Pulling together your career threads and public health mentorship, with Dr. Sue Griffey, DrPH, MPH, BSN

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Sue Griffey of SueMentors. They go on a journey through the four acts of Sue’s life and discuss her relationship with public health, mentorship, and ways in which you can take control of your career.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Sue’s nursing career and global work led to her public health career
  • Sue’s experience working in various fields of public health and how the perception of “job hopping” is changing
  • Tips on taking control of your professional development 
  • The different types of mentorship and what is most appropriate in each situation
    • The value of finding support and relying on your peers as informal mentors
  • Four actionable steps to pulling together your career threads

Today’s Guest:

Sue Griffey, DrPH, BSN, has been SueMentors for more than a decade, giving professionals the HOW to get to their next career path step. She focuses on building and using professional presence and professional branding. Sue has a global mentoring practice for all levels of professionals in transition. Her hallmark is using real-world examples to demonstrate her practical advice for professional presence. Sue has mentored for 10 different global public health and other programs. She has worked with more than 600 mentees individually and directly influenced more than 2000 through her short courses, guides, materials, webinars, and workshops. She had a 3+-decade of career leading global health and program evaluation research, working and living globally.

Featured on the Show:

Episode Transcript

Dr. Sue 0:00
You are in charge of career, you. And if you need someone on your shoulder, it’s Sujani and me telling you, you’re in charge. But learn how to use your evidence based results to tell your story. You will feel comfortable then claiming your space in public health. And that’s what I want you to do you career you.

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 too, your host, Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Good morning, Sue. And welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. I can’t believe we’re only doing this now.

Dr. Sue 0:48
I know, we’ve known each other for so long. I remember almost a year ago, you saying let’s chat about blah, blah, blah, was fun. But we’re doing it now.

Sujani 0:58
We’ve jumped on calls so much that I think I completely forgot that I’ve never had you on the podcast. And I’m so glad where we’re going to do this. And for any of our listeners who kind of are familiar with the name Sue, it is Sue mentors. Sue Griffey and for a lot of our LinkedIn followers, I think you and I interact quite a bit with each other. So I’m sure if people know Sue, they also know Sujani, which my husband pointed out, we both have kind of like very similar nicknames, which is awesome.

Dr. Sue 1:28
I agree. I agree. Yeah.

Sujani 1:31
are obviously a listener of the podcast. And you know, the first question that I love to hear the answer to is, how did you discover the world of public health? And I have to admit that until I was preparing for this podcast, I had no idea you had a nursing background. So I’m going to be honest there. I thought you were always a public health evaluator. So that was new to me. And I’m sure that your response to when and how you discovered public health is going to surprise me as well.

Dr. Sue 2:01
Well, thanks, Sujani. Let me tell you the title, I always give my interviews a title, even if no one asks for it. And I’ve said this, probably now all my career life, I never envisioned getting into public health. Because since I was little, I always wanted to be a nurse and I became a nurse. I couldn’t even imagine, in the olden times, because public health nursing was so different that I couldn’t imagine doing it. I’m going to give you a quick view of where we’re going today, because I’m at the opposite end of many of you, where I’m finishing out my career, and for my family and now for you all I’ve tried to make what I’ve done, understandable. So we’ll talk about my life in four acts. But I didn’t even come close to public health till I was in my second act. And third act finally, fully engaged in public health. Is that enough of a teaser?

Sujani 3:03
Too much of a teaser? So, like, when you were getting into nursing, did you know that there was a world, you know, and it was called Public Health and the work that people did in that world? Or was that all new to you until you kind of finish that first act?

Dr. Sue 3:20
It was all new. In fact, in nursing school, we did Community Health Nursing, much of which was public health, it turned out it just wasn’t actuated that way in school.

Sujani 3:32
So 1969, and I have your LinkedIn profile pulled up. And that’s why no these dates, oh, my gosh, I know 1969, you get into your nursing program. And you know, I guess this is a goal that you had all your life. And so I’m sure you’re proud of yourself and you walk into nursing school, is that the beginning of your first act?

Dr. Sue 3:55
It is./ Yes, clinical nursing in my 20s. Basically, let me take you to Turkey, though. Can I?

