Three tips for public health professionals starting out their careers, with Sujani Siva

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Show Notes

In this episode, Sujani shares a presentation she did last year to the ThriveHire audience. Having recently found this video, and listening to it again now almost a year later, we felt that the advice couldn’t be any more important right now. So we decided to put it up here on our podcast, as well as a little bit about our Infographics 101 course that ties in with tip #3. So, enjoy this episode, brought to you by Sujani, from the past ;)

You’ll Learn

  • Sujani’s three tips for public health professionals starting out their careers
  • Tip #1: Constantly think about building your network
    • People and relationships will take you places: job opportunities, mentorship/advice, etc.
  • Tip #2: Reflect, set goals, reflect some more & set more goals (and repeat)
    • Look back, so you can look forward
  • Tip #3: Make yourself stand out & shine
    • How can you add value to your organization and make yourself stand out? And be valued?
    • Developing a unique skill is one way to make yourself stand out, for example, being the one who can design infographics

Today’s Guest

Sujani Siva

After guiding a number of public health students and new grads over the past 7 years, Sujani created PH SPOT to reach, inspire and support public health professionals. Sujani enjoys seeing people around her grow and become the best version of themselves!

 

Resources

Other PH SPOT resources:

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Episode Transcript

Sujani 0:00
You’re not going through any of the career challenges on your own. And you’re not alone because many of us have faced these similar challenges and that there are solutions out there and-

Sujani 0:14
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.

Sujani 0:30
Hey, what’s up, everyone, thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career. So last year, I was invited by ThriveHire, to speak to their audience about my journey in public health and tips I had for them. And I recently found this presentation as I was just cleaning up my files. And when I listened to it again, I felt that it was great timing for me to release it to my own audience. So what I did was I extracted the audio from that presentation that I did in 2019. And I’m excited to share it here with you on the PH SPOTlight podcast. In this presentation, I started to talk about my public health journey. But I chose to cut this part out of the episode because I’ve done a little bit of that in the last episode, as well as two blog posts titled, “Where will your MPH degree take you?” and I’ll make sure to include the links of that in the show notes page. But what I did was I kept a part of the presentation that talks about three key tips that I have for a public health professional starting out their careers. And listening to that presentation again, now almost a year later, I felt that the advice couldn’t be any more important, especially in our current situation. So again, I’m very excited to share this part of the presentation with you. But more exciting is that there’s a little bit at the end about our Infographics 101 course that really ties in with tip number three, which is to make yourself stand out and shine. And I felt it was great timing because the course is also set to open up again this fall. So I hope you enjoyed this episode. And without further ado, here’s Sujani from the past.

Sujani 2:27
So here goes. These are my three tips for public health professionals starting their careers. These tips may sound like tips that you’ve heard elsewhere. And I think that’s because they are very important tips. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from building PH SPOT, it’s that we can simply learn from those who have come before us and trust and follow the system, because it really works. So it should be comforting to you to know that you’re not going through any of the career challenges on your own. And you’re not alone because many of us have faced these similar challenges and that there are solutions out there. And hopefully these tips are going to help you with your career.

Sujani 3:22
So tip number one is to constantly think about building your network and it shouldn’t be a one off thing. Because people and relationships will take you places, whether that’s job opportunities, or mentorship, or advice, people and relationships are very important. As part of my job search strategy, after I graduated from my master’s program was actually reaching out to my network, mainly past supervisors who were in Saskatoon to see if they knew of anyone or any organizations back in Ontario, where I was from, who are looking to hire in the near future. Since I had a prior relationship with these individuals, I felt that it was appropriate for me to ask to be connected to prospective employers. And so reaching out for job opportunities will only work with someone you’ve had previous relationships work with. And that could be someone you worked with, volunteered with, or even went to school with. Don’t feel shy or uncomfortable to reach out to people, especially if you know that you left a really good impression. As humans we definitely want to give back and we feel good when we can do something in return for someone that has helped us out. But the flip side to this is asking someone you don’t know for a job. This unfortunately will not work. And just because you’re connected to someone on LinkedIn does not mean you know them. And it’s often not okay to ask them for a job. And so again, be intentional when you reach out to your networks. Choose the ones you have a strong relationship with, and to go back to my story, my supervisor did connect me with other researchers in Ontario, they were quite open to speaking with me. And we did connect, however, they didn’t have any funding to hire anyone at the time. Nonetheless, I learned that building your network early on goes a long way when you really need help later on. And I speak about this in almost every post I write about building your networks, you will land some amazing opportunities. I’ve landed some great interviews because of my networks, and these relationships that I have invested in. So I urge you and I encourage you to do the same. Definitely offer your skills and expertise when you can ahead of time without expecting anything in return. And then one day when you do reach out to these individuals, and at times, it may be during desperate times, they’ll be the ones to support you. So that was tip number one to constantly think about investing into your network.

