In this series, recent grads share their journey to landing that first professional job out of college. After years of studying and working toward a degree, these Panthers’ hard work paid off. Now they’re paying it forward by letting you know how they did it.
Name: LTJG Javier G. Lopez Coronado
Hometown: Miami, FL
Degree/major: Master in Public Health (MPH) with concentration in Environmental and Occupational Health
Where are you working? U.S. Navy, Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi, TX
Title: Preventive Medicine Department Head
How did you get your job: In 2014 while I was living in Virginia, one of my best friends, USN LT Palomino, encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree and apply for the U.S. Navy. She contacted me with a recruiter and invited me to Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital in Twentynine Palms, California, to speak with some Environmental Health Officers. After that, I applied to FIU graduate school and started working on my U.S. Navy application kit, which meant I had to pass medical and physical tests at Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), take interviews with U.S. Navy officers, get letters of recommendation, and pass my security clearance.
My final kit was sent to the board at the end of 2015. Unfortunately, in that occasion, I did not make it. To be honest, I felt discouraged about the whole process. But then I read an anonymous quote that I still keep in the notes of my phone; it reads:
“Life is filled with happiness, sadness, tears, smiles, laughter, and other emotions but when life gets you down, just be strong about it and keep your head up high and have faith in all things in life. Always remember —God is at your side, always!”
I thought that was a sign— something that ringed true for my past personal and professional achievements, and the many trials I have performed to reach a goal. Consequently, I reapplied in 2017 and in April 2018, when I was working for the Virginia department of Health (VDH), my recruiter informed me I was selected for Officer Development School (ODS) in Newport, RI.
What was your greatest fear going into this job, and how did you face it or overcome it? After graduation, I moved back to Virginia, where I was hired by VDH. My greatest fear was if my lack of experience in the environmental health field made me a worthless asset to the workplace. Thus, in order to overcome this disadvantage, I started to help other coworkers with their duties, so I proved to them that I was able to do more than I was required. My proactive attitude helped me learn and opened doors throughout VDH.
What surprised you the most about your job? No matter how much experience, hired applicants always need adequate training that allows them to achieve institutional goals. I mention this because when I was looking for a job I was dissuaded to fill out an application by companies requiring certain amount of years in the field. Likewise, I was surprised by new hired employees with a vast of experience who lack of enthusiasm and passion for their careers. In my personal opinion, this is crucial if you are a leader and hope to go higher in the hierarchy of certain organization.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? If you are brand new in the job market, you must look for experience, how? There are unpaid internships and volunteering opportunities at FIU, state government, or private institutions that can help you to gain experience and most important “networking”. Additionally, PERSISTENCY is the key to succeed in your personal and professional life. My career path has not been easy, there were those gloomy days where I filled out those online job applications or those after interviews without a phone call, or those unanswered emails. However, after putting everything in perspective, keeping a positive attitude was critical to achieve my desired job. It is very important to be aggressive while you are looking for a job; in other words, submit cover letters, call or email the employers to know the status of your application, inquiry about if they already choose the candidate, etc. Remember, the door won’t open unless you knock.
What does a day on the job look like? As an environmental health officer, I have to provide guidance to my command in regards of food safety, drinking water surveillance, mosquito control, sexual transmitted diseases (STDs), tuberculosis, sanitation of living spaces, etc. methods of assessing threat. Thus, I focus on prevention and control of diseases, so I have to identify risks and develop countermeasures for actual and potential threats.
How does your job connect back to your coursework? It connects 100 percent. The Navy required me to take certain classes to be accepted into the Environmental Health Officer program and, for that reason, I choose Stempel College to get my master’s degree. Environmental health, epidemiology, biostatistics and health behavior are courses that I apply on a daily basis in my department. Additionally, I was very fortunate to have professors like Dr. Alok Deoraj, Dr. Miguel Cano, Dr. Mary Shaw and Practicum coordinator Florence Greer, who provided me with the foundations of public health; their lessons are valuable assets in my military career.
How has your transition from school to work? How do you balance your time? I already had a family when I was at FIU. For that reason, I had to study and work at the same time. Time management is fundamental in the military because you will need to set certain hours for your main job, duties related to your command, time for physical fitness assessment, family, volunteering activities, among others. In other words, you have to develop that balance between your job and personal activities.
What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far? I would say the possibility to travel to other cities or states to be trained. Professional development is a constant in the U.S. Navy.