23 August 2017

As one of our brilliant placement nutritionists, we asked Emily to share her experiences and give advice to graduates wishing to work in nutrition!

Emily Stephens ANutr
Nutrition Graduate Placement BNF and Marks and Spencer 2016/17

I have just completed a graduate placement year with BNF and Marks and Spencer (M&S). This involved working part of the week with the M&S Health and Nutrition Team and the remainder at BNF’s head office - as you can imagine, both working environments are vastly different! It was for this reason the position appealed to me, as it has provided opportunity to hone my skills in public health nutrition whilst gaining new experience in industry. Initially, I found the fast paced working environment of retail a bit daunting, as decisions need to be made quickly and confidently. However, this taught me to have more self-belief and I realised even if I had the time to review a piece of work 100 times, I would probably still come to the same conclusions.

You may think the main responsibility for Nutritionists working in retail is labelling, but my experience at M&S has shown me that there is so much more to the job and the opportunities to promote health are many. This might be through implementing employee health initiatives, providing customers with nutrition information and advice, helping to implement government policies, collaborating with other organisations to promote health, and identifying ways to make products healthier, just to name a few!

Turning to the other part of my placement, within my role at BNF has been the communication of nutrition science to a variety of audiences, such as the general public, health professionals and students. Critically reviewing scientific studies and communicating the findings to those who may not necessary have a science background has been invaluable experience and no doubt I will continue to use these skills throughout my career. Both positions have highlighted the difficulties in communicating evidence-based nutrition messages in a climate where unreliable advice is readily available online and in the media, and that I have an important role to play in helping to set the story straight.

I have been fortunate enough to have had two amazing opportunities which have helped me to identify where my interests lie within nutrition and get my foot firmly on the career ladder. In the future I hope to progress in a career in public health to empower people to make positive changes to their health and wellbeing.

Here are my five top career tips for new graduates and I wish you every success in your career ahead!

  1. Apply to become a Registered Associate Nutritionist
    Once you have graduated from your AfN accredited nutrition degree, you can apply to become a Registered Associate Nutritionist, which will show employers that your scientific knowledge of nutrition is evidence-based. AfN also sends out e-newsletters to registrants, which includes upcoming events and job opportunities.

  2. Join BNF as a graduate member
    BNF offers membership to individuals who have graduated with a degree in human nutrition or a related subject in the last two years. As a graduate member you will receive information about important events, new research and policy developments in nutrition, be the first to hear about BNF internships and job vacancies, and receive access to resources to support your career development. You can join here.

  3. Attend conferences and events
    Networking is a great way to meet and connect with people working in the field of nutrition and find out about potential job opportunities. You don’t have to be an employed Nutritionist to attend conferences. BNF and the Nutrition Society post events on their websites and AfN provides a list of upcoming events in their newsletter. If you don’t live in, or near, a large city, webinars are a great alternative – check out the series of webinars on the BNF website.

  4. Keep up to date
    Keeping up to date with the latest research, hot nutrition topics, and changes to public health/nutrition policies will show employers you are aware of the current issues and committed to the field of nutrition. Keep an eye on the AfN, BNF and Nutrition Society websites, the top scientific journals in nutrition, and reports published by the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN) and Public Health England.

  5. Go for internships!
    After working extremely hard at university in order to land your dream job, an internship is a great way to get a foot in the door - take it from me you never know what opportunities will arise from it! My internship really allowed my confidence and ability as a nutritionist to grow. BNF send internship alerts to all members and the Nutrition Society post internship opportunities on their website.