Using LinkedIn to Your Advantage: Careers Advice in Public Health in 2022, Part 1

The public health workforce is not okay. In this series of articles, I will share what it has been like to work on the public health frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these experiences have changed me forever. I will share the lessons I have learned and what I want the people around me to know, both inside and outside of the public health sector.

I’ve been searching for a public health job on and off for more than 20 years: does that make me an expert, or by definition, not very good at it? In a previous column, I shared some examples of worn-out job search advice that no longer applies to public health in 2022. Based upon my personal experiences, and the input of my friends, colleagues, students, and contacts, I have been developing some suggestions for career advice in public health that is actually relevant today. Please find here the first installment, focusing on use of LinkedIn, the social media site for professional interests. As ever, please take my advice with a pinch of salt and a hefty dose of cynicism. 


It is my strong suspicion that most job opportunities come from personal networking connections rather than openly advertised recruitment processes. So network network network. Transfer all previously received wisdom about networking in person at conferences and meetings to their online equivalents, which can often be a lot less hierarchical. LinkedIn is your friend, and it is pretty much unavoidable in the search for #publichealthjobs. 

Especially for a confirmed introvert such as myself, LinkedIn is a whole lot easier to navigate than in-person conferences, with the added bonus that you can simply log out as soon as it all gets too much. Come out of your shell a little online and reach out to develop and shape a professional network that will be an asset to you throughout your career. I have listed below some helpful people to follow on LinkedIn, whose posts I have found to be currently relevant for job hunting in public health.

Profile and connections

Many skilled experts have posted general tips for developing your LinkedIn profile, so I will refrain from repeating what’s readily available online, other than to reiterate what’s especially relevant in our public health niche. Use the job title you want and the language of the job advertisements to which you aspire. Speaking of aspirations, avoid using the word “aspiring” in your profile: tell me what you are ready to take on right now, even if it’s a stretch. 

Set your sights on the organizations that you want to work for and cultivate personal connections. Develop linkages with people who have the job title you want and work in the area or organization that you seek. Follow their posts and interests, see what skills and topics they are posting about and prioritize for discussion. They might not be recruiting for particular vacancies right now but maybe in time they will be. Engage with them in online conversation in the comments if you’ve got something valuable to say. Perhaps even more importantly: don’t engage with them if you haven’t got anything valuable to say. 

When you attend a professional meeting or webinar in your chosen field, pursue contact requests with the speakers whose messages have resonated with you. When you read a key document or article in your professional area of specialization that makes you nod in recognition, connect with the author. Consider messaging them with some feedback or a follow-up question. Tell them what resonated with you and what else you were wondering about. You are not directly pursuing a job opportunity, you are expanding your professional network. 

Seeking informational interviews can be a helpful strategy at the right time. But don’t make a new connection and then immediately pester them asking for a time to meet for an informational interview. First, watch and learn. Respond to their posts every now and again. Take your time getting to know the impression that they want to make on LinkedIn before approaching them. When you open a conversation, refer back to what you already know to be their professional interests.

Remember that the job interview process is also a part of networking. Even when an application is unsuccessful, follow up to make connections on LinkedIn and cultivate networking opportunities with the people that you got to know through the recruitment process. (Yes it’s awkward if they ghosted you. Get over it — you’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.) These people are going to be the first to know when another position becomes available on their team and you want them to continue to think highly of you. Don’t burn any bridges. The people who I have watched ascend career ladders are the people who have navigated professional relationships and played the long game. 

Finally, don’t buy into the harmful myth that any of this mess results in a true meritocracy. Like the sorry state of the academic employment market right now, so much of it is sheer luck; luck that has historically been distributed along lines of privilege including race, gender, and migration status. Be in the right place at the right time — how do you plan for that? I truly see LinkedIn as a part of the answer to that question.  

Next week I will offer more advice for building a career in public health in 2022 beyond LinkedIn, and I’ll respond to some of the specific questions that I have received.

Please let me know what you think of these suggestions and share your own tips for developing a public health career in the comments or on LinkedIn.

Read previous columns in this series:

Author Profile

Katie Schenk
Dr. Katie Schenk is an infectious disease epidemiologist and public health informatics specialist. She has been working on the public health frontline for governmental Health Departments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, Dr. Schenk is serving as a member of the US Medical Reserve Corps at COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites. She teaches Public Health and Global Health at American University in Washington DC and George Mason University, VA. Previously, Dr. Schenk led a portfolio of social and behavioral research studies on children and families impacted by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa at the Population Council. Visit her website: Follow her on Twitter: @skibird613 and LinkedIn: dr-katie-schenk-4a884b84

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  • Network network network!!
    Thank you so much for this valuable insights.

  • PS Forgot to say: also remember to use the LinkedIn bell feature to prioritize the people whose posts you really want to see!
    Game. Changer.

    Click the bell symbol 🔔 on the right of anyone’s profile to make sure you see all their posts. Try it out and start off with mine! (Am I late to the party? Did everyone already know this except me?)