different types of opportunities to the forefront is definitely important to us. I think that story that you were saying about the coding, like if someone out there is listening to it, and knows how to do it, or is able to do it properly, that we’re getting to work on.

Sujani 22:48
Yeah, I think the problem we kept running into is that, you know, you could have public health Ontario’s website be scraped, but then not every single job there is a public health job, you know, you would have some IT roles also listed there. Although it is within a Public Health Organization, the role itself wasn’t a public health role. And, you know, just thinking about how you’re defining public health more broadly, I wonder if we will get to a point where you could almost connect every job back to public health, right, especially with the pandemic, we’re seeing how much public health is so integrated in every single industry and every single organization.

Harman 23:27
That’s exactly right. And I did review a recent research article in preparation for this podcast, and I think now’s a good time to just quickly reference it.

Sujani 23:34
Yeah.

Harman 23:35
And I was gonna joke that you can always trust the PhD student to research. So I will share this with others as well. But essentially, there was a research study done by Krasna, and colleagues published in this year. And we looked at public health postings in the US one year before the pandemic, and then during the pandemic, to see how things changed. Their analysis was very interesting in the sense that they found that the traditional public health roles were the ones that sort of haven’t seen much changes. A couple of sort of the more traditional roles in academia or academic institutions saw a slight drop during pandemic, but where they found an interesting growth was in other sectors that I think are traditionally public health, like the pharmaceutical sector saw growth, jobs and sort of insurance sector. I think that’s a very sort of fascinating trend to be looking at, especially if other folks listening are thinking about where they might end up in public health to really understand the trends and where things are going.

Sujani 24:43
Are you referring to Heather Krasna’s paper?

Harman 24:46
Yes.

Sujani 24:47
So we had Heather on the podcast I want to say last summer or in the fall and chatted a little bit about this paper, so I will link the episode in this- in the show notes for our episode today. And yeah, she kind of talked about, I’m going to paraphrase what she said. But if we’re kind of losing public health professionals to the private sector, is there more we could do to fill in the gaps or the needs in the public sector as well. So, yeah, very interesting to see that some of the other sectors and industries are seeing a growth in public health roles. And some of the more traditional roles may be declining a little bit. And it’ll be quite interesting to see, you know, a number of years after the pandemic, how that balance has shifted, or if it’s remained as well. Maybe if we can focus a bit more on the trends, you know, you said you were doing the public health opportunities roundup for a few months now. Are you noticing any trends in the type of jobs or roles or just anything there that either you or Aditi are able to kind of comment on? I know, it’s not kind of like a rigorous research study, but just anything that you’re recognizing in the workforce, it’s changing across Canada, in terms of what type of opportunities are being promoted or available these days?

Aditi 26:07
Yeah, I think what I’ve noticed what I’ve been doing the roundup is there’s been like- but more interest in from a to a clinical research, public health opportunities, as well as health equity centered opportunities as well, I think that’s been a major point of an upward trend, especially with the pandemic and the health equity as well. So I think there’s been those kinds of trends. And also, I think the amount of opportunities are available also varies from- from time to time, as well, like, sometimes we’ll have opportunities for there aren’t many, they’re like, one month, and then another month, there’ll be a lot more opportunities. And that goes in with the flow of opportunities that exist as well. So I think it’s a broad encompassing kind of trend that that we get. But I think that I’ve noticed personally is the health equity and the clinical research ones, for sure.

Harman 26:57
I think there’s like an increasing amount of interest, and work in equity, diversity and inclusion, or you can consider it as like health equity work, or even anti racism. So certainly, I think during the time that we’ve been doing the roundups, I’ve personally seen just more and more roles come out. Roles that didn’t exist, you know, before the broad interest that’s been given to this work now. And with that, I think it’s very interesting to be following that and seeing how that intersects with some of the traditional public health work. The sort of insight, maybe I have, or something I’ve seen, and I think this is- is good is that there’s just consistently new public health jobs and postings, like from week to week and month to month, there’s a lot of opportunities. And you know, what we have is maybe a small subset of the ones probably. And it gives me certain confidence in the field that there’s hiring happening. There’s things happening, there’s postings, there’s positions, and they’re coming out consistently. Especially, you know, I think like looming economic decline, and limiting of like opportunities for jobs. I think it’s relatively good news for public health.

