How I Got My First Job Working As A Dietitian
Ciara Hogan offers advice on what it's like working as a Dietitian in Industry, and some tips on how to enter the sector.
8th August 2017
Written by Ciara Hogan
My first job after college was with an Irish food company. In other countries, it’s far more normal for a Dietitian or nutritionist to be involved in the food industry, particularly in the catering sector, whereas in Ireland, dietitians are mainly found within the HSE.
The job advertisement sounded quite diverse and interesting. As I didn’t know what the food industry was like, it seemed the perfect opportunity to find out.
I started my first job on September 1st, having enjoyed my last summer of freedom for a little while! The job really was as diverse as advertised. My favourite part of the role was the advisory aspect.
I was responsible for a wide range of education activities such as advising colleagues in relation to the health and nutrition aspects of products, providing education and training to pharmacy staff to enable them to advise their customers on the benefits of various products, meeting with buyers to help inform the development of the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ sector in store, and updating dietitians on products of interest to their patients. I was also responsible for monitoring nutrition and health claims that the marketing department wished to make. This was to ensure they were compliant with EU legislation.
I also advised the marketing department on various food ingredients and products, allowing me to investigate many foods I would otherwise never have had reason to delve into in detail.
As time passed, I learned more about the challenge of producing healthy food on a budget.
For me, the less exciting part of my job included checking compliance with labelling legislation, and completing traffic light labelling for our entire portfolio; A colossal, never-ending task! I also took charge of maintaining aspects of the website and writing nutrition articles which expanded my skill set, and allowed me to be creative in my work.
I was grateful to have been under the watchful guidance of my manager, a fellow dietitian, without whom I would no doubt have stumbled. This relationship was both inspiring and reassuring.
As I grew in confidence, my responsibilities grew. I accepted more tasks and challenges, gaining a deeper understanding of the food industry, and in turn, the food environment we find ourselves in.
In my experience, it’s easy to be critical of dietitians who work in the food industry. Without having seen the inside of industry personally, what true appraisal can be made?
My own experience is but one insight into consumer foods, and has informed career decisions I’ve made. I believe this experience has made me a better health care practitioner.
To anyone considering a career in industry nutrition, I urge you, test it out too. There’s not just consumer foods to choose from, but also medical nutrition.
If you’re really interested in working in this industry, here are some tips to help you:
• Take a media communications course; you’ll be far more employable and confident in taking to the stage to defend sensible nutrition.
• Develop an insight into the world of sales and marketing. This will demonstrate that you’re interested in the growth of the industry.
• Keep up to date with topical issues in nutrition. Know what’s ‘trending’ and have an educated opinion on whether it deserves the air time or not.
• Know the industry you’re interested in. Seek out connections on LinkedIn, and take advantage of them. You might be surprised at the insights you get!
Finally, stay true to your core, stand up for nutrition and represent us well. Without the best dietitians and nutritionists in the food industry, we cannot hope to see a better food environment emerge in the future.