Make the most of your fieldwork experience!

Fieldwork is an opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom, become a part of a public health team, explore different career paths and network.  It can also provide a supportive environment to expand your comfort zone.  If there is a skill you feel is essential to your future success as a public health professional, fieldwork is the perfect time to cultivate it.

Before selecting a fieldwork placement, I suggest making a list of concrete skills or experiences you wish to gain beyond your school’s requirements or your desire for more work experience.  This can help you narrow down your search and give more focused responses during your interviews.  Once you receive your placement, you can tweak your list to make it more specific to your job assignment and work site.  Don’t forget to share your list with your preceptor, ask for input and revisit it periodically with him or her throughout the course of your placement.

Remember, fieldwork is an extended audition for future employment.  Be on your best behavior.  Here are ten tips to help you exude professionalism:

  1. Be on time.  Better yet, be early!
  2. Maintain a neat and well-groomed appearance.  Dress for success, even if the workplace observes casual Fridays.
  3. Stay off social media and shopping websites while at work.
  4. Proofread your e-mails.  Use formal language and proper capitalization.  Do not use texting abbreviations or emoticons.
  5. Do not text or play on your phone even if everyone else seems to be doing it.
  6. If you need to take a personal call, make sure you find a private place to speak.
  7. Always carry a notepad and pen, and take good notes.  You don’t want to overlook assigned tasks or have someone repeat instructions to you.
  8. After receiving instructions, verify that you have taken accurate notes and seek clarification if necessary.
  9. Update your preceptor regularly regarding any progress you have made on a project.
  10. If you have “nothing” to do, ask how else you can help!
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