The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

Looking for Work in Dynamic Times

Emily Koebnick

It is an exciting time to be entering the field of public health. I write this as someone who finished her MPH and MPA degrees in March 2012. Several months before finishing school, I began applying for work. So far, I have applied for 50 positions and have had four phone interviews. I haven’t found a job yet, but I am not discouraged. I didn’t expect the job search to be easy. If anything, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that hundreds of agencies and organizations working in public health are hiring.

As someone who is surveying the field of public health as both a job seeker and a member of Generation Y, I offer two observations. One, new public health professionals seem to be looking for employment opportunities in public health, not necessarily life-long careers. Gone are the days when young graduates accepted positions that came with near-guaranteed life-long employment. Today’s graduates expect lay-offs and budget cuts. Yet being a young professional during a time of economic hardship is not necessarily negative. It is potentially quite exciting.

The reality of today’s public health is that it is undergoing a profound transformation. Ten years from now, priorities and funding streams will be different than they are today. My belief is that the new generation entering the public health workforce is well suited to enjoy the dynamism of today’s public health. The second way I see my generation contributing to public health is with technology. We now have endless tools to help us create solutions for complex problems. For example, the Internet facilitates easier and cost-less dissemination of successful programs and policies. Databases are forming as go-to places to find solutions for local public health problems. It is easier now than ever to locate a successful public health program and then e-mail the program manager to learn more. In a matter of minutes, important, useful information can be exchanged and the mission of public health carried forward. In my experience, the field of public health is a highly collaborative field. Technology can harness our collaborative energies and increase their reach.

I have many hopes for my future career in public health. I want to improve community health. I want to make "the healthy choice the easy choice." The good news is that many organizations are already doing this. I simply have to find my place at one. In my future workplace, I hope to clear up misperceptions about public health among the general public. When the public has a limited or an incorrect idea of what public health does, I want to help change perceptions. I want people to feel safe walking around their neighborhoods and have easy access to mental health care clinics. Finally, I want to become a public health professional whom future graduate students can call on for informational interviews. In my own search for work, I have found that people in public health are generous with their professional networks and advice. Someday, I hope to return this generosity and help the generations after me find their place within the dynamic and important field of public health.

Author

Emily Koebnick MPH, MPA, recently graduated from the University of Washington. She is currently looking for work.