Top Tips

Here is our top advice for students about to enter the workforce, from our career profile candidates, and summarised for your snacking pleasure:

Consider volunteering. Being able to walk into job interviews with some real-world experience, even just a little, makes a huge difference. It tells them you’re committed and driven, provides proof you can work well with other people, and gives you something ‘real’ to talk about with interviewers, which boosts your confidence. Think outside the box too – experience in a community or sporting group can be just as valid as volunteering at a traditional public health institute.
Don’t expect to walk into a full-time, permanent role straight away. If you walk into a full-time dream job straight away, you’re very lucky. Many entry-level jobs are tied to a particular project or funding source. The upside of this is that there are always new and different roles and jobs popping up, which provides opportunities to diversify and learn new skills.
Your pathway may involve juggling a couple of part-time or casual jobs, which will enrich your skills and experience. Eventually something will give – either a small job will expand, or your growing reputation and network means you get offered a full-time job, or you’ll just develop a rich enough CV to a secure a full-time job through applying via a job ad.
Network like your life depends on it. University is a moment in time where you have incredible access to health leaders, who are your lecturers, tutors and supervisors. Make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to send them an email, invite them for a coffee and just ask about their work and what opportunities they might have for you, or introductions to others. Public health is a close professional community, so always have your best foot forward.
Be adaptable. One day you could be in a workshop with Department of Health staff, the next day you could be running a focus group with community members who seem like they hate the government with every bone in their body! Learn to consider and appreciate people’s backgrounds and skillsets.
Be curious. Learn to say yes! You don’t need to know what you want to do when you graduate, you just need to be open to trying new things, tackling new challenges and taking on different and unusual responsibilities. You never know what opportunities they may open up.
Be strategic. Don’t wait for opportunities to arise, create them. Identify the movers and shakers in the field you want to go into, and make first contact with them. Go to orations and talks where you know they’ll be presenting and wait around to chat to them. Ask mentors, colleagues or friends for introductions to people who can help get you where you want to be. Volunteer or join clubs or societies where you know your path will cross with those of important people.
You don’t need to ‘follow your passion’ to enjoy your job. Some people will tell you to do this. The reality is that most passions simmer and develop over time, they are a process of discovery. Many people don’t figure out what they are passionate about until they’re in their thirties or older! Working with friendly and interesting people, in a supportive environment where you are constantly learning can be incredibly rewarding and fun, regardless of whether the topic you are working on is your passion.
Remember an interview is also for you. Just as an employer doesn’t know if you’re the right person for the job, you don’t know if the job is the right fit for you. If you get invited to interview, plan some questions in advance and make sure you ask them. The same applies when you are considering a PhD supervisor – it’s a two way relationship.