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Enjoying the Journey

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Intro
For most university students, free time is spent at the pub with friends, sleeping late, and perhaps cramming in some last minute study for assignments and exams.

But for a small group of dietetics students in Melbourne, the past few months have been spent organising a networking event for fellow ‘colleagues’, showcasing the possibilities in store for their future careers, and attempting to set minds at ease in the midst of an ever uncertain job market.

With an emphasis on highlighting alternative career paths in dietetics, aside from the clinical paradigm we are so familiar with, ‘The Journey’ invited an outstanding panel of dietitians to reflect on their careers and offer advice to a group of over 150 students and new graduates.

Tim Crowe, Heidi Sze, Karen Inge, Zoe Nicholson and Glenys Zucco joined students from La Trobe, Monash and Deakin University, sharing what led them to their respective careers and illustrating the diversity of options in what Karen described as a “brilliant” area.

Read on for the panel’s thoughts on…

1). An overview, and key influences on their career:

What do a university academic, two private practice clinicians, a media and communications manager and the director of a nutrition consultancy firm have in common?

Dietetics is a small profession, yet the contrasting careers of the 5 panellists emphasised just how wide the scope is for future employment.

Karen Inge commented on how far our profession has come over her 32 years in the industry. Dietetics was once so poorly understood when she first entered the profession that she was met with looks of concern when she revealed her job title – many confused ‘dietitian’ with ‘diabetic!’

Panellists credited mentors’ advice, and taking gambles on different and new opportunities, to their progression in their respective areas.

 

2). How networking has influenced their careers:

 

A self-confessed “queen of networking”, Karen reflected that building connections has shaped her career, establishing respect amongst colleagues in various areas, and also building firm friendships.  Other panellists echoed this sentiment, though most were also quick to agree that early on in their careers the idea of networking was daunting.

Private practice extraordinaire Zoe Nicholson discovered the power of networking when attending the 2010 DAA conference, and has never looked back. By talking and sharing ideas with fellow dietitians, Zoe felt less isolated and more socially connected with colleagues and friends.

Tim’s advice? “Start early, network hard, and do it for the rest of your career.”

3) Challenges throughout their careers: As all panellists share a presence in the media, a key challenge for each has been in correcting widely circulated misinformation. Just ask Glenys Zucco, who, after working for Dairy Australia for 7 years, has received her fair share of ‘hate mail’ from naturopaths!

The panel agreed that part of the challenge was in ‘caring less’ – knowing when it’s time to stop losing sleep over the next ‘fad diet’ or negative comments from trolls.

In the age of the ‘Instagram expert’, the experts were refreshingly unconcerned about the threat of diet trends and fear mongering. The general consensus was that although we need to ensure our voices are heard, we should not worry ourselves over current fads. As Zoe so eloquently put it, “For every one person listening to a celebrity chef, there are ten people who want to listen to a professional.”

4) How mentoring has influenced their careers:

Being a mentor, and a mentee, shaped the panellists in more way than one, with Tim Crowe equating the feeling of being approached as a mentor to  “getting a secret valentine!”

Romance aside, Glenys has also found colleagues outside of the profession to be instrumental in career progression, citing marketing and advertising as areas she has brushed up on as a result of mentoring.

Panellists talked about the invaluable experience and confidence gained not only through having a mentor, but by being one: Zoe Nicholson related how taking on new graduates had made her reflect more on her practice, and ultimately helped to improve her skills.

And how to find that perfect mentor? Tim recommends choosing someone whose career you admire, as they will be there to help you in the future.

5) Managing a work/life/family balance:

Unsurprisingly, each panellist cited prioritising family as their key concern in finding a balance. For Heidi, this comes naturally, with downtime and travel at the top of her list, while Tim admitted that his life is “consumed by nutrition” and that he rarely switches off.

Taking time out for exercise and maintaining a strong partnership to look after family and households were the main pieces of advice from our panellists.

6). What advice would you give students and new grads?

Heidi acknowledged the changing shape of the job market, noting that whereas after her graduation in 2008 she had little difficult finding her first grad-job, the landscape is now significantly more challenging.  She recommends focussing on areas of passion and up skilling on these – and a ‘schmick’ resume doesn’t hurt, either!

Keeping an open mind and considering other supportive study were at the top of the list for Glenys, who noted that qualification in areas like media training and project management only serve to improve job prospects in the future.

Similarly, Karen recommended developing financial, business and language skills to complement our multicultural society. Heidi pointed to the DAA small business manual as a starting point for learning the ropes.

The overwhelming vibe of the night was one of a supportive and inclusive industry, in which the audience was urged to remain collegiate and loyal to each other.

At a time when final year students will soon be competing against peers for grad jobs, this was timely advice.

To quote the winning social media hashtag of the night, #enjoythejourney.

“Now is the right time for dietitians; enjoy what you do, go for anything, and follow your passion!”  - Karen Inge

 

 

Comments

Tracey Emney: Founder and CEO n4 food and health

A great initiative from Dietetic Students.

Congratulation Felicity, Jacinta, Jessica and Emily on organising a great event for your peers. Well done!
By: Tracey Emney: Founder and CEO n4 food and health
Posted on: 2015-04-27 00:53:35