Q&A Series – Part 2

Carl Swanson finished his Masters in Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. Upon graduation he returned to his hometown of Victoria B.C in the hopes of landing a job there – close to family and friends. However, similar to post graduates across the country, things did not materialize the way he expected. Read on to learn more about his challenges and his advice to those struggling to find their first job. If you haven’t read part 1, read it here.

As a professional who has applied for various jobs and now a manager, what would be your biggest advice to candidates?

One of the hardest things new grads will experience is trying to ‘break’ into the system, and land that first interview and work opportunity. Public service, because let’s face it – if you have a MPH you’re likely going for government work in one form or another – you’re competing with any number of internal candidates who will get preference over you; particularly if it is a unionized position. I remember sending off my 100th application wishing that somehow that I hit the magic number and would get a call back.

The real story is that much of getting an interview is the timing of when you apply, and what is going on within the organization. If they already have a qualified person working in the department that works well with the team, they may well just be posting the position because they have to. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t let the job descriptions dissuade you from applying for jobs that you think that you are suited for, both professionally and terms of your personality and interests. Employers will use job descriptions that are standardized and will often have requirements that are based on the most preferred credentials that you may or may not have, making you think that you shouldn’t bother to apply. If you feel that your skill set and professionalism lends itself to the work, don’t let the job description dissuade you. Managers, when given discretion, will seek staff who they feel are highly competent, but also a great fit for the workplace and who will enhance the overall group dynamic and performance.

If I didn’t take a chance on various vacancies, and if my managers and directors didn’t take a chance on me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Besides, after writing so many applications, what’s one more?

What do you think has been one of the driving forces/factors for you to move up in your career?

Persistence, and patience. Admittedly, my patience was certainly tried where I was looking for work for the better part of a year at one point but you only need that one foot into the door to launch a very successful and fulfilling career. Once you get your opportunity and show your capability, you’ll find your next steps to be easier to take. Just always remember that a better title and pay doesn’t always equate to the best decision. People will spend their lives trying to find the right fit for them where the work is validating and the workplace is supportive. Money is a great incentive but not worth your stress and happiness in the long term.


About Carl

I graduated with an MPH, focusing on infectious disease epidemiology and public health policy, from the University in Saskatchewan in 2013 with a background in cell biology & genetics from the University of Victoria.

After taking contract positions in Nova Scotia and Ontario in Communicable Disease operations and policy, I was finally able to return to my home in Victoria, BC where I work as the Regional Manager of Communicable Disease Programs for Island Health Authority.

At the time of writing this, I am helping lead the development of supervised consumption services (SCS) in Victoria in response the the Public Health Emergency announced by the BC Ministry of Health in April 2016. This includes drafting and submitting 2 applications to Health Canada for exemptions under Bill C2: Respect for Communities Act.

When not at work, I enjoy returning to my geeky routes including computers, table-top gaming, and the plethora of craft beer available in Victoria. When it isn’t raining (it is the west coast, after all) – I love being able to get on my bike and ride along the shoreline.

I’m really excited and passionate about supporting and providing insight to anyone interested in Public Health as to what the life looks like after school, what to expect, and how to maybe get there. After going through the process myself, I’m very happy to provide any insights that I may be able to give to students and grads about what our work is.