Sujani 28:17
Well, I have this question save towards the end, but because you’re bringing it up now it- ask it- you know, one of the questions I keep getting at PH SPOT, whether it’s through email or social media messages is, if I pursue a public health degree, will I get a job? Is there employment that is easy to find? And obviously, I’m a bit biased because we also do these weekly roundup of opportunities, and I’m seeing these opportunities every week. And Harman sounds like you’re also kind of leaning towards that answer. I don’t know if you had anything more to add to that, or if Aditi had anything to comment, but I’m always in my head, saying, I think the employment is pretty stable after you graduate from a public health degree and individuals shouldn’t struggle too much to find a job. But I don’t know how you would answer that question.

Harman 29:10
It’s an interesting question. It’s hard to answer because I’m not sure I have the data on the other side, like one- one half of the question would be, there’s postings and opportunities out there. And for me, the other half of the question would be, how many people are in the pool that are looking? And so what I think when we like take a step back, and maybe consider, and this is where I’m hoping government actors and other folks are doing some of this planning in regards to workforce is matching, you know, what is our academic sector producing in terms of public health graduates and how well are they matched to the demand and needs that we have in the community to provide public health work? So it’s tough to say like I think at first in my first thought is similar to yours like, you know, there’s opportunity out there that’s great. But it’s hard to say who’s behind the- the sort of pool and who’s applying. And- and now it’s, you know, going back to the complexity of defying in sort of putting a boundary on public health, it’s hard to say, who are, you know, is it public health graduates? Is it folks that are hoping to transfer sectors applying to these jobs? So I think it’s a good question for me to sort of provide any insight on.

Aditi 30:26
I think it’s also not about what postings are available. But also there’s I think machine can use, there’s this sense of the hidden job market. So I think it’s not just what’s available, it also like, are you making an effort to kind of connect, I think, for me as well, when I was looking for a position, I think a lot of times it was about making that extra effort to connect with peers, like with people in your field or in jobs, that you would like to have one day kind of thing. And then looking at approaching those people and making that those- those connections and relationships with those people. And that goes a long way in helping them that job security. For me personally, when I was just messaging people on LinkedIn in the beginning, and I remember I had come across a person that I had a similar meeting was kind of executive assistant. Turns out, they were the executive vice president of that organization of that multinational organization, I had already sent the message I didn’t expect to hear back, but I did. And I ended up getting that position informally. But the way that I got it was not posted anywhere. So I think that hidden job market and public health especially specifically is very important to also acknowledge that sometimes you may not find that online, but I think it’s worth making that extra effort going the extra mile and having that elevator pitch, having that preparation for informational interviews, knowing which questions to ask, etc. And having those skills I think are important when you’re thinking about public health.

Sujani 31:44
Yeah, thanks so much for highlighting that I think we underestimate the power of building relationships throughout your career as early as when you start a degree, because they do come in handy when you’re looking for a job. And your example is perfect, in terms of how you can tap into that hidden job market. And it’s not only about what’s posted and publicly available. So thanks for sharing that. Maybe a good plug here, based on what Harman, you mentioned is that we definitely do need more research in this area. And even the the labor force surveys that I’ve kind of just skimmed through, they do have a section for Health and Sciences, I think it’s categorized as but public health being so broad, it’s hard to really understand what those numbers are like in terms of employment, post graduation, so maybe a little plug here to encourage someone to take on this question and maybe explore it a bit more. You know, we talked about kind of the availability of roles and kind of the trends that we’re seeing in terms of the type of jobs, I’m wondering if you’re seeing any trends in the geography across Canada, maybe even remote roles. And yeah, maybe we’ll start with geography first.

Harman 32:55
For the geography, it’s sort of interesting, because we’re not doing maybe like a, you know, systematic review of all the opportunities out there. What we find is that, since our team mostly represented Ontario centric point of view, the opportunities mostly that we’re coming across in our networks are based in Ontario, and I would say even maybe, like, a little bit, even centered towards the GTA, or the Greater Toronto Area. And we have to sort of, I think, try harder to go outside of our networks and identify opportunities more sort of broadly, to represent some geographical diversity in what we find. And so I think naturally, it isn’t there. But that’s not to say that those opportunities don’t exist. For me personally, I know I’ve sort of tried to include opportunities in our roundup from the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. And they worked in sort of Northern Ontario in a rural setting, in an indigenous setting as well. And they’re hiring from what we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, for various positions, we sort of actively try to find those opportunities that bring them by just due to the nature I think of our networks. It’s- it’s not easily sort of accessible.

