Your Career in Public Health Part 1: Building Your Network Virtually

So, lets take a quick mental break from Covid. I’ve gotten a lot of messages asking how I got my start in the healthcare industry. In all honesty, I attribute a large part of my career path to my network.

In some ways, the health care industry is huge, but in other ways it is really small. The healthcare is a (insert dollar breakdown of the industry) market, full of opportunity! But the catch to that is that the industry has never been so competitive to get into. Your network can give you a little bit more of an advantage than you would otherwise have. Lucky for you, we are in the age of social media! We have access to Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, all of that other stuff, so reach out to people!

*Disclaimer* Do not reach out to someone you don’t know for the first time asking for a job or reference. That’s the quickest way to lose a new connection!

Trust me, I know that it can be intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know for the first time; especially if you’re a bit more introverted. I’ve felt the momentary sting of not getting a reply, or even worse, being left on read. But lucky for us, the healthcare industry is a bit more nurturing than other industries. I’d say that about 8/10 times if you reach out to someone with genuine interest in their work, with the intent to pick their brain about something they’re equally as passionate about, they’ll be eager to share insight and guidance.

In my opinion, it’s worth doing a little professional research on the person you’re interested in connecting with. That preparation could be the thing that helps you find a connection point. LinkedIn is a great way to get to know someone’s career path and professional interests. Do a quick “LinkedIn stalk” and prepare some specific questions about things like why they chose to get into the career they’re in, or their opinions on current healthcare topics (straying away from touchy topics related to religion or politics of course).

So now you know a little bit about the person. It’s time to draft them a message. In my opinion, the most professional way to connect with someone you don’t know is LinkedIn. In fact, I love when people reach out to me for advice or insight, because I remember being in their position, and really appreciating the people that connected with me! Trust me, initiative goes a long way with people.

1. Keep initial interactions professional by starting with a simple ‘hello’ or 'hi'.

You probably don't have an existing relationship with this person, so don't act like you do. Never make any assumptions of how casual of open someone is, especially in your professional circle. First impressions are huge, and you never want to offend someone off the bat.

2. Include a short blurb about yourself.

This is where you get to highlight the impressive / cool things about yourself, where you're trying to get to AND subtly hint at why you're reaching out. But keep it short and sweet. Have you ever gotten a long text or message from someone and decided to read it later (then forgot about it?) I know i have!

3. Show genuine interest in their professional success or career path, and politely ask if they'd be willing to talk to you a bit more about it.

This is where you get to show some of that 'preparation' you did. The more you network, the more you'll find that people love to talk about themselves (especially if they're accomplished and can pass down some of the things they've learned along the way). This could be as simple as saying something like, "I see that you've done "x", and im interested in getting into the same thing. Would you be willing to share your experience?"

4. End your message with gratitude.

Remember, you're not entitled to anyone's time. Personally, I like to end my messages with something like "I appreciate your time, and I look forward to hearing from you" or something like that. People in the health care industry are busy, ESPECIALLY NOW. Try not to take it personally if you don't hear back for a while or at all. If you approach someone the right way, you can feel confident in the fact that people will be empathetic to your interest, confidence and curiosity. If they have time, and are willing to connect, they will.

5. Proof read and just press send.

Reread and make sure your message makes sense. They can't connect with you if they don't know what you're saying! Once you know the message is clear, don't over think sending it...just do it. You got this!

Okay so you’ve built up the courage to reach out, and actually hit send. Cool, that’s a great step! But now what? Because, that first step is only going to take you so far. Well i got you! Be on the lookout for part 2 of this post coming soon!

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