I studied Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Wollongong, graduating way back in 2008 and was one of the ‘lucky’ ones who started my first job a week after finishing my clinical placements.
Over the years I have worked as a dietitian across Australia and the UK in Bendigo, Balmain, Mildura, Manchester, Belfast and Liverpool to name a few. My journey began as a clinical dietitian in the hospital, working in geriatrics, nutrition support, community, oncology, coeliac disease and inherited metabolic disorders.
Perhaps not the most straightforward of routes to become a performance nutritionist, but each opportunity led me to where I am now: a consultant sports dietitian working with cyclists and triathletes, optimising how they fuel during training and competition.
The journey is more important than the destination. Even as we speak my ‘job description’ is ever evolving, starting to merge into the world of performance nutrition as a performance chef at training camps. Certainly not how I initially envisioned my career going but I love it!
I’m a huge believer in reflective practice, learning from experience and sharing that with those around me. So here are my 10 reflections from what I’ve learnt in the past 10 years as a dietitian!
Follow your passion
I can’t begin to explain how important this is! While it’s possible to survive in a job you don’t enjoy, it’s difficult to thrive.
Try new areas and figure out what you do and don’t like. When you figure what it is, Go for it!
There may be the odd bump or wrong turn here or there, but use every experience as a platform to learn more and grow.
The learning never stops
Nutrition is an ever-developing science. There is SO MUCH we don’t know! Naturally as we research more and learn more the nutrition messages we share can evolve over time.
Make a conscious effort to continue your learning at all times – above and beyond the minimum requirements.
Stay on top of hot nutrition topics, read a lot and stay informed so you can give the best advice and information to those you influence and support.
Keep up to date with recording your CPD
All too often dietitians and nutritionists leave their CPD recording until the end of the year, then run around like crazy trying to find any paperwork, certificates and events they attended.
Get into a habit of recording any CPD on a weekly basis. Ideally daily, straight afterwards. That way it’s fresh in your head, takes a matter of moments, solidifies any learning and avoids a huge backlog of info to record later on.
Develop a support network
Sometimes this will be people you studied with, other times it could be work colleagues.
Having other practitioners you can rely on for sound advice and support is often undervalued.
Working together is so much better, so much more enjoyable than slogging it alone.
Celebrate each others achievements and NEVER ever compare!
Mentor and be mentored
Having a wiser, more mature and seasoned mentor to ask support is incredibly valuable, particularly when you feel stuck or unsure about how to progress or move forward.
I have been mentored and mentored and each provides so much learning experience and growth it’s unbelievable.
Don’t underestimate the importance of having support as you grow in experience, knowledge and skills as a practitioner.
Say Yes to opportunities- but learn when to say no.
Particularly in my earlier days I pretty much said yes to EVERYTHING.
While that meant I’ve had some awesome experiences. It’s also meant that at times I have been so overcommitted I haven’t been able to give 100% at work or at home.
Anytime an opportunity presents itself, critique how it’s going to support you on your career path and if it’s going to keep you on your path or send you down some random side alley.
Sometimes an opportunity could be totally awesome, but it means losing out somewhere else – whether in time with friends and family, additional learning time etc. Think wisely about the long-term impact it can have.
You can’t be everything – specialise
I must confess. I LOVE learning. I may have a slight learning addiction.
Problem is, if its all over the place it doesn’t result in clear growth and development. Over the years I’ve trained in paediatrics, oncology and I even did a personal training course – deciding the day of the exam that i did NOT want to be a personal trainer!
For me, I’ve found the best way to focus my energies and attentions is to specialise in sports nutrition for cyclists and triathletes.
That doesn’t mean I don’t ever work with anyone else, or learn about other areas of nutrition. But it means that my learning continues to improve my skills, knowledge and experience within this specific area so that I can support my athletes thoroughly.
Collaborate, don’t compete
Particularly when you are a freelancer, it can be easy to view other dietitians and nutritionists as your competitors. However the way I see it, there is space for everyone.
We all have our gifts and talents and that will naturally attract or repel certain people.
Just like you aren’t naturally going to get along with EVERY person you meet, every potential client won’t always gel you or get the support they need from you. That’s okay.
Find what you’re good at, the people you enjoy working with best and focus on supporting them whole heartedly.
Then, collaborate with other great practitioners and support the awesome work that they are doing in their zones of genius.
Find your message and share it everywhere.
For me, I’m passionate about getting people outdoors more, active more and developing better relationships with the food they eat and how they fuel their bodies during exercise – particularly as cyclists and triathletes.
On a day to day basis that means showing you how to get more balance, build a better relationship with what you eat to fuel training and optimise the performance goals you aim to achieve.
Fuelling an adventurous life.
Take the Leap
It’s easy to let fear of the unknown hold you back and choke you from fulfilling your potential.
I’ve still got a LONG way to go, but one thing I’ve learnt is that when you push past that fear, great things happen.
It won’t happen overnight, but like anything with consistency, persistence, perseverance and determination anything is possible.
Are you a dietitian or nutritionist looking for mentoring to elevate your nutrition practice? Join the DWB Mentoring program to take your career and nutrition practice to the next level and learn from Gemma’s experience and expertise.