Sujani 34:14
Maybe a question for you at Aditi, you know, if someone’s gone through your roundup of public health jobs, and some of the other ones like we have one and a few others on LinkedIn. As I mentioned, I’ve seen a few others. What would you suggest other areas that people could search for jobs like some top ones that come to mind for you?

Aditi 34:35
I think that really depends, because it depends on what your interest is, and what level of public health you’re looking at. But I think the research- I think LinkedIn is a really good reason. First of all, for job searching, the way that the tools are set up in there are very tailored for I think entry level applicants a lot of times because it will say like it directly ‘In the posting’, like whether it’s entry associate, professional or director level, and I think that goes a long way for people to get a sense of what their appropriate match is to what kind of job they’re looking for, as well. I think other social media channels are also important, you know, Instagram and Twitter and all those things. For me, what I’ve realized also, like even checking your own alumni job boards goes a long, long way, though, oftentimes, even for me, like I’m the coordinator now and I, I hired my own assistants. And I often just post to my alumni board to give back to that community as well. So I think it’s worth also checking out the place where you went to undergrad or grad school, and reaching out to alumni there, if you want to go with the connecting route, if you want to go to job boards way as well, then there’s also job boards on there that you can apply to directly. And also, I would say, like not to be afraid of flying to things that you would think you’re not qualified for, in a way like I used to, you know, if there was like 10 to 15 different qualifications on there. And I don’t know how to use this one softer on the job, that I was like, okay, I’m not gonna fly anymore. But no, I don’t think that’s the case, I think once you have that potential right to do the job, right. And that training will be provided eventually, I think it’s also important to note the fit of the company culture is important, especially if they keep you in academia, then also making sure maybe that your supervisor, if you’re doing a PhD later, is a good fit for your personality type. And that’s the kind of questions that I was asked during my PhD interview as well, rather than the technical capacities, but more are you good fit for the person that you’ll be working with? So as well, I think it’s not to harp on the qualifications too much, I would say. But also to really kind of emphasize go for it. A lot of times, even if it’s like an associate level, you’re looking for entry level position, for example, you can still apply and see where that takes you. I know it’s worked for me, and for some other people get into my network, I think the sky’s the limit when it comes to applying for sure.

Sujani 36:56
Yeah, what a great summary, I think you summarize kind of five different episodes that we’ve planned for, and just hit on every important topic, to kind of think about when you’re looking into your job. And I love that you keep bringing LinkedIn backup. And I think it’s, it’s a monster of a tool that you could leverage for your job search. And if you can just spend a bit of time there, I think there’s just a lot of great features, not just the job board feature, but I think you can, you know, go and follow the individuals that work at the organization that you would eventually want to work at. And maybe any HR recruiters, you could follow them because they’d be posting opportunities on LinkedIn as well. So really a good tool to leverage. So thanks for highlighting that once again. Yeah, maybe I can also turn to Harman to see if there’s anything else you’d want to add in terms of where people could turn towards if they’re looking for job opportunities. And they’re not kind of finding it in these different resources that are rounding up weekly, and monthly opportunities, any other places that you’d suggest they could look?

Harman 37:58
I think LinkedIn has been emphasized enough, but I’ll emphasize it again, it is such a- such a great tool.

Sujani 38:04
Yeah.

Harman 38:04
If anyone listening is looking for a job and doesn’t have like, then please get on it, learn how to use it. And hopefully, you will find that it benefits you. But one of the things sort of I look at with public health opportunities, sort of outside of what we’ve spoken about, we try to find organizations and actors doing the work. And that’s often for me, at least like I can sort of Google around and you sort of have to think about what you want to Google for, which is sometimes hard if you don’t know what you’re looking for. But oftentimes an easy enough like googling term could be in health organizations in this region or in this area. And I know it’s a little bit easier for Ontario, they do have like certain lists that you can find, some that have been organized by the previous limbs, they also have directories of could be like Community Health Center, Housing Network, or association. And when you find the organizations that perhaps aligned interests with what you’re hoping to do, then you can sort of dig into them a little further. And I definitely feel like the hidden job opportunity that a duty brought up is so critical. Like we don’t talk about it enough, I think. But there is opportunities to sort of connect with organizations that you found and see if the job or position can be created. What we see on postings and things like that is only sort of one aspect of the whole picture. And if you found like local organizations that you think you can sort of talk to like see if you can get a hold of somebody, like we’ve talked about some of the positions, see if you can figure out who does the hiring. That would be interesting because, for me, for example, my eye is always on managers, because I know in most organizational hierarchies, managers have higher powers that are standard across different places. So I would look to those folks and be lively I sort of engaged those people. I think that’s great, because honestly, like even- even some- some of the nonprofit sectors, not every organization doing the work has the capacity to sort of be active on social media. And so you might not see their opportunities because they might be hosting them somewhere else. And I would also sort of look at, you know, organizations in my area who, who are out there, like, are there news articles written about the work that they’re doing? Are they active? Do they have sort of maybe like a website that I can refer to? Because that might show you that they are present in the work that they’re doing and they’re out there? And maybe that’s, that’s a place.

