By Nuna Kamhawi, Founder of Nutrition with Nuna, Host of ‘Getting Personal with’ podcast and Senior Nutritionist in the Nutraceuticals industry. (Instagram @nunasnutrition, Twitter @nunakamhawi, website www.nunasnutrition.com)
Are you a nutrition student or recent graduate? If so, this is a really exciting time for you! You are at the beginning of your journey and the possibilities are endless. Everything you do from now will determine your path and where you end up. This is also a bit of a scary time. It is completely normal to feel like you don’t know enough, even after you graduate. I personally learnt my most valuable lessons after uni, as ridiculous as that sounds! My nutrition masters taught me all I needed to know scientifically, but it didn’t teach me much about applying what I know to real life situations. That is something I have had to teach myself, and that you most probably will too. Below you will find 5 tips I have put together to kick start your career as a nutritionist, whichever path you choose to follow.
Put yourself out there
Build a portfolio separate to your CV. Whether this be on Instagram, Twitter or a website, the more platforms the better. We are living in a new world dominated by social media, and it makes sense to use it to your advantage. The majority of companies are online nowadays and your profile is basically your advertising platform. Use it to show off your skills and what you have to offer through blogs, infographics, videos or any other creative way, just make sure you stay evidence-based.
I know what most of you are thinking. It’s normal to think you aren’t ready to educate other people, when you are still learning yourself. But I disagree. I think you learn better by throwing yourself in the deep end. I know I did, and I am still learning! It’s okay to look back and disagree with something you once said, that is a big part of the industry we are in. Opinions and research are constantly evolving and it takes a professional to admit that they were wrong and that they have since learned from their mistakes.
Networking is key
I can’t stress enough the importance of networking within your field. We need each other as professionals to motivate one another, teach each other, point each other in the right direction and critique each other too! Don’t be shy to message other professionals on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. Whatever it is, most of us are happy to help. We are lucky it’s in our nature as nutritionists to want to help other people, including other healthcare professionals. There are some amazing groups on Facebook, ‘Nutrition Graduates’ being one, where you can really easily post questions and have other nutritionists give you their opinions and answers – I absolutely love using it.
It’s also a great tactic to message potential employers on social media too. Creating a relationship early is never a bad idea. Even if they don’t have any positions when you message them, they might come back to you in the future. Keep an eye on their Instagram stories and Twitter posts for available roles or internships as they don’t always post them on LinkedIn.
Be open minded
Nutrition is an area with many different avenues to explore. You may already have an idea of where you want to go with it, or you might not have a clue. Either one is great, and as I said earlier, you are at the start of an exciting journey, so just embrace everything that comes your way. When some doors close, others will open, and you will naturally gravitate towards a path that you are happy with, as long as you always consider your happiness. When opportunities arise, make sure you are weighing up the pros and cons, but don’t let your rigid plan stop you from exploring new avenues and possibilities. You never know what else you could enjoy and the skills you will gain from any job!
As nutritionists we are required to do CPD as evidence-based practitioners. This is the most exciting part of our careers. We are constantly learning and improving our knowledge so that we can deliver the very best information out there. Hopefully you love your chosen profession, and CPD is something you naturally want to do, without really having to make yourself. It doesn’t always have to be accredited, even listening to other registered nutritionists’ or dieticians’ podcasts are fun and educational. They will help you understand the way that nutritional information is delivered to the public, taking into consideration how things may be interpreted.
Believe in yourself
You are your own worst critic, and the only thing holding you back. If you believe you can do it, you have a much better chance of getting there. Get ready to make mistakes and learn from them, and get ready to be criticised. Not everyone is going to like you or agree with you, but it’s the way you hold yourself and respond that counts the most. If somebody corrects you, thank them, don’t get defensive. It’s always beneficial to hear other people’s opinions and advice. The majority of people will think what you are doing is amazing, but at the end of the day, it’s your own opinion that counts. If you strive to always do the right thing then you can’t do much else but try your best. Turn your fear and doubt into excitement and positivity! You can do this, you just need to start somewhere!