Sujani 4:03

Dr. Sue 4:03
I take you let’s do the fun part about it. I went other places. But let me take you to Turkey where I was visiting on one weekend, a village with my former husband whose organization worked in Turkey. And he said we’re thinking of doing some work here and we walked around talk to people looked at kids playing and he pointed to a little boy sitting on a stoop looking a little dejected, sad, hard to tell he clearly didn’t feel well wasn’t running around with the other kids. My former husband said What’s wrong with this kid and what can we do about it? Well, that was when in Turkey I’d moved from ICU nursing to pediatric clinic work. Luckily, I was able to get a job. But I began to be pushed into public health through thinking at that point about prevention. Everything I was doing in the pediatric clinic, even though it was children with blood diseases and cancers, was preventing them from getting sick. And I began to think about prevention, which is a hallmark of public health.

Sujani 5:05
At what point of your nursing career was this, I’m guessing this was after you had graduated,

Dr. Sue 5:11
Right. This was two years, two, three years. So I graduated, worked for a year in ICU nursing, went to Haiti for seven months, and did missionary work there, you know, free of charge. But it was all, it was Clinical Nursing. It wasn’t a missionary type of assignment, if you will. So I was working in the northwest of Haiti and got to do a lot of amazing, interesting things, came back, worked again in an ICU, and then ended up re meeting someone I’d met in Haiti, and moved to Turkey, for love, and eventually for work. Now, remember, this was 1975-76, many of you weren’t born, then you don’t realize my parents weren’t exactly happy about my decision. But it was a great experience and what it taught me and what I think for all of us, especially in early career, situations, with all the mentees and course learners that I work with is early career is a chance to to get experiences, even though we may not be in our ideal job or where we thought we were going to go. And this is never truer than right now where people sometimes are saying, I want to do reproductive health, but I can only get a job where I’m a project assistant in the business office working on grants management, grants management in public health will teach you a lot about how to manage your portfolio, budgets and deliverables, I would say that’s very valuable experience. But it’s disappointing if you’ve done an undergrad or graduate degree in public health, and you want to do health education, for example. So that’s my advice in when you think about your career generally in public health is you never know where your experiences and options will come from, and learn how to use them when you weave together your story.

Sujani 7:01
And I think it’s, you know, obviously, it’s easier for you, when you think back to the experiences you’ve had and the decisions that you’ve made. And you think, obviously, you know, those were great, because it brought me to where I am today. But for those of us and some of our listeners who are much earlier in their career, it’s so overwhelming. And I hear that too, right? You know, I have this passion in climate change. But should I go work in nonprofits? Should I go work in like, private companies? Should I go work for a startup, and I think they have so many questions that overwhelms them, and they’re not able to take that first step. And I don’t know, if you are able to remember back to when you were in that first act. And if you had any of those moments where you were overwhelmed with maybe the options that you had, or the decisions that you had to make, and anything that you can, I guess reflect on with us.

Dr. Sue 7:59
I didn’t have those choices. In many ways. It was either I went to do nursing, and I could get an ICU job that’s very defined. And when I worked overseas, it was whatever was available at the time I moved in, especially if there was language involved or work permits. What I know though, because even later in life, I had some of the same feelings that you’re describing, don’t be afraid of working for different types of organizations, because it’s only when you get into a for profit company or a foundation that you realize the different ways in which the world of public health work operationalizes itself. So I have a little bit I worked three years in a federal government, private contractor job, but at USA ID. So I saw the inside of USA ID. I worked for an NGO, I worked for several NGOs, I worked for a for profit company, I worked in a lot of international places. But I think the opportunity people have now about where to start is to educate yourself on how work gets done in public health. And in fact, I developed a few videos on this just for that reason, because I found myself working with mentees who, like me, early on in public health, I didn’t understand that there was a difference between academic work and NGO work, which were the two I was exposed to between going back to graduate school and working generally overseas would be some kind of not for profit. So hopefully that helps people think about how they can educate themselves. And it is an area that I will tell you is not often in curricula at schools of public health, so something that we have to find on our own.

Sujani 9:44
Yeah. And I think we get so worked up about taking the perfect step, that we don’t take any steps sometimes. And I think it’s just trusting that all experiences are going to eventually lead to the right path for you right? And no experience is bad experience, in my opinion.

