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Tips for kickstarting your public health career

Tips for kickstarting your public health career

Dr Joanne Flavel and Melanie Parker, PHAA

PHAA have today released a resource that aims to assist student and early career members in finding public health roles. We know how daunting it is out there as a job seeker, and are mindful that student members, recent graduates, and those switching careers to public health will become the next leaders of our workforce. We hope that this member resource will be of assistance.

Here, we highlight a few key points from the resource for those starting out in their job search.

Don’t limit your search terms to “public health”

Many search terms job seekers can use to find jobs in public health don’t include the words ‘public health’. Public health is a very broad field with many subfields that perform a range of activities and functions. The suggested search terms in the new resource are not exhaustive. Think about topics you really enjoyed in your degree, and you may find that topic can also be used as a search term.




“Community engagement”


Not all public health jobs are advertised

Some tips for obtaining jobs that are not advertised include:

  • Attend public health conferences so you can get to know more people working in public health
  • Stay up to date on social media including LinkedIn. Make sure your relevant social media channels are active, and only publish what you don’t mind prospective employers seeing
  • Build your network through participating in public health organisation activities, such as those run by PHAA Branches and the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), or the Australasian Epidemiological Association
  • Contact organisations directly. Even if an organisation is not outwardly advertising a position, contact them and ask whether there are roles available. Remember to research the organisation first, to ensure you can explain how your qualifications and skills can contribute to their work.


Tailor your application to each job application

Don’t use the same application for more than one job. You can tailor it to the particular role by reading about the organisation first. If you have experiences from your studies that match the field the job is in or the kind of work they do, include this in your application to help it stand out.


Rejection hurts but can be a learning experience

If your application is unsuccessful, try to remember that a lot of people apply for any one job. Ask for feedback on your application when you are notified that you are unsuccessful. This feedback can be very valuable in improving your next application, or in knowing what gaps in your skills and experience you need to work on.

If you do get an interview but do not get the job, be proud of yourself. Making it to the interview means you made it to the short list and that is a fantastic achievement, and a great learning experience. Reflect on how it went, make notes on the questions they asked, and what you think did and didn’t go well. You can use this to do better at your next interview.

Don’t take rejection personally. Know that while your skills may be exactly what the employer was looking for, that employer also needs someone who will fit well within an existing team.


Maximise your chances by volunteering and learning new skills

Public health organisations like PHAA and AHPA are capacity building. They really want to help members learn because it doesn’t just help their organisation, it strengthens public health and health promotion to have people with the skills that can be learned from volunteering.


Joanne Flavel’s perspective: I had limited knowledge of public health and very limited knowledge of people working in public health before volunteering to join PHAA committees. Actively volunteering with PHAA helped me learn a lot about public health and build quite a large network, and I have seen so many students and early career individuals be mentored in volunteer positions and learn valuable skills.

Volunteering with these organisations can help develop skills including event organisation, teamwork, writing policy position statements, writing advocacy submissions to government inquiries, writing blog articles, communication skills, networking, and developing agendas and taking minutes. These skills can be included on your resume and used to address selection criteria in job applications.

Each PHAA branch and special interest group has a committee so there are lots of opportunities to volunteer. AHPA also has branches in all states and territories.


Melanie Parker’s perspective: When I decided to transition from an allied health career into the public health sector, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, while searching for opportunities to develop my public health knowledge, I applied for and was successful in getting an internship with PHAA.

I learned a range of skills, including helping write submissions to government consultations, collaborating on different documents, translating complex academic topics into pieces that are easier to understand, and more. This gave me invaluable experience which I can use across a range of topics and sectors.

My advice to anyone early in their public health career would be to get involved with PHAA or similar organisations (e.g., through an internship, attending webinars and networking events, or volunteering in one of the PHAA Branches, Special Interest Groups, or the Students and Young Professionals in Public Health (SYPPH)) and challenge yourself to learn as much as you can.


Dr Joanne Flavel is the PHAA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion SIG co-convenor and is member engagement secretary for the South Australian branch executive committee. Melanie Parker is PHAA Communications Officer and a Master of Public Health student.

If you’re a PHAA member: check your email inbox for today’s members-only Pump newsletter featuring the full PHAA ‘How to find a job’ membership resource. Alternatively, login and view on our website.

If you’re not a PHAA member and are considering joining: view member benefits and become a member here.

Image: Sanket Mishra/Unsplash


One response to “Tips for kickstarting your public health career”

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for sharing such an informative article. I really appreciate your time and efforts.

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