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How to Succeed in your Post-MPH Career Search: A Recent Graduate’s Perspective

November 28, 2018 | Vanessa Da Costa | Originally published in PH Spot

Looking for a position during or after completing your MPH degree can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming, especially while simultaneously trying to write a thesis, attend classes, complete homework assignments, work, volunteer, and take care of personal responsibilities- among many other commitments. However, there are ways to alleviate the stress and enjoy the process of securing a position.

Vanessa Da Costa, a PHI/CDC Global Health Fellow and recent MPH graduate shared some suggestions to enhance your career search process. 

Develop an application tracker using excel

Organization is key! Use Excel to create a job application tracker, which can include the following columns or anything you find relevant to keep track of your applications: Name of position, Name of Organization/company, Location, Deadline, Application Requirements, Website, Application Status. This is especially helpful when you need to prioritize and relocate certain applications.

Start early by reviewing job descriptions

Depending on the type of position it may not be feasible to start submitting applications more than 6 months before your prospective start date, however, you can still start looking at open positions to see what types of jobs are out there. Make note of the organizations and job titles that interest you, for future reference. This is something that first year MPH students or incoming MPH students can do to help them narrow down their interests, figure out how their skills align with positions and determine what skills they may need to work on or gain.

Quality is more important than quantity

One of the major challenges with applying to jobs is balancing quality with quantity. Yes, you do want to ensure you are applying to many positions, and one way to do that is to set small deadlines. For example, I made sure I applied to at least 2 jobs a week, or 8 jobs a month. If I was working on an application that was more extensive, I would give myself some flexibility. However, quality is even more important; make sure you are submitting applications that are your best work, fully thought out, and don’t have grammatical errors.

Ask other people to review your application materials

This can be a family member, friend, mentor, or anyone you are comfortable with. You don’t want to overburden them with every single cover letter and application you plan to submit, so have them review your cover letter, resume personal statement, etc when you start, since you will likely be using similar ones through the process. Be selective in what needs to be reviewed by these contacts, and give them enough time to review and provide you with adequate feed.

Pay attention to detail

Although you may have a go-to template for your applications, sometimes you will need to write a completely new cover letter or resume, depending on the organization and their requirements. Pay attention to specific requirements. For example, some applications may be specific that they require only a 1-page resume or have a word limit for personal statements or essays.

Utilize your University’s Career Development Resources

This is something I can honestly say I didn’t do enough of. University Career Development Centres are there to help you, especially in terms of resume development and interview preparation. Depending on your university, they may have workshops, networking events, and a job board or listserv!

Engage with Public Health Social Media Outlets

Many public health organizations, foundations, and companies post their positions on Twitter or Facebook. Follow organizations you’re interested in, engage with their posts, and also check in on relevant hashtags such as #PublicHealth #GlobalHealth #PublicHealthCareers

Align your job search with professional development opportunities and skill building

As you come across skills that you may not have but are willing to learn, consider teaching yourself skills via online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning or Udemy.

Take time to relax

As many people have said before me, applying to jobs is a full-time job. Despite the worries and frustrations you may have during the process, make sure you take a break and find time to remember the positive parts of the experience. You’ve made it this far, and you have a bright future ahead of you.

Don't forget to check PHI's job postings for public health jobs in a variety of sectors. 


Vanessa Da Costa is a PHI/CDC Global Health Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in South Africa.