Dr. Sue 10:04
You’re exactly right. You and I are both speaking about that today, I’m going to mention this more than once. But the other thing that we’ve come out of there are a few silver linings in COVID. And one is that there isn’t the idea that you’re job hopping, if you change jobs after a year, it used to be that we all understood in the before times, younger emerging professionals would change jobs every couple of years. But in the global development world, where there’s three and five year contracts, sometimes you’re you’re changing jobs as a senior person, and that happened to me, as well as others may be listening to this, what you find is all of your work can benefit. And that’s both paid and unpaid work. I rarely let people define something as volunteer work, unless it’s one time one day, there’s always a link to showing work characteristics, good career characteristics, through your volunteer work equally to your experience. So put it all together on your resume, don’t make it a separate section.

Sujani 11:08
And I think you do that so well. When you teach that concept of you know, weaving the different experiences together to tell that one cohesive story about your career. Like that takes some time. Right, I think it won’t be clear to you in the first few years of your career. But again, just reiterating that, just take that first step, because that first step is going to then lead you to multiple other steps, which will all come together and you just have to trust yourself. So going back to kind of your first act Sue, and nursing. You graduated in 1973. You work for a few years. And I noticed that you ended up going back to school to get a Master’s of Public Health. And that’s about 10 years from graduating from your nursing program, that first act last 10 years for you? Like were you in nursing for those first 10 years?

Dr. Sue 12:04
I was yes, part of it was the undergraduate course that led us to 73. But I also, as we were my former husband was being moved out of Turkey to open the office in Nepal. I wanted to and found out going to the Library at the University Hospital where I was working in Turkey, the library and reading the backs of the nursing journals and the medical journals that were in English, there were only a few in finding information about nurse practitioner programs. So I actually did a family nurse practitioner certificate in Miami for a year so that I could answer my former husband’s question in the village that day of what’s wrong with this kid. And what could we do I at least knew public health approaches I knew clinical work writ larger than being an ICU nurse or a pediatric clinic nurse. So yeah, we moved on to niche air. And before I got my MPH, the move to niche air where again, it was difficult to get jobs, there weren’t that many jobs open. Plus it was Francophone. I spoke enough French from some French language training, but not enough to work professionally. And a friend of mine was working at USAA ID as the health officer. And he had said, you know, I’m opening a job. And I said, Great, I would love to work in this job. And he said, so you have the experience, but you don’t have the mph. So the only other American that is here just graduated with her MPH, but she has no experience. And I have to hire her because that’s what the job calls for. That was really an eye opener to me, because I had not had an issue before being able to remove myself from around the world. But what it also taught me is that I had to take control of my own professional development, I had to learn how to in the old days, we didn’t talk about it marketing yourself or selling yourself. But what I was able to talk about is exactly what you mentioned earlier, I began to weave the threads, for example, many clinicians that I work with, who start like me, like I did as a nurse or a doctor or physical therapist, we’re in a helping profession. And so we’re staying in that in public health. We’re just changing from something that I couldn’t believe. A good friend of mine now was the chair of my doctoral degree. Early on when I first met him said you can’t work clinically one to one as effectively as you can work in a larger group. And I kept saying to him you mean give up clinical work and making a difference in a patient’s life with diabetes or with malaria or whatever. And he said yes, you know, and I was shocked that he was educated me towards public health even then. But it also because I was moving to different places, I had to keep reestablishing with people what I did and how I did it. And it began to teach me how to take control of my own professional development, which meant I was prepared for next career steps. This makes it sound like I had this very intentional way of doing it. What happened was, I began to learn how to in the days when it took six weeks to get an air mail letter back and forth to people, when phone calls could be near impossible, I waited 45 minutes on a phone line, one time in Cairo to call into downtown Cairo to talk to my former husband just briefly. So we didn’t have communications. And we didn’t have things written down, I began to write things down so that I could for myself, figure out how to figure out what I could get paid based on how USA ID at the time, would calculate a daily rate, I figured out how to use the one conference a year I might be in the US for which was a global conference to be able to learn how to market myself. And I like staying in touch with people, I used to send almost 400 letter updates every year to people to stay in touch. So networking, in the small networking of engaging came easily to me.

Sujani 16:23
I’m curious, so when your friend from USA ID, told you about this opening and said, You know, I’m gonna have to give this role to the individual with an MPH. Did you know about that degree at the time? Or was that kind of new to you?

