The Nutrition Talent team has been thinking back through our careers to identify what we wished we had known at the start of our careers. Here are Anna’s reflections on her career to date:
1. Transferable skills matter
This is something that we talk to candidates about all the time during Nutrition Talent selection processes and mentoring sessions, but I knew nothing about it at the start of my career. I didn’t realise the importance of transferable skills; skills you may have learned in a different setting or role that can be applied to your professional career. I spent many years working in a record shop before and during university, developing customer service skills, organisational skills and gaining budgeting and financial experience. However, I didn’t think to mention these skills when I was applying for my first nutrition role, not understanding that they are absolutely relevant and can be a way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. If you are at the start of your career, it’s important to think about what skills you may already have and how you can best bring these to life within job applications, and also how you can gain other transferable skills through volunteering or part-time opportunities. An important promotion was based on my ability to identify particular skills, and later on in my career, recognising key skills gave me the confidence to pivot to nutrition consultancy and recruitment at Nutrition Talent.
2. Crossroads can lead to opportunity
There have been a few different times in my professional life where I have arrived at a career crossroads and had to make a choice. Some of these have been at my own instigation e.g. applying for a more senior role, or deciding when the time was right to leave the security of a full-time role and venture into the uncertainly of freelance life; and others have been thrust upon me, such as having to decide between staying in the role I was in, and joining a graduate training scheme when a place was offered to me a year after applying. Although I am happy with the choices I made at the time in these situations, I also think that had I made different choices, they wouldn’t necessarily have been wrong. They just would have taken me down a different path and given me different experiences. It is vital to make the most of any situation you are in to develop professionally and grasp any opportunities that do come your way.
3. Overcoming adversity builds perspective
There will always be difficulties in any career path and how you handle those stumbling blocks is what is most important. For me, being at risk of redundancy from a job I loved was hugely difficult at the time, but also gave me the perspective to understand that in fact, although my role did end up being safe, the time was right to make a change and look for the next step up the career ladder.
4. Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to reward
There have been a few times when I have forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone, and they have been some of the most rewarding of my career. For example, taking a secondment into a global role taught me so much. However, becoming Chair of Nutritionists in Industry was probably the greatest example of this. It gave me leadership and management experience, raised my profile and increased my network, but most of all it improved my confidence. Early in my career, if you had told me in the future, I would regularly chair conferences, standing up in front of around 100 people each time, I would have thought you were crazy. But it really is true, that the more you do something that doesn’t come naturally, the easier it becomes. And chairing meetings or delivering presentations is something I actually enjoy now! It also helped extend my network which now really helps us hire great nutritionists for Nutrition Talent clients. So, putting yourself in those challenging situations can lead to considerable benefits further down the line.
5. Nourish relationships with the people you meet along the way
We hear time and time again from our colleagues within the nutrition community, that nutrition is a small world and I have experienced that throughout my career. Certainly, in my life as a freelance nutritionist, I have found that most of the work I have been involved with has been due to relationships built over many years and positive impressions made along the way through hard work and professionalism. However, this has not only been with fellow nutritionists, but also with technical, legal, marketing and PR colleagues, both internal and external to the organisations I worked for. So, remember to nurture and build those connections as you go, work collaboratively and of course be polite and courteous along the way, to benefit your working relationships now and in the future.