Earlier this week we had the opportunity to interview a current employee of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Madie Newman is the Indiana Healthy Communities Program Coordinator for the Wellness Council of Indiana. We asked her about her college experience and how it helped her prepare for her professional career.
Indiana INTERNnet: What is your current position and what does it entail?
Madie Newman: I’m the Indiana Healthy Communities Program Coordinator for the Wellness Council of Indiana, which is a subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. I work with communities across the state to help them assess programs, services, and infrastructure, and create goals to improve community health and quality of life.
IIN: When did you decide to start searching for an internship?
MN: It was a requirement for my undergraduate degree at Indiana University (IU). I was public health major and I knew I wanted work in a community setting, so I interned with IU Health Bloomington and worked with their community health department on several youth health initiatives. I also completed an internship with Bloomington Parks and Recreation through AmeriCorps while I was completing my degree. Then, before I decided to go back to graduate school, I completed a year-long internship with Hoosier Energy and the wellness team there.
IIN: How did your internships help your skill set develop?
MN: Each of my experiences allowed me to work with very different populations, so I was able to really develop great communication skills first and foremost. You learn to frame topics and conversations in a way that many different groups can understand and relate to, which is an important in any workplace. For example, when I interned at IU Health Bloomington, I was teaching 5th, 8th, and 10th graders about reproductive health. If you can learn to be comfortable talking to 5th graders about reproductive health, you can talk to anybody about anything. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone a little to gain those skills. I was also able to ask my co-workers and preceptors questions to really understand different areas of expertise within each of my internships as well, which helped me to narrow my focus.
IIN: What career advice would you recommend to others searching for internships or jobs?
MN: Have an open mind. Many people, myself included, have started a job search by looking for titles they think they want rather than looking for companies that would be a good culture fit for them. The environment you work in and the people you work with every day are much more important than any job title you are going to have. Find an organization you want to work for because you connect to their mission and values first, then figure out how your skills are transferable to open roles that are of interest to you.
IIN: How did you separate yourself from other candidates?
MN: I tried to really highlight my skills and expertise to my network and figure out what connections I could make to organizations that way in addition to applying for things online. It’s so important to create and maintain relationships with your peers, colleagues and mentors, and those relationships almost always lead to opportunities you wouldn’t have had just by submitting a standard cover letter and resume to an organization. If you are applying for a position at an organization where you have no contacts, cater your application to the position and don’t be afraid to include or omit certain experiences. Include past experiences that are relevant to the position you seek and really highlight the skills you have that would be useful in the position you are applying for.
IIN: How did your development with your previous internships prepare you for your career?
MN: My internships were grounded in community work and my audiences were often times a mix of children, teens, and adults so I had to really learn to present information in ways that everyone could understand. It helped me to think about issues and my work from multiple perspectives. My time spent at Hoosier Energy really inspired me to go back to school to pursue my Master’s degree in environmental and occupational health, so that helped me to gain even more skills and knowledge that I put to use at work every day.
IIN: What’s one thing you wish somebody would have told you in advance about public health?
MN: You have to have a lot of compassion to work in the public health field, especially when you’re trying to get people to change their behaviors. Sometimes you might feel that you are working hard but not making progress because it is really difficult to change people’s perceptions about health issues, especially if it’s a matter of personal health. The reward of hearing personal stories of how my work has positively impacted someone’s life or impacted an organization in a positive way always outweighs the challenges of the job though.
IIN: How should someone prepare for a role like yours?
MN: Talk to as many people as you can about specific disciplines because public health is a very broad field. I chose to go back to school to narrow my focus, but if you start exploring disciplines and different environments that you’re interested in early, you can quickly figure out what you like and what you don’t like.
IIN: What would you look for in a candidate if they were replacing you?
MN: Someone who has a lot of experience working with diverse groups of people in community settings. They would have to be able to really connect with people and know how to stay organized when dealing with many different community sectors. Honesty and transparency are also extremely important in my job and people have to be able to trust me and trust in my ability to provide resources, connections and tools for them. You have to be a people-person to work with the groups I work with.
IIN: What attracted you to this career path?
MN: I grew up playing soccer competitively, and I always thought I wanted to be a physical therapist when I grew up. When I got to IU, I quickly figured out that there were so many other options in a health-related field, and I knew I wanted to work with people, so I was drawn to the public health career path. I had some amazing professors who allowed me to work on research projects and become very active in the Bloomington community, so I got some great experience through those opportunities and knew that this was the field for me.