Dr. Sue 16:41
That’s probably where I started to learn about it more was from him. And he actually brought in the person from Tulane that I eventually ended up working with. And I went to school into- at Tulane because there were very few programs then. And this sounds very funny. But Hopkins wanted you to start in June, and they had a set program from June to the following May, I believe it was, this was in May, probably May of the year that before I went to grad school Tulane would let me start in January, they let you start in any of three semesters. And they recognized that with my nursing, anybody who brought a clinical degree to public health, usually brought experience and so I could accelerate it and get it done in one year also, just like the Hopkins program. So I began to learn about it by applying I went and visited but I still didn’t know that much. I was doing a little bit in Asia with educating second and third wives who were came into the Capitol study from their villages. For example, there were several of us that worked on public health teaching interventions, like how to keep flies off your food and how to get your kids to hand washing before eating.

Sujani 17:58
Yeah, very basic. I asked that question because the 1980s and there is no LinkedIn, at least I don’t think it existed. And the way you are learning about career options are is definitely not through podcasts. So for you to learn about the field of public health and what sort of credentials and experience you need. Like you learn that by accident, I’m assuming.

Dr. Sue 18:25
Mostly, yes. So going into public health, so the year that I spent in New Orleans academic time I spent in New Orleans for that year. I learned a lot about things. There were a couple newsletters that came out one really significant one from USAID funded program that helped people understand were child survival that was new in the 80s, child survival interventions came from so ORS was under or rehydration salts was under a solution was under development. Vitamin A, at that point still wasn’t proven, vaccines were always a big part of it. But I also learned that there were newsletters that I could sign up for. These came by mail again, we had a very difficult, not difficult. It was a two step system, everything went to my inlaws. And then once a month, they sent us a package of what now might be junk mail, but it was all of the newsletters that would teach me about it. And there was one organization, the National Council on International Health that have had a conference every year that I joined that helped me get a window into everything public health until I finally joined a PHA probably after my MPH degree.

Sujani 19:40
I think the lessons though remain the same. You kind of have to put yourself in these spaces right now. It’s digital spaces.

Dr. Sue 19:47

Sujani 19:48
But back then you were you know, subscribing to these physical newsletters going to conferences. I think there’s still that self initiated like push to go and network and put yourself into those spaces, because that’s how you’re going to learn about different opportunities. And, you know, this podcast as well. And before we started recording, you were asking, you know, what’s kind of the the objective that I’m trying to meet with these podcasts. And it’s- it is that it’s kind of inspiring people and showing them what is possible, I think the first step is knowing that you want to be in a helping profession. And then people kind of narrow it down to public health. But then when you get into this field of public health, the pathways that you can take, they’re almost endless. You can craft your own pathway based on the interest that you have. And I think, you know, regardless of we’re in the 80s are today, in 2023, you have to put yourself in those spaces and meet the people learn from them, and then kind of chart your own path.

Dr. Sue 20:48
Yeah. And I think we have an opportunity because we are in public health. Almost everybody I’ve ever met in public health wants to help someone else along. We’re a helping profession. But we also like to help everybody else come with us, there was a lot of helping of each other to get opportunities. Even my friend who couldn’t hire me, ended up, you know, being one of the reasons I ended up going to Tulane. He knows he was part of that.

Sujani 21:16
That’s awesome. So is kind of the start of your MPH, the start of your second act?

Dr. Sue 21:23
I would say it was before the mph. But yes. So I left in January of ’83, to do my MPH, so we moved to New Jer in ’80. You know, it’s early on, so they don’t exactly match the decade. But my 30s was definitely moving me full into public health. And after my degree, we were then moved on to Bangladesh. And there, I ended up I was very fortunate, we had enough networks. And people looked after new expatriates who came in not not always American to American, but just the expatriate community, we had a child by then. So he was in school. And then there’s the school network. So everybody’s always trying to help out spouses who may want to work, others, even the teenagers would be able to get jobs. So I ended up working in a research project, which turned out surprisingly, based on what Bill Bertrand had told me in 83, when I did my degree, the professor that got me to do lane, but it turned out, he kept saying you have a research kind of mind, which I didn’t think I did. But that turned out to be a turning point for me, I discovered something that I could bring that I thought was helpful. And it did help that I had a nursing background, I always look at that my nursing every day, I use my nursing in some fashion even now, but definitely weaving it into public health gives me even more perspectives on what the public health interventions are. And going into, in this case, this was a community based research where they had two different sites, an intervention site and a regular care site. So it was very exciting for me to work there. And as in many of my jobs, have my MPH act. Every time I got settled into a job, I was about a year year and a half in and then we’d get the signal you’re moving in a couple of months. And we didn’t always even know where we were moving to till a couple months before. So again, I took control of my professional development tried to figure out what I could take from it. And this sounds so intentional. I wasn’t quite this intentional in my 30s. But you know, I knew that were then going on to Bangladesh, I knew that there might be opportunities. I wasn’t doing anything other than hoping to get settled well, in a country that I knew I was happy to be back, going back to South Asia because I’d lived in Nepal and really enjoyed it and my travel in and out of India as well. So I was getting closer to that research. And the people that I worked with, one of whom is still a very close friend. It was just great to be able to see models, again, an experience I didn’t expect, but that gave me perspectives that I could bring to additional things I was doing.

