Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

SWCOEH IH graduate Steven Mills’ Guide on How to Land Your “Dream Job”

IH graduates 2023

SWCOEH IH graduate Steven Mills’ Guide on How to Land Your “Dream Job” 

HOUSTON (June 6, 2023) – Steven Mills, a NIOSH Trainee in Industrial Hygiene for the Southwest Center for Occupational & Environmental Health (SWCOEH), will begin a position with KBR as a Safety Professional with NASA this month. Mills accepted the position – pending graduation and transcripts – before graduating from the SWCOEH with an MPH in Industrial Hygiene in May.

“I am thrilled to say this is my dream job,” Mills said. “I am proud to have achieved it by setting ambitious goals and reaching them so that I can see the stars, pun intended.”

To show current and future trainees and residents how dreams can be achieved, SWCOEH.org asked Mills for his advice for prospective students.

SWCOEH.org: How did the application process come about? Was there a job opening online that you responded to? 

Mills: Before applying, I would frequently search for employment opportunities and openings through several job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. I came across a job offering from KBR looking for candidates to be hired by NASA Johnson Space Center for the role of Safety Professional. I specifically looked for jobs in the fields of industrial hygiene, safety, and QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, & Environmental), & EHS Specialists, carefully reading the job descriptions to determine whether they would satisfy the requirements for me to later eligible to sit for the CIH certification exam and for skills that I felt qualified for and comfortable with.”

SWCOEH.org: What was the application process like? Any insight on the interview(s)?

Mills: “The application process for the position was straightforward. Upon submitting my resume, KBR would evaluate my qualifications and contact me via email to schedule an in-person interview if deemed suitable. During the interview, we engaged in a relaxed conversation primarily centered on my previous work experience, skills, and attributes that would make me a good fit for the role. I emphasized my passion for people, which motivated me to pursue a career in occupational, environmental, and public health. We also delved into the job requirements, and I came prepared with a pre-made list of qualifications, highlighting how my abilities aligned with each criterion.

To conclude the interview, we enjoyed a pleasant conversation with Dr. Robert Emery, Vice President of Safety, Health, Environment & Risk Management at UTHealth Houston, SWCOEH-affiliated faculty, and a colleague of the interviewer. When asked if I knew Dr. Emery, I enthusiastically responded that I had the pleasure of taking several of his courses while in graduate school at the SWCOEH. I praised his professionalism, impressive certifications, and outstanding character.”

SWCOEH.org: What advice do you give future SWCOEH trainees in pursuing a dream job like this while still a trainee?

Mills: When pursuing your dream job, perseverance and ambition are essential qualities to cultivate. It is important to keep pursuing your goals and to remain steadfast, as you never know when an opportunity will arise. Throughout my journey of job applications, there were numerous occasions where I needed to make it past the resume/qualifications stage or was not selected for a position after a promising interview. While it can be disheartening to receive a rejection, it is essential to maintain a positive attitude and not let setbacks diminish your self-esteem. Maintaining confidence in yourself and your abilities is crucial, as it is necessary that when an opportunity presents itself, you dare to apply. No matter what challenges arise, staying motivated, taking steps forward, and working harder is crucial. If I had not displayed my enthusiasm, confidence, and commitment to industrial hygiene, safety, occupational, environmental, & public health, I might not have secured the position.

Additionally, it is wise to feel free to ask for letters of recommendation from trusted sources such as faculty at UTHealth or the SWCOEH. Networking is a powerful tool that can be utilized in all aspects of life, so it is important to perform well in your courses and have conversations with colleagues, advisors, and professors. By displaying your personality, you can make a memorable impression that others will take note of when you need to reach out for assistance. I am forever grateful to Dr. Emery, and should he require my help, I am available to assist him in any way possible.

SWCOEH.org: Anything else you would like to add about the job or the process of getting it? 

Mills: It is crucial to be comfortable displaying your true personality and to remain confident in the skills and education you have received. New developments are made every day in the constantly evolving field of science, particularly in occupational, environmental, and public health. Regulations and standards change, and emerging topics of concern are given increased attention alongside old ones. A passion for learning is essential in this field, as every day presents an opportunity to learn something new from those around you or in scientific literature. It is important to understand that the safety of those around you is your responsibility and to strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be. By remaining passionate and dedicated to your work, you can positively impact the world around you. 

The SWCOEH provides graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.