If you’re currently a nutrition student, or you are thinking about a career or university placement in nutrition, keep reading to find out my top 5 tips! I first graduated with a First in BSc Nutrition in 2014. I worked for a little bit before going back to university to study for my Master’s in Nutrition in 2016. I’ve learned a lot over the last 5 years and I wish that I was told some of these things that I am about to share with you! While some may argue about the dangers of the internet, I think the younger generation are SO lucky to have so much available at their finger tips! If you’re interested, the Vlog version of this topic is available on my YouTube channel here. So what are my top 5 tips?
‘Nutritionist’ isn’t a protected term like ‘Dietician’, which means literally anyone can call themselves a nutritionist! Hence, all the social media garbage about water loss tablets, fat loss tablets and detoxifying foods that are often dangerously advertised by so-called ‘nutritionists’ that have no recognisable qualification. Therefore, I would advise that you either complete a degree that is ‘accredited’ or, apply to become a registered associate nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition via portfolio entry (e.g. you send evidence or work and experience), if like me, you did not study on a course that was accredited. When you are accredited, you have letters after your name and you are associated with a board. Therefore, having a clear distinction between those who are actually educated and those who just completed a level one in nutrition as part of their personal training, if that!
Research what jobs that are currently out there in the nutrition or public health world and print off the job descriptions / person specifications. Start to get familiar with the terminology used and start to recognise how the skills and knowledge learned on your degree match the requirements of the role, and see how much you could tick off. Then, identify which requirements you don’t meet and consider the ways in which you could meet this, by the time you graduate. Start to become aware of the jobs that sound interesting to you, and the ones that sound boring! One of the best things that could happen to you is to graduate and then go straight into a paid job in your field. Otherwise, you will be in a position where you’re completely desperate for money and will end up taking any old job that is completely irrelevant to the field you have spent years studying.
Having a degree means absolutely nothing without any form of experience, and the more the better! My advice is that any opportunity given is worth taking. Taking part in voluntary or paid work opportunities in nutrition, either through local authorities, the NHS, sports teams or public health projects are incredibly worthwhile. Write and email to people and organisations, asking for work and be open in letting them decide how much they could offer you. For example, a day here and there, a week during half term or perhaps on and as-and-when basis. In return, ensure that they would be happy to provide a reference for you. You will need to put down at least two referees when applying for jobs and in my experience, it’s better to have references that are fairly recent and in the field of work, rather than having a high school teacher from years previous or the head chef at your weekend job! If you’re not sure, ask your professor or mentor; they may be able to point you into the right direction for who to contact. From what I’ve learned, nobody is remotely interested in my First or Masters at all, but what they are interested in, is my content creation and my work experience!
Following on nicely from work experience, any paid or voluntary work experience that you do needs to be written down clearly. Write it on your computer and save it in to a work experience file. You should include:
- The name of the company/organisation
- what the company/organisation actually do
- what your job title was (put volunteer if you were a volunteer)
- what your main roles and responsibilities were
- what the outcome was that you/the organisation were trying to achieve
- lessons learned, such as positive and negative situations
This will all help you with starting to develop stories and experiences required for your job applications, or even your portfolio to be a registered nutritionist – even if you’re not going to be applying for jobs until 3-4 years time! Trust me, the more you have to write about and the more experience you have to share, the better! Additionally, any job that you are interested in and feel you wouldn’t meet all of the requirements, take the person specification with you to your job or voluntary position and ask if they will support you in gaining some specific experience.
One of the best things I have done for my career is creating a blog! This blog is now five years old! I remember the day I stared it. I was walking to the shop with my friend on our break while working for the NHS and I told her that I had this idea about starting a website where I could write about everything I know about nutrition, lifestyle, motivation and more. I had nothing but support from her and still do to this very day and I am so glad at that moment I was with a positive friend who supported my idea. Imagine what would have happened if I was walking with the wrong friend that day, the one that’s doubtful, jealous and negative. This blog wouldn’t exist!
This blog has allowed me to write SO much on job applications and, in every single interview I’ve had since this blog’s existence, employers have commented on my website. Furthermore, the ones who have hired me, have stated that my website is one of the main reasons why they chose me over someone else. This could be the difference between you and another getting hired! 2019 was my my website’s most successful year, 4 years since I started! Each blog taking me hours to write, with even more time being spent advertising to anyone who will listen and give it a read! In 2019 alone, I had readers from over 45 countries around the world and so this is not something that can be created half-heartedly, especially with how competitive the content creating world is! My advice would be that it is better to write quality content less frequently, rather than writing any old garbage for the sake of getting it out there. This is another form of work experience and so, if you feel that you’ve got what it takes to write an interesting blog, do it!
So those are my 5 tips for current and aspiring nutrition students. Was this useful? Comment down below, I’d love to hear from you!
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