Written by Charlotte Turner
My experience of being a nutrition student was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures. Exhausting because I was working 2 jobs and in my final year travelling from Bristol to London for university to save on the costs associated to living in London and exhilarating because I thought the course and content was worth it.
I remember the days after completing my dissertation. I was a mix of emotions exhausted, excited and relieved to have completed my masters and heading towards my career goal of becoming a nutritionist.
It was in my final year that that I started to think: What’s my first job going to be? How do I gain experience? The first question led to extensive googling, updating my CV and trial and error in interviewing. My foregone conclusion was that it was hard to get any real interviews without any experience, especially in a profession whilst extremely valuable, is sometimes oversubscribed and under-prioritised by many companies.
So that led me to figuring out how would I gain experience? After much persistence I was lucky enough to start working in a mental health clinic as their nutritionist which provided a supportive MDT team and client base to learn from. It was probably my 150th job application that I made so if you are reading this my first tip is perseverance pays off!
Once I got that first and crucial role, I then used the learnings to leapfrog to the next role and subsequent roles prior to starting my own clinic. It’s been an exciting journey, but I certainly remember those early few years well. In hindsight, I wish I had tried to expand my skill set in my early years, this would have helped me find a role a lot quicker and get past the barriers to entry in a crowded space.
Here are 2 top tips that hopefully help you:
1. Find a mentor/career coach and volunteering opportunities
This can be the most valuable experience for graduates. We are always learning and having a mentor can help guide you, provide support and help when you get stuck. You are not expected to know everything from day 1. As part of the services, we provide at the health nutritionist you can book me for a 1:1 career coaching session for £30 per hour. In the early days this can help you feel reassured and confident before a consultation or even if you are stuck with your case load speaking to someone can really help.
2. Nutrition consulation training
We provide lots of free role play exercises at regular intervals throughout the year which we find benefits students and recent graduates. The exercises mimic online consultations or interviews that they may have to undertake. We also run official nutrition consultation training once a month in small interactive groups. I am so pleased to have received encouraging feedback and many nutritionists have booked on the course more than once as the advice and support was so helpful. The thing I missed was a framework or guide when starting out and that’s what we have tried to achieve though the course content.
Lastly, it took me quite a while to get my clinic off the ground and it can seem quite a lot of effort on some days. I’ve not met an unsupportive nutritionist as yet, so please do reach out to us and we can try and support you along the way. It’s nice to build a community. The work of nutrition graduates is really great examples of this. Try and support other nutritionists and you’ll find that you can find a solution to the problem a lot quicker.
I hope this article helps and reassure you that a little bit of persistence certainly pays off.
Charlotte Turner RNutr is the founder of Health nutritionist a growing community of nutritionists and dietitians that provide evidence-based consultations, corporate talks and nutrition training. https://www.healthnutritionist.co.uk/nutrition-training