I’ve definitely had my share of “aha” moments and life lessons through my wonderful career in the health and wellness industry. In honor of National Health Education Week 2014 #NHEW2014 (which was October 20-24) I’ve put together 8 tips that will help you in your professional development as you pursue a successful career as a health educator, wellness consultant, health coach, or potentially worksite wellness professional. Our profession as health educators gives us an opportunity to create a ripple effect and a chance to change the world – what an amazing feeling!
Quite honestly, these tips could serve you well regardless of your industry. Here goes!
- Write out what you want your future resume (or LinkedIn profile) to look like
This is a very powerful exercise that I would encourage you to do every 5 and/or every 10 years. If you’re in your 20’s, write out what you want your resume to look like in your 30’s. Once you’re in your 30’s, ask yourself what your resume will look like in your 40’s, in your 50’s… etc.
Aside from work experience, think about your education, professional affiliations, volunteering, extracurricular activities, recognition and awards, for example. How will someone describe you as a professional in the industry? What will make you different and set you apart? Look at others in your industry who have excelled. What attracts you about their profiles?
- Education/ Certifications
Never, ever stop learning! Question everything and seek professional designations that will help you stand out. I’m a health educator at heart but I went back to school and attained my MBA because I knew it would be of value as I entered the field of corporate worksite wellness. I also want to pursue a PhD (someday) and I will! 🙂 I have other professional designations such as CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist) and CWPM (Certified Wellness Program Manager). I’ve found that having these designations have helped others understand my specialty and niche in the worksite wellness industry.
Your education and certifications may be different depending on the route you choose. Whatever the route may be, education and certifications are important. They add to your credibility, expertise, commitment and dedication. Not to mention, increases your earning potential.
- Experiences and Curiosity
Work experiences, volunteering experiences, and everything in between. Be sure you experience as many different roles and opportunities as they will all add value to your future. Steve Jobs gave such a thought provoking commencement speech for Stanford where he talks about “connecting the dots.” Had he not experienced what he learned in the calligraphy class he chose to “drop in to,” as a college student, he would have never thought to implement beautiful typography on to the Mac. He talks about how he didn’t know at the time that this class or experience would be of any use to him, but years later, it all came back to him and made the Mac a differentiator. Having that said, nurture your curiosity!
- Network, network, network!
Social media makes it easy for us to network any time of day with people in various parts of the country/ world. But don’t just rely on social media. Use social media as one of your modalities to network but don’t forget about the value of good old face to face conversation and hand written notes.
When you attend professional conferences, make it a point to introduce yourself to the President of the organization and other leaders in the industry. Do your research on them and make conversation. Ask them questions and also add a bit about yourself in your introduction. Keep it brief but meaningful. Then, follow that up with a request to connect on Linked In and even send a hand written thank you note (if appropriate). You’ve got nothing to loose, they are normal people just like you and me!
- Seek to understand first
When businesses, organization, or corporations indicate they want a wellness program, don’t assume you know what they mean. Seek to understand first – the reason for the need, priorities and goals by implementing a wellness program. What are their business goals and priorities aside from wellness? What are their challenges and opportunities? What’s working and what’s not working? Ask a lot of questions! Don’t also assume that they will understand your wellness philosophy right away. You may (at times) have to educate them along the way as well. Be patient.
- Professional organizations
Becoming an active member of professional organizations will not only help you network, but can also help you establish leadership opportunities. Get involved. Read their blogs and peruse through their websites. There is a lot of great free information out there! Sometimes you just have to look! Check back on my blog soon for a list of some of the leaders in the industry that I admire and follow as well as the professional organizations that I stalk. 🙂
- Fake it ‘til you become it
Amy Cuddy gave an amazing Ted Talk titled “Your body language shapes who you are.” In this Ted Talk she talks about how she faked it until she became it and empowers you to do the same. As you begin your career, you may feel at times like you’re not good enough, or don’t know enough, or perhaps you’ll feel like you don’t belong there. This is where you’ll need to tell yourself that you DO belong there and fake it ‘til you become it! In her Ted Talk, she talks about her experience in attending Harvard and how she felt for a long time that she didn’t belong there. But she faked it, and soon after, she became it!!! Practice this in your daily life, fake it, fake it and you’ll soon start to become it. You’ll also begin to learn that a lot of people fake it and make up things as they go along… hmm.
- Keep your eye on the target
No matter what happens, you have got to keep your eye on the target! What ever happens throughout your journey does and doesn’t matter (sounds weird, I know). What matters most is that you know what your target is and that you NEVER keep your eyes off of it. It may take you a while to define what your target is, but even if your target is a bit blurry right now, it’s okay! Keep trying to define it and don’t take your eyes off of it.
Similar to Steve Jobs, he allowed himself to go through many experiences that were not directly related to the Mac, however, he was able to bring all of those experiences to use later in life. This is the similar concept. If you feel like you’ve fallen off track somewhere in your journey, just be mindful of that. When the time is right, revert back.
Good luck in your journey!! The health and wellness industry has so much potential and opportunity. Seize the day and get out there and change lives and the world! Please do keep in touch and feel free to reach out to me with any questions!