What Does it Take to be a Public Health Inspector?

It’s quite an honor to become a public health inspector. After all, it’s like being a superhero – the public doesn’t care for you until something goes wrong.
There are downfalls as well. You’ll never go back to eating week old takeout without thinking about the risk, going to swimming pools that smell so strongly of chlorine and lastly, but certainly not least, watch submissively as a stranger coughs openly into the air. Along with these and a few other downfalls, there are so many more rewarding aspects of being a PHI. So this blog is here to help you become one.
I have taken it upon myself to ask other PHI’s what they would like to tell students and what they wish they knew when they were students themselves. I took what they had to say and comprised a shortlist, to help you get your foot in the door.

1. Stay positive. This is especially true when applying for summer positions that you think will make or break your career. It’s all about timing really and if you are ready for that practicum. For those of you in the fast-track program, time is not on your side but, your faith should be. Faith in your abilities is key as your unique background gives you a significant advantage. Even if it has nothing to do with public health, your maturity and experience in the game we call life is what sets you apart.

2. Don’t be desperate. This was repeated so many times that you might as well engrave it into your minds. PHI’s can smell desperation a mile away and unfortunately students often can’t help exuding the odor. Be confident in your ability and know your worth.

3. Communicate, communicate and while you’re at it, communicate some more. Do you know how to communicate? If you don’t, then learn. Communication is 90% of what PHI’s must do. Written, verbal, non-verbal, formal, informal, it all counts. It isn’t as hard as it sounds either. It just takes practice. Trust me, this process is sweaty, takes a lot of handshaking and courage. It will take a lot of practice but it won’t only help you in your professional career, it will help you in your personal life. As a professor of mine once said, it’s harder talking to your family about public health. So take chance, go out there, meet new people and soon you’ll be able to communicate with the best of them.

4. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Now this saying is repeated all the time. And it is true, to some degree. “Putting a face to the name” is very important to PHI’s as it’s a small community. And as one mentioned “they are all getting old so you have a better chance!” Now, knowing the community of PHI’s won’t help you on your board exam but it will when you’re looking for those beautiful summer practicums. So go to networking events – and this word is ecstasy business but frightening for science students – , go to conferences

5. Take advantage of your opportunities. You’re attending such a diverse school that wants you to be more involved, why not take advantage of it? Yes you have school, jobs and families but just going to your class isn’t enough. From going to seminars, workshops, volunteering, you have so many opportunities to add the words “interpersonal, “interdisciplinary”, and of course, “communication” skills to your resume – and really mean it.

So I really hope this helps and I will leave you with some more last minute tips:

Learn about the health unit you are applying for. I was asked specific questions like what cities are in the region and why I want to work for this region in particular.

Think about your goals. There is so much you can do with the knowledge you’ve acquired. If you want to work in the private sector, some companies don’t require you to be certified so do your research!

Forget the competition and apply for the job. As one inspector said, even if someone is really qualified, we look at how they will fit into our team. Not everyone will have the maturity, the determination, or the communication skills that you possess!