Preparing for the Practice Experience
In order to have a meaningful and valuable practice experience, the following are suggestions for establishing your practice experience:
Step 1: Organization of Information
Organize the information necessary for an effective practice search. Students are advised to search for a practice placement 3-6 months before the practice is to begin. Items helpful in seeking a practice opportunity include:
- Doing a self-assessment of your skills and competencies
- Determining your practice objectives and focus area
- Having a current resume or CV that reflects your skills set
- Writing samples
- Creating a networking contact list for your practicum search
*For assistance in the development of resumes or CVs, writing samples, and many other areas contact HSPH Career Services http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/careers/.
Step 2: Self-Assessment.
The starting point in the practicum process is identifying your skills and competencies. Questions to ask:
What are the practice requirements of my program?
What skills/competencies do I possess?
What new skills/competencies do I want to develop?
What is important to me in the work setting?
What is my function (e.g. outreach, financial analysis, program design and/or evaluation, etc)?
What level of responsibility would I want (e.g. supervision or independent)?
What types of organizational mission and goals are of interest to me?
What constraints are there regarding travel?
What can I contribute to an agency/organization?
What do I need to do to grow professionally?
Your resume should identify your skills and competencies.
A skill is an ability to perform an activity in a competent manner and It should be defined:
- Defined in action terms for example: “coordinate research projects,” “design and evaluate family planning project,” “perform cost-benefit analysis,” or “manage primary health care financing project.” Identify these skills from previous work experiences and your HSPH course work where you have gained experience.
- Reflect your knowledge of specific subjects, procedures, and information necessary to perform particular tasks. For example: knowledge of Microsoft Office or SAS; ability to speak and write another language; professional writing and publishing experience; or prior management experience.
- Personality characteristics contribute to expertise and can be expressed as: patient, diplomatic, results-oriented, and independent or team-oriented.
Step 3: Networking
Networking involves the development of relationships with people who can provide current information in your specific field of interest. It is also the best way to acquire a quality practice experience.
Networking is a skill acquired through practice. Many students take advantage of winter and spring break or long weekends to contact potential preceptors. Learn as much as possible about the organization ahead of time so that you have a clear idea of what questions to ask. Prepare intelligent questions that will draw the potential preceptor into a discussion that allows you to learn about the experience in the field and in this organization in particular. Ideally, you will also be able to demonstrate your knowledge or skills. Tasks for you regarding networking include:
- Locating resources to begin the networking process
- Identifying the network of people who can provide you with relevant information and referrals to those in a position to offer a practice experience
Potential sources to build your network are your practice course instructor, fellow students, faculty advisors, career service office and people you meet at organization briefings and through professional organizations or associations.
Step 4: Investigation of practice opportunities
The next step is to gather information, and evaluate practice options. You will want to learn about the agency’s profile, culture, mission, areas of specialization, major accomplishments, and current issues. The key is to find a practice opportunity that will contribute to the work of the agency/organization while enhancing your development as a public health professional.
Students are encouraged to seek information of practice opportunities and advice from their practice course instructor, faculty advisors, or fellow students. Useful information can be found on this practice website.