Be passionate, be proactive, and be personal. That’s Michelle Spehr’s approach to her career and her life. As a health and wellness consultant with the Benefit Services Group, Inc., her passion is helping others improve their well-being through health and wellness management programs. For Spehr, the well-being of others is personal.
“I was drawn to health and wellness as a result of my personal experience growing up with a family member living with end stage renal disease,” Spehr says. “Many diseases are preventable or can be better managed. I wanted a career that would contribute to helping individuals make lifestyle decisions that can prevent serious health issues.”
Spehr earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, and worked in marketing for several years. Driven to pursue a career that would have a positive impact on people’s lives, Spehr earned a second master’s in health education, with the intention of focusing her time in health and wellness management. Her career transition aligned with the changing approach to employee wellness among corporations, creating a promising job market for professionals like Spehr.
“One of the biggest shifts in health and wellness is the move away from an exclusive emphasis on physical health,” Spehr says. “Employers are becoming more invested in the overall well-being of employees.”
Spehr says this growing focus on employee well-being, and the demand for wellness programs provides new opportunities for people looking for a career in health and wellness management. As a way to reach out to students interested in the field, Spehr recently joined the advisory board for the University of Wisconsin’s online Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness Management program. The degree is a collaborative effort between UW-Extension and campuses throughout the state. Being part of the advisory board, Spehr says, allows her to share her knowledge and collaborate with academic leaders as they prepare students for a future in the field.
“I wanted to provide insight about what students should know to be competitive in the health and wellness management job market,” Spehr says. “Aside from doing well in their studies, students need to understand the importance of networking and being proactive.”
Spehr suggests that students get involved in industry conferences by serving as interns. She says organizers often need additional help and will sometimes waive conference fees for helpers. Conferences are an excellent way, Spehr notes, to get face time with industry leaders.
“Be proactive at these events and strike up conversations. It helps build your network,” Spehr says. “You improve your competitive edge and show that you’re serious about growing your career in health and wellness.”
Another key to advancing career prospects, Spehr says, is getting linked in – literally.
“You should be disciplined in creating and working your LinkedIn profile,” Spehr says. “Don’t make it just a résumé. Instead, brand your abilities in health and wellness, show your interest in the industry, and connect with key leaders.”
The changing role of health and wellness, Spehr notes, means more emphasis on the overall well being of employees, instead of just their physical health. Graduates need to be able to problem solve for employers and understand the components of successful wellness programs. She says these skills, combined with the proper networking, can lead students to a promising career.
“I love what I do and I want students to have that same passion for their careers,” Spehr says. “Health and wellness touches everyone. I want graduates to come out with a strong foundation in the practices, and be able to strategically approach the issues in the field so they can make a difference.”