The Networking Guide for Public Health Professionals

Networking is integral to any professional’s career development. It helps you connect with people who have the same interests, expand your knowledge and experience, and open up new work opportunities. Networking is not only essential for working professionals – students pursuing a qualification in public health, such as online MPH programs, can benefit as well. There are plenty of ways and spaces to network if you know where to look. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Consult with Program Advisers

Each student is usually assigned a program adviser after enrollment. Program advisers focus on academic work, but they may be valuable resources when it comes to networking. Program advisers often work with other professionals in academic and professional settings. They are likely to have an established network and can provide valuable connections and references. Advisers might also provide information on networking resources the school has to offer, such as an alumni network.

Visit Career Information Centers and Websites

Most schools have career information centers to help you connect with people and opportunities to advance your career. They usually have an established network of student organizations, academic departments, alumni and employers. 

These centers may also assist with writing a resume and cover letter, preparing for job interviews and building a professional online presence. 

Career information centers tend to have their own websites with information on job fairs, events of alumni as guest speakers, alumni-exclusive events or clubs – another excellent opportunity for public health networking. 

Start Internships or Volunteer

Public health internships and volunteering are great opportunities to apply what you have learned in real-world environments. You get to practice on the job while learning from experienced people in the field. The people you will meet while volunteering or completing an internship can become valuable connections for networking in the public health sphere.

Both internships and volunteer programs offer public health networking opportunities outside of official work hours, too. Company meetings, happy hours and other social events are all designed to promote networking.

Stay in Touch with Alumni and Participate in Alumni Events

Explore different options when looking for alumni associations to join for public health networking. You don’t necessarily need to be an alumnus of the university to become an alumni association member. While diversity is good, consider joining alumni associations that offer the most opportunity for public health networking. 

Look for associations from public health academic programs. The members of these societies are likely to be working in the public health field – and thus already have a network of connections in the field. Once you have joined one (or a few) alumni associations, keep up to date with events and happenings and attend as many as possible. Public health networking is a numbers game; the more people you meet and connect with, the more opportunities you create to meet like-minded people and get referrals.

Connect with Professional Organizations

Professional organizations do three things: help members stay up to date with developments in the public health industry, encourage professional training and development and facilitate public health networking opportunities. Additionally, some organizations issue professional public health certifications, and some are exclusive to their members. Here are some public health professional organizations you might consider joining:

  • American Public Health Association (APHA). The APHA encourages members to uphold the highest ethical principles and standards of practice. It offers various opportunities for networking in public health communities through membership, events and meetings. 
  • National Commission for Health Education Credentialing Inc. (NCHEC). The NCHEC promotes competence and professional development. Professional networking opportunities include study groups, career resources, lists of employers that recognize CHES designations, and a directory of health education and promotion programs. 
  • Public Health Learning Network (PHLN). The PHLN is the “nation’s most comprehensive system of public health educators, experts, and thought leaders.” It offers a Network Engagement Directory where members can connect to member institutes to promote networking in public health. The grouphas lists of regional public health training centers, hosts annual conferences, webinars and other gatherings.
  • Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE). SOPHE is a nonprofit with almost 4,000 members across the United States and 25 other countries. The group offers a career hub, online forums, volunteer opportunities, and hosts annual exhibitions and sponsorship opportunities that encourage networking. 

Attend Conferences, Health Events, and Meet-ups

Public health conferences cover a diversity of topics. Some address public health in general, while others focus on niche areas. It is a good idea to attend both.

While you can get a lot out of public health conferences by listening to speakers and learning about trends in the industry, one of the main benefits of attending is the networking opportunities. 

Join Social Networking Sites

Social networking has come a long way from sharing funny cat videos. Sites are becoming more popular and useful for professional networking. Some sites focus on connecting professionals. 

  • LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It offers groups you can join relevant to your industry, allows you to post content, engage with others’ content, and network for job opportunities.
  • Xing is a professional network very much like LinkedIn. It allows you to join groups and connect with companies and professionals in the public health environment. It offers event directories and job search functions.
  • Bark connects service providers with customers. It is great for networking as it allows people who are looking for your services to contact you while also giving you leads to potential clients.
  • Opportunity allows you to customize your profile, build networks with people from specific target groups, and get personalized sales leads and job suggestions.

Connect with the public pages for organizations you are interested in. This will allow you to connect with other individuals who are also linked to those organizations, including employees and recruiters.

If possible, keep your professional and personal social media profiles separate. Select a few professional networking sites to join and post regularly. The more often you post, comment, and interact on these networks, the more likely it is that people will remember you and engage with you more regularly.

Build Your Authority and Be an Opinion Leader

People can become authorities and opinion leaders in their fields by standing up and speaking out. Start engaging, writing and talking about the topics you are passionate and knowledgeable about. These engagements not only keep your mind sharp but also add up to build your portfolio. This portfolio can become a valuable resource for networking in the public health industry.

Dos and Don’ts in Public Health Networking

We have collected some common tips below from various career blogs to help guide you while networking.

Do:

  • Keep your messages short and to the point when connecting over social networks or via email. People don’t often read through long messages, especially if they do not know you well and if your message has reached them during their busy workday.
  • Make yourself memorable. This is especially important at networking events where you are likely to meet many people. You want to be the person they remember once they leave.
  • Follow up. A quick email or phone call can help maintain the connection you made. You can even suggest a meet-up to build the relationship if it feels right. 
  • Focus on making genuine, mutually beneficial connections.
  • Exchange contact details, and don’t underestimate the value of old school business cards.

Don’t:

  • Overstay your welcome. Not everyone is open to networking or interested in what you have to offer. Take cues from the other person and move on if you get the sense they are not interested.
  • Focus only on yourself, what you have to offer, and what you want. Engage with the other person to build a deeper connection.
  • Treat networking events as a personal social event. These events are for professionals to build authentic and valuable connections, so avoid drinking too much or treating it as “just another party.”
  • Sit around, waiting for others to approach you. Work the room and meet people. When someone approaches you or is introduced by someone else, stand up and look them in the eye to convey respect.
  • Neglect your network and only reach out to people when you need something. Valuable connections need to be maintained. 

Networking is vital for any professional, including public health professionals. It allows you to gain exposure to new developments and trends, share thoughts and ideas, create potential career prospects, and potentially negotiate for a better public health salary. All these networking resources above may be great opportunities to continue professional development in public health. 

 Information last updated October 2020

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