By Anna Wheeler, Nutrition Talent Co-Founder
I had a session with my mentee today and thought I would write up a few reflections from the conversation we had, the relationship we have built and the journey we have been on together over the last three and a half years.
How did it come about?
- I first met my mentee when we delivered a careers session at King’s College London. She was a very keen student who came and spoke to me afterwards and we instantly gelled and got on well together. We met at a few other events and she asked me if I would consider becoming her mentor.
- That proactive and friendly approach was an important part of why I agreed – that she clearly cared deeply about the profession and her own career development, and took the initiative in taking steps to further her career as much as she could.
- We speak about every three months for an hour or so. As she moved out of the UK, all of the conversations have been digital. I hope we’ll meet in real life again at some point, but it works really well over the internet.
What do we talk about?
- What don’t we cover? My mentee is brilliant in that she comes to our sessions well prepared usually with a list of questions and things she would like to talk to me about.
- She has been on a real journey from nutrition student to her first post-graduate job, going back to further education and now setting up her own business so there have been lots of topics to cover.
- We sometimes cover specifics such as regulations, but often the conversation is around how to navigate particular situations – sometimes I can offer advice having been in similar circumstances, sometimes encouragement and I hope that I have helped build resilience to a certain extent by offering support through difficult times in the workplace or when tricky decisions have to be made.
- However, it is very important to note that these conversations are very much two way. My mentee will ask about my business, shows real interest in what we are doing at Nutrition Talent, our strategy and achievements and provides me with a different perspective and insights that have proven very helpful over the years.
What do I provide?
- Functional expertise
- Someone to bounce ideas off who has often been in the same situations before
What does this relationship bring me?
- Diverse insights, including building my understanding of food and professional experiences in different cultures
- Deeper understanding of someone else’s nutrition career over time
- A sense of satisfaction that someone is interested in learning from my experience
- Pride in watching my mentee go on to do great things
Should you look for a mentor (or mentee)?
- When we run careers sessions in universities for nutrition students nearing the end of their courses, we encourage people to look for a mentor particularly if they are planning on going into private practice working with clients or doing freelance work. These areas can be difficult to navigate alone, without the support and experience a team can bring. Having the guidance of someone who has been in the profession for some time can provide reassurance and functional expertise. It is also an AfN requirement for Associate Registered Nutritionists working with individual clients.
- However, having a mentor shouldn’t only be at the start of your career. I have had many unofficial mentors throughout my career, and as well as being friends and business partners, Danielle and I mentor in each other in many ways. It’s something we both value enormously.
- I was delighted to find out my mentee has just become a mentor to a student just starting out in their career and as she put it, “the positive cycles continues to the next generation”.
- You may be at the stage of your career where you feel you are able to offer that same support to someone as a mentor, and this doesn’t have to mean being in a senior role.
Top tips for how to find a mentor
- Try to find someone within the profession that you admire, and who works in an area that interests you.
- Think about what you can offer them as well as what you may gain – always remember it is a two-way relationship.
- It is important to make sure you are going to gel with the person who will become your mentor – try to build a relationship with them before asking about mentoring whether that is in person at an event or digitally.
- Be brave and ask! The nutrition community is a wonderfully supportive group of people and generally people won’t mind at all if you ask them to consider being your mentor.
- On the flipside, don’t take it personally if someone isn’t able to help you. Nutrition professionals tend to be very busy people and they may not have the capacity to mentor you.
View from my mentee:
“Where academic learning often doesn’t include practical application, mentorship with Anna has helped me to stay focused and not give up the path I have chosen. Resilience I built with Anna keeps me going today.”
Overall, mentoring is a wonderful opportunity for both people to build an energising professional relationship and friendship that provides benefits for career development, as well as personal and professional growth.
Nutrition Talent career conversations
At Nutrition Talent, one of the things we have enjoyed most over more than five years of running the company is connecting with people across a wide range of nutrition sectors and jobs and sharing our perspectives built from a combined 40 years of experience working in nutrition roles. One way we do this is through the free monthly career conversations we offer to our community. These can be used to discuss anything career-related, wherever you are in your career and therefore they can be used as one-off mentorship.
Register with us to gain access to the next available dates.