Navigating Networking- It’s in the Details

January 15, 2014 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

By Mahelet Kebede, BA

As a first time APHA Annual Conference attendee I was both excited and nervous. I have been warned how overwhelming this convening could be for a newbie, but to my surprise I actually enjoyed my experience. Being that one of my main goals was to network with potential employers and the thought of talking to strangers frightens me, I was worried I may fall short of my target. Surprisingly, the Expo (where an overwhelming amount of people and employers were present) was the most exciting and fruitful aspect of the conference for me, it created the perfect setting for me to make connections.

Although it did seem intimidating when I first laid eyes on it, seeing so many organizations present and experiencing how diverse public health is really stimulated me.

Prior to my trip to Boston I researched which organizations would be present and checked out the websites of those who interested me. After finding less than a handful of vendors that grabbed my attention online, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to briefly visit them all during my first Expo run-through. Recognizing that I may get lost in the mix I came up with a gameplan to tackle all the booths (dedicating more time to those websites I found most interesting) and to gauge whether their booth had anything that stuck out to me. From this visit I took note of what theme stood out to me in their booth and where the organization was located in the Expo. I took what I learned from this exercise and used it to help me narrow my search, and thoughtfully prepare for my second run-through. The next time around the Expo I used that information to give an “elevator speech,” which emphasized my strengths that aligned with the organization’s focus. As I reflected on what piqued my interest in most booths, I noticed that many of the organizations I favored really focused on topics related to my internships with NNPHI and Healthy Start. This realization gave me a talking point to initiate conversation with a potential employer, and because it was a topic that I had experience with, I felt at ease during the interactions. This was a great approach for me because I was able to accomplish my goal of engaging potential employers, while also proving to myself that I am not as fearful of networking when it is approached with an angle.

The APHA Expo is a wonderful way to learn about various public health entities and what they are doing both locally, and globally. It is also a unique method to network and build relationships with other professionals in the field.

Mahelet Kebede is a second-year MPH student and MCHLT Scholar, concentrating in MCH and Health Education and Communication. She plans to graduate in May 2014.

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