Sujani 24:25
There’s a couple of things I wanted to ask you. And when you were kind of sharing that story in a go back kind of chronologically, right before you’re entering your second act, where you have the mindset that you are kind of done with clinical work and you are going to be you know, public health practitioner, whatever that looks like for you. And I am curious to know if that decision was difficult, and I asked for any of our listeners who might be at that, you know, decade into their career and maybe they’re thinking about a slight pivot, and sometimes that might feel terrifying at times. And I know I had a version of that where I was doing epidemiology work for the first 10 years of my career. And then it came to a point where I was trying to decide, do I want to continue doing applied epi work? Or am I ready to go into more management type roles where I knew that I would get the, as many opportunities to, you know, apply some of my NP skills. So I’m curious if if you had made that decision that you were done with clinical work, and this was a new chapter in your career?

Dr. Sue 25:37
Oh, that’s a great question. I, I don’t, it wasn’t conscious. Because I’d become a nurse practitioner, I’d love doing that. And I worked for Peace Corps, I did coverage in four different embassies occasionally. I think when I decided to do the master’s degree, it definitely was a reaction to my friend saying he couldn’t hire me like, oh, well, I need this degree so I can continue working. But in actual fact, the minute I finished my degree, we I went back to NewJer, and then we ended up moving six months later, but I couldn’t get a public health job there. And I was doing a little bit of training work for the Peace Corps volunteers. So that was much more public health prevention work. But I was also doing laboratory work at the Peace Corps office, because when I went to nurse practitioner school, I asked for training in lab work, because I knew that that would be helpful. Going back to NewJer, so I think I envisioned that I’d still be doing clinical work. And in fact, I continued that in Bangladesh, where I occasionally did clinical work covering for embassies as well. So I think it just fell away. But I was always the unofficial nurse or nurse practitioner or consults and I still am, you know, someone will call on FaceTime, what’s this rash? But it was hard because I did, I felt like I was a really good clinician, both in the ICU and in the nurse practitioner world. And yeah, was it hard? Yes. It’s still part of my my life and my identity, I always say, No, once a nurse always a nurse, right. But I think I was ready for to just like, I had no idea. I would love public health, as much as I did, I was the last person, I expected to go into public health.

Sujani 27:30
And the second part of that, and you’ve kind of used this phrase a few times, taking control of your career. And I think I feel honored when a lot of the community members and PH SPOT are able to share some, you know, personal things that happen in their lives, whether it’s having to uproot because their spouse is moving or they’re unexpectedly becoming a mother. So they’re having to pause their career or, you know, separation in the family, so they have to move to another place. And so they tell me, all of these things that are happening around them, and at times feels like you don’t have control over all these things. And their career is one thing that I think they do have control over. And I don’t know how you are able to kind of maybe like respond to them with some of the experiences that you’ve had around taking control over your career, when things around you feel like they’re just constantly moving, changing. And you you’re not able to control those external factors.

