According to various medical experts, one of the most important steps to reopening the world is being able to track the spread of the coronavirus. The best method for doing this is called contact tracing. Essentially, it requires the careful investigation of social contact made by people who test positive for the virus.
That’s where you can help save lives.
We spoke to the team at Maximus, a company that helps the government fulfill essential services like this one, about how you could start your professional life performing an essential public service—and how your career could go anywhere from there.
What Is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is the process of tracking the virus’ potential spread by looking at a person’s recent social contact. It all starts with a positive test for the coronavirus.
“Someone will get a positive test result, and a case investigator will have a very extensive interview with the subject. Usually that person is an epidemiologist,” Chris Dabek, a Maximus leader running the contact tracing efforts explains. “They try to figure out everyone with whom they’ve come in contact to determine who could have been exposed.”
After that, those contacts are transferred to the teams at Maximus so they can reach out to those folks and conduct similar interviews. This allows investigators and public health officials to create a map for the potential spread of the virus and test anyone who may have been exposed.
Megan Weitzner, another member of the Maximus team who joined a year ago after graduating with a public health and political science degree, says the importance of these efforts can’t be overstated.
“This really helps the whole world. Our government partners need to know where the virus is coming from so they can stop the spread,” Megan explains. “That’s why the CDC is recommending so many contact tracers. These jobs can save lives.”
How You Can Become A Contact Tracer—And Help Stop The Coronavirus In Its Tracks
If you’re worried that you’re not qualified for a job like this, don’t be. The baseline skills are hallmarks of most STEM and liberal arts educations: curiosity, thoroughness, and the ability to identify key information. Plus, Maximus will provide plenty of training to prepare you.
“We’re going to train everyone on the process and the tools they’re going to use,” Chris says. “What we’re really going to need is a sense of curiosity and great interrogative skills. You need to be good at questioning people.”
While it sounds straightforward to go through questions about social contact, the best contact tracers are those who know when it’s time to probe the subject for more information.
“What we’ve found with contact tracing is that people tend to give short answers. Don’t just ask: ‘Have you come in contact with anyone?’ Tell them to walk you through their day. People forget important details or never realize that they are important. Little interactions can count as close contact,” he explains.
It’s an exciting, challenging job, and, of course, the potential benefits for public health and safety are massive. Lives will be saved and states can start to safely reopen.
Another distinct benefit: the work is not only high-impact, but completely safe.
“It’s a flexible working arrangement,” Chris says. “We’re hiring the way everyone is hiring right now: for people working from home.”
Contact Tracing Is Just The Beginning: Start A Career With A Huge Social Impact
Graduating at a time of crisis can be challenging. Fewer companies are hiring and plans you previously made may not be able to come to fruition. But a crisis can also be a call to action. That’s the case for Megan, Chris, and many of the other employees at Maximus.
“When I graduated from college, the first major thing that occurred was 9/11,” Chris tells us. “It made me refocus and rethink where I was going in my career. I knew then that I wanted to make a difference.”
Many join the team at Maximus because it’s an opportunity to combine their desire to do good with their business backgrounds.
“I knew that I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be in public health and I wanted to help the government, but I was curious about the private sector, too,” Megan says. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn about both.”
“To play a role in how states come through this and come to a new sense of normalcy is what’s at stake here,” Chris says. “After that, the opportunities are pretty much endless.”
For example, on one of his previous projects with the company—the rollout of the Affordable Care Act—Chris found that many of the people he hired grew into leadership and specialist roles that no one had foreseen at the beginning of the project. Finding that kind of flexibility and room for growth at a top employer is extremely valuable at the beginning of your career—crisis or not—and a career at Maximus offers that and so much more.
Ready to start making a difference—and start shaping your career? Check out open roles at Maximus on WayUp!