Sujani 40:45
Yeah, no, those are some really great tips. Just really thinking outside of the traditional way of job searching is quite important and could really get your foot in the door into organizations that you really want to be part of. So thanks for that list, Harman. And you know, as we wrap up the episode, just want to say thank you to both of you and the work that you’re doing through Public Health Connect. And we’ll be sure to link up the various platforms that you’re kind of active on, Instagram and LinkedIn included. And as we wrap this up, is there any last words of wisdom that you’d like to offer to our listeners who are in that job search period of their life? Or yeah, just thinking about the job that they want to get after graduating? So maybe I’ll start with Harman and Aditi, you can kind of wrap things up for us.

Harman 41:34
I would say that you can sort of broaden your search and strategy and the way you approach things, because I think I put a lot of pressure on myself initially to find like, my first job, I thought was going to be my career for the rest of my life. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right the first time.

Sujani 41:54
Yeah.

Harman 41:55
And now looking back, I can say, you know what, it’s totally okay. Like, I could have started a role in a completely different setting, doing completely different work than what I actually wanted to do. And I think having a little bit of faith that sometimes you do just have to jump on opportunities, because they will provide some benefits, even if they’re not exactly what you want. If you keep going, I promise that you’ll end up there and along the way, the lessons you learn from different roles might actually be super helpful. I think there’s always something to be learned, even if it might not be your ideal role. There’s definitely something you can take away from it and grow through it.

Sujani 42:32
Absolutely.

Aditi 42:33
I think I was it very well, I think it’s important to be adaptable. When you’re thinking about your job search strategy. Yes, like you need your 5 year- your 10 year plan, but not to be so rigid in it that, you know, you lose out on opportunities that may help you, in the long run, maybe give you some skills that will be really helpful for what you need in the future. So I think it’s also important, but I think also when we talk about entry level, like students that are just graduating, they’re looking for opportunities. I think, for me, what’s important, I learned on my own journey was how important networking is. And personal branding and having your elevator pitch in knowing how to network in the right way goes a really, really long way. Because that hidden job market is there. At least in Ontario, at least I can say. And when you apply so much like every single job you see, and then you’re playing. Because when you’re graduate, you kind of feel things on, see what you’re interested in. So I think it’s okay to have a job at the beginning, get your foot in the door, I think is the most important thing in the beginning and seeing what you- what you can do with that and then build your your way up as you go. But also kind of just making sure you get the skills that you need. In the beginning, I think and also not to get discouraged. I think a lot of people then apply a lot. And then there’s nothing out there. But there is an that, you know, there’s that perfect fit for what you’re looking for eventually. And I think the most important thing as advice that I can give it to just not give up and then keep making those connections and expanding your network. And you’ll get there.

Sujani 44:00
Amazing. Thanks so much. Yeah, I think not getting discouraged and not putting so much pressure on yourself to get it perfect or right the first time is so important to keep in mind. So yeah, just encouraging our listeners to really keep those tips in mind. And thank you to both of you not just for coming on the PH SPOT podcasts and kind of sharing these great tips with us but also for the great work that you’re doing through Public Health Connect, and really hoping we can collaborate some more and maybe bring on other people from your team to talk a bit more about public health and the workforce. So thanks so much for joining me today.

Harman 44:36
Yes, Sujani. Thanks for all the work that you and PH SPOT are doing.

Aditi 44:40
Thank you so much for having us, really appreciate it. Such a great time.

Sujani 44:45
Hey, so I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you and before you go, I wanted to let you know about the career program that we run here at PH SPOT. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about building your dream public health career, then we can help you through this program. It’s an intensive hands on training program for early public health professionals. And this includes recent graduates and students. And you can now join the waitlist at pHspot.org/program. And you’ll be notified when the next cohort opens up. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight, and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.

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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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