Dr. Sue 28:32
And that’s so true. The worst part of a move for me was knowing we were going to move, but not knowing where or when, or sometimes both. So I remember we knew in February, we were going to move to Bangladesh, but we didn’t know it was Bangladesh exactly. And we weren’t sure when and yes, so things are out of control. What I work with, which is less giving them inspiration for me, but helping people let that noise and it’s- I don’t mean it’s noise. Let those things that are happening externally. They’re gonna happen around it, you’re going to have to deal with young kids or moving or not getting a job. The only thing you can control is your side of the conversation. This is controlling your own professional development, but also not looking at it as a one time activity. And I tried to help people make habits so someone contacted me recently who I worked with two years ago. And she said, Sue, I have a job but I realized she was reaching the top of it. She said, I’m bored. I’m doing the same thing. I’m challenged every day. I’ve got work to do, but I want to go on in my career. And when she sent me her, I asked people do send me their resume when she sent me the resume. It’s the last one I worked with her on that still had track changes from me in it. And she said Sue, I meant to update it, but I’d already gotten the job so I didn’t need into, you know, after she used it for getting the job. So I get it, it’s really hard. But what taking control of career I’m calling it Career You the person you are in where you want to go, does help. Like right now I’m working with two young mothers that are both pregnant and are going to be delivering soon, but they wanted to talk to me before deliver this, I just want to know that I’m somewhat ready for looking for a job six months or a year from now. So that they have some peace of mind that even though they’ve rewritten their summary story that I call a bio para, aiming at where they want to go, they’re going to still have to do work to revise their resume, because jobs will change a lot in a year. language changes a lot these days. The opportunity that people have now, though, is, in fact, it’s one reason to have a mentor is there so much information, you sometimes need help deciding what the step forward is you were talking earlier, Sujani, about people are so inundated, they don’t know where to make that first step or how, and that’s where I think a mentor can really help.

Sujani 31:09
And yeah, I actually want to ask you about, you know, if you have any insight on mentors, because you know, when you said your mentors, kind of identified that gifting you that you do have a research mind, it wasn’t something that you kind of pulled out and said, Okay, I think I would be a good researcher. I think mentors have a way of seeing all the gifts in the strengths that you have that sometimes you may not be able to identify for yourself. And I don’t know, sometimes I tell people, like you just need to let that mentor mentee relationship happen naturally, you can’t go to someone and say, be my mentor, because you know, maybe there is no chemistry there. And I don’t know what your thoughts or advices when- when somebody asks you like, how do I find a mentor?

Dr. Sue 31:56
I love that you brought this up in this talk about mentoring is, again, we’re in an advantageous time now, the number of programs that are burdened since COVID is unbelievable. Here’s the way I think people should think about it. There’s a little bit of a framework, and then a timing. So the framework is that you get mentoring in many different ways. Now, I’m not going to call talking to Sue, once and getting advice, mentoring, if you want to call it that, that’s fine. But there is formal and informal mentoring. Informal can be anything from a formal program you’ve signed up for to mentoring that you get during, for example, in your group Sujani in the public health career club. Mentoring goes on all the time. So there’s mentoring that happens between peers, among experienced and less experienced people, but not always in the direction of the olden times when it was, you know, you wrote up a contract, you met with the sage on the stage for an hour, a couple of times a month, and you work towards your goal and the sage on the stage, the mentor just blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. In fact, that happened to me, someone asked me to be a mentor like that in the late 90s. And there wasn’t chemistry there. But it was an unusual request in those days. Fast forward to the 2010s, it became more expected. What mentoring can help you do though is identify who your information comes from that helps you move forward rather than my friend listens to me complain that I’m not getting a job. Oh, I talked to a colleague or I put a question on public health career club, and I got an answer. And that helps me number one, identify the resource, the person that’s in there that you might want to have a chat with. But number two, identify what it is they said that worked for you and I love that you picked up on you know, Bill telling me that I had a research mind because Sujani I have to say you and I are a great example of our informalling, co-mentoring, peer mentoring, whatever you want to call it approach because every time you and I get on the calls, at least on my end, I learned so much from verbalizing things to you from the ability for the two of us to sink together. And if we were on video, I would show everybody my mirror that I use I use a mirror because mentoring is a self reflective practice. And it’s different from sitting down and writing in a journal. It is getting you to verbalize what and how you can move forward. Sometimes it happens in a mentoring relationship. Sometimes it’s through these informal mentoring where I get ideas. And sometimes it’s being asked a question as simple as asking a question and this is what you often do for me Suja I knew that when I stated back to I hear my own aha moment, oh, I can take it forward there when we were planning some of the events I’ve been able to do with you that happened because of what you were asking me specifically about.

Sujani 35:16
I love that. Yeah, I think we don’t give enough credit to peer to peer mentorship. And that’s a huge component of the public health career club. And it’s something that I hope I you know, I iterated, reiterated many times, whenever we do our sessions in the club is, I don’t have all of the answers to any of your questions. And we’re going to have to help each other. And we need to rely on our peers as much as the speakers or mentors or experts that I bring in as a formal event. But you know, they’re going to be as helpful as your peers, because your peers are going to have many of the answers as well, because they have experiences to share. And together, I think we can solve problems, it doesn’t have to be this formal individual titled as a mentor.