Sujani 6:06
Tip number two is reflect, set goals, reflect some more, and set more goals, and repeat that. I’ve learned that reflection and goal setting are what has helped me propel my career forward, and it keeps me challenged. And these two things are important and work hand in hand because you need to look back so that you can look forward. So let’s start with reflections. One way to do this is by writing about your career journey, because it truly helps with the reflection process, when you put it down into words, with constant reflections, you become more aware about the daily choices you’re making and will make. So think about things that you have been doing well, need to improve on, people you should meet, and possibly work with at your organization, and write about these things. When I write about my sort of week or day, I tend to focus on the soft skills in my reflections, whether that’s thinking back on how I chaired a meeting, or spoke to a colleague, whether I was happy about the way I approach things, and whether there was room for improvement. And so actively bringing these things to light has helped me improve on those skills. There are a number of ways you can do this: Journaling is one of my favorite ways, it’s been an amazing experience. So far, I’m not too regular with it. It’s been mainly very reactive. So if I feel a certain way, I’ll pull out my journal and write. But I’m slowly working on making it a routine task. And the tip I learned is to now make journaling a chore. It doesn’t have to be a daily task nor a long activity. It can be something you schedule, whether that’s quarterly or weekly. But it’s something that you want to do on a regular basis.

Sujani 7:58
The next part is goal setting. And I found that goal setting was so important when I was a student but it became even more important once I graduated and enter the workforce. When we’re in school, I feel like we have these preset goals that we all seem to follow, which is go to school, get a job, whether you want to pursue graduate school after that. There’s these preset sort of goals. And so they’re simple and straightforward. But then what happens once you achieve all of these preset goals, that’s when I felt lost. So in 2013, when I graduated and landed my first job, I felt lost about the future once the excitement of a new job calmed down. And I felt like I wasn’t working towards anything anymore. I was felt lost for direction with my career. And that’s when I picked up goal setting to help me navigate my public health career. Goal setting for my career has helped me develop a path I want to follow. So in terms of goal setting, with my public health career, I’ll write down things like different projects I want to work on, different individuals in my team I want to collaborate with, whether there’s manuscripts I want to publish out of my work, whether there’s a new role I want to work towards. So these are things that you can think about. And so think about the achievements and experiences you want to achieve whether that’s in the next 1, 5, 10 or 20 years. And of course, these things will probably change year to year and that’s why you want to reflect and sort of revise your goals. But it’s definitely important for you to have a direction for your journey. So that’s tip number two.

Sujani 9:46
And tip number three is to make yourself stand out and shine. So how can you add value to your organization and make yourself stand out? Here’s one way and this is the way that I’ve, I’ve approached this, it’s to be that one person in your organization that everyone recognizes as the go-to for innovation, or new advancements and technology as it applies to public health. So when your team thinks about you be known as a person who is knowledgeable of any new advancements in public health and technology, and or a different skill, and just be irreplaceable. So how do you do that? In order to do this, well, you need to first and most importantly, recognize your strengths and what you enjoy, because you’re going to be investing in this. So if it’s something that you enjoy, it’ll make it even more fun. And some ways to do this are number one, stay engaged in current news, news, and advancements within the topic area. And you can do this by following industry experts on Twitter, following different newsletters, or even universities, reading a lot. Secondly, you can strengthen your skills once you’ve identified that area that you want to become the expert in, through conferences, workshops, there’s great YouTube videos out there, there’s blogs you can read, there’s online courses. So essentially, you want to keep learning about this new skill or this new area. And finally, you will definitely want to market yourself within your organization. The best way to get the word out about your skills to support different projects that require this skill. You could potentially even host a lunch and learn, or mini workshop at your organization for this new skill. And you want to constantly put your hand up to provide your thoughts when projects with your skill are being discussed. And so on this topic advent, advancing your skills, I want to quickly mention one of the sister sites that I talked about in my timeline, because it fits- fits really well. And that’s the infographics101.com. And again, I’ll share more details via our resource page. But it’s essentially infographics101 for public health is an online self paced course designed with public health professionals in mind. And it was actually created after consulting with public health professionals to see if this was a skill that they were looking to build. We launched the course last year and have had over 100 students from over six countries enrolled. And so this is one example of a skill that I say that if you brush up on, you will become the person within your organization that will be known to be the expert in infographic design. So if you’re interested, definitely check out infographics101.com/course. And so that was my third tip.

Sujani 12:56
And to summarize it all, public health has taken me through a number of different paths. And that’s one thing I love about it. It’s such a diverse field that you could take your degree anywhere you wanted. You just have to be creative. And so I challenge you to think outside of the box, dream big, and venture out to find amazing opportunities that the world offers. My degree has taken me to serve as a public servant, start a not for profit organization and has even allowed me to dabble into entrepreneurship. And I know that my journey doesn’t stop here. I hope to use my MPH degree to further explore Global Health, Health Consulting, and even technology. And so my question to you is, where will your public health degree take you?

Sujani 13:47
I hope you enjoyed that episode and will take my three tips if you’re- especially if you’re looking to start your career in public health, and if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, head on over to pH spot.ca/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you. And if you’re interested in checking out the infographics course, you can head over to www.infographics101.com. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into the PH SPOTlight podcast 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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