Dr. Sue 36:03
Yes, I totally agree on that. And the other thing that I would say is, don’t forget to look at your mentoring. Some people are much more comfortable with serial mentoring one person at a time, especially when it’s a more formal arrangement, others will do it in parallel. Because mentors can’t solve every single problem you have, I’m not your life coach, I can help you account for the kind of description you gave earlier about, you know, moving and kids and all of this, how to fit it into a career plan and make it so that we can help you through your transition. That’s what I focus on. Someone asked me to do interviewing prep with them, I said, I really, I’m not very good at it. And I’m not, you know, I’m no longer doing it, especially with other resources that are available to people. So I’m also very clear about the fact that each mentor has a purpose in so you have to have chemistry with the mentor, and you have to need the purpose that the person can work with you on. And that, again, is whether it’s peer to peer, informal or formal, or a more formal program where you’re matched.

Sujani 37:15
I feel like I just learned something about myself while you were explaining that and, and I think it’s something that I’ve struggled with is I don’t think I’m as great with one on one mentorship as I am with kind of like written mentorship, the way I do on LinkedIn, I think, you know, in written format, to groups of individuals is kind of where my strength lies. And I think that’s what I was kind of reflecting on as you were explaining the different ways that an individual can mentor.

Dr. Sue 37:44
Can you hear my pom pom shaking?

Sujani 37:48
On unfortunately.

Dr. Sue 37:49
I love that. I just I love that, that this is actually an example in real life.

Sujani 37:57

Dr. Sue 37:57
Totally unscripted, where these kinds of magic, if you will, happens, where we get help from each other. But it’s intentional help, you know, we’re not just talking about, oh, my job is boring, or oh, why do I have to commute, we’re talking about what it is we can take forward.

Sujani 38:16
I’m looking at the clock, so and I knew one hour would not have been enough for us. But you know, I know we got to kind of your second act. And I don’t know if you want to continue the third and fourth act in the next 10 minutes, or if we should leave people with this. And then we do do another episode where we’re talking about the next few acts.

Dr. Sue 38:36
I would love to just mention the last two, let’s do and then I’d like to give a summary of the advice, some of which I’ve said some of which we’ve been talking about, and I didn’t even know we would, and it all will sync together. And that would be a hopefully then less than 10 minutes.

Sujani 38:54
Okay, go for it.

Dr. Sue 38:55
Let’s do it. Okay, I’m gonna give you the two acts, and then I’ll stop Sujani, and let you ask questions. So my third act is I’m right in the middle of public health and discovered I was also doing programming evaluation probably before or early on when it started to be called that. And that was my 40s and 50s. I went to graduate school then and did my doctoral degree. The important thing about this is, that’s when I began to be much more aware of the mentoring that I think I did all my life, but the mentoring thread was there. I was in my doctoral program, giving brown bag lunches on how to become a short term consultant because there was nothing written down in those days. The way in which I also took that is because I did a degree that focused on evaluation and then worked in it. I became very oriented and no surprise to many of your listeners who may know me. I talk about making sure you excavate your evidence that you got to show me the evidence not Show Me the Money And what happens there is then you can learn how to tell your story without having to worry about whether or not they’re going to get bored listening to you, because you jump right in and say, let me tell you how about how I was able to contribute to a study examining vitamin A practices into villages, through the way in which I helped them pretest the data collection forms now, you know, maybe pre testing, that’s a small activity, but you’ve defined your role in a larger study. So that’s evidence that you can use. And then my last act, my 60s, and now I’m 50, with seven decades of wisdom is how I like to describe myself. We don’t realize how much we’re doing mentoring, and I was so glad you brought up mentoring early on. My goal is that everybody finds a place for them to feel comfortable getting mentoring, those who are in the PH SPOT career club, are well situated for getting from you Sujani, and from many others, peers, a lot of the peers or I’d see the exchanges are just so helpful. So I’m in the point of paying it forward, I retired and decided I wasn’t gonna do evam work anymore. But I keep up with that in public health through all the work I do with mentees and my course learners, helping them situate their professional presence to get a job. Those are my two acts, they’re less of interest than the first two, I guess. And that’s why I don’t want to spend more time recording it. I’d rather talk about the actionable tips. But let me stop there. Do you have any questions? Actually, let me just tell you soon after my doctorate, I came back to the United States ended up in a variety of ways with a different husband. But I’ve been more than 22 years at the same address after changing addresses every two years. So I’m happily ensconced in the I still travel a lot, but the non moving part of my world right now.

Sujani 42:02
That’s awesome. I have tons of questions, but I’m gonna keep it to myself and ask you a little by little over the many occasions that we’re gonna chat with each other. And I’m gonna let you tell our listeners the actionable steps, because I think that’ll be super valuable.

Dr. Sue 42:17
Great, thank you. All right. So you heard the story of how I never thought I ended up in public health. I didn’t plan on it. But I did. Number one, remember that every job opportunity is experience, even if it’s not in your ideal field. And I’ll just say parenthetically, and changing jobs more frequently, is not seen as job hopping so much anymore. Number two, you are in charge of career, you. And if you need someone on your shoulder, it’s Sujani and me telling you you’re in charge. But learn how to use your evidence based results to tell your story, you will feel comfortable than claiming your space in public health. And that’s what I want you to do you career you. Number three, going back to school for another degree or a certification isn’t always the answer. Until it is. It’s tempting. If you’re not getting a job, and people ask me, Should I go back to school, make it intentional as you would do everything else. And number four, this closes out what I love talking about. And that is, if you’re not already doing it, make mentoring an intentional part of your career. But first do an inventory I bet you are also having your sources of mentoring, just be clear about it. And make sure that you identify more than one. I know there’s talk about your own board of directors, whatever you want to call it, I say when you focus on mentor, look for the mentor who can help you at the time you’re at. And then also realize where you’re getting mentoring from because the value you have now in the world we’re in now mentoring is a recognized part of a job. It may be part of many companies now, it’s certainly part of most graduate and undergraduate programs, which I’m thrilled about, take advantage of that. So those are my key tips that I wanted to make sure people learned from my career path.

Sujani 44:20
That’s amazing. So we covered a little bit about each one. And I think people have stories and some sort of reflection related to each of those four points that you talked about. So I’m happy they’re not coming, you know, out of surprise, like what does that mean? Or what is that? How is that related to a public health career? To wrap it up, you know, you know that I’m always inspired by the work that you do and always learning from you. And I’m curious, what is something that you’re working towards, you know, what is a big goal that you have that you know, me personally or the PH SPOT community can kind of rally together to help you achieve better As I think you give to so many people, you, you support them with your time and your energy. And I’m curious to know if you have any goals that we can help you with.

Dr. Sue 45:11
You, particularly, and PH SPOT generally is helping me on a goal that I set out many years ago to achieve and the first step was getting more, thank goodness more digital Virtual Ability. My goal has been making sure that everybody around the globe has an equal access to a platform that gets them visibility. I started with wanting to write down things. So people knew how to do stuff. And it wasn’t just if you knew the right person, you got the right job or the right salary. And what I see in what you do, and what we’re already doing together is more and more of the global professionals who I meet through the no cost short course I have, and also through the various resources that I put out and like you on LinkedIn, I try to I don’t do as much as you these days. But I tried to make sure it’s out there is making sure that people from different cultures feel welcome. So that I focus a lot. For example, on professional presence. I don’t talk about personal branding, I talk about professional branding, because much of our world still has more of a distinction in that. And that’s how you all can help me help you get to the professionals who need the help, and help us reduce biases, increase access and make all of our countries safer, and using more public health approaches to keep everybody and their families and their friends alive and healthy. That’s a big goal, isn’t it?

Sujani 46:45
Yeah, huge goal, but we’re gonna- we’re gonna we’re gonna all do it together. And I know we can.

Dr. Sue 46:48

Sujani 46:49
Thank you so much, Sue. And this has been such a pleasure for me to be able to speak with you like this and I’m sure we’re gonna have you on again in the future. And we definitely are continuing to work together to support you know, our peers.

Dr. Sue 47:02
Thanks. I just would like to say connect with me on LinkedIn, Sue mentors, Sue Griffey finds me almost everywhere these days. And if you can’t find me, ask Sujani, she’ll put you in touch with me. Thank you for the opportunity. It was a delightful conversation.

Sujani 47:22
Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or 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 want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation, clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more or want to join the club, you can visit our page at pHspot.org/club. And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world. And I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career Club.


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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