In August 2014, I left a well-paid secure job at a large corporate organization, where I had been employed for 10 years. I am eternally grateful for the experience and opportunities I received over that decade to help grow my nutrition marketing career. And I am even more grateful for the exposure that I received to a range of managers, which included the good, the bad and the (very) ugly!

I began my own start up nutrition business a little over two years ago, and during that time, as my business has grown, I have been able to offer opportunities to newly graduated dietitians and nutritionists who are looking for opportunities to gain experience within the food and health nutrition industries. Whilst I have never had any formal training in how to be a manager, I have learned a lot in my years on both sides of the fence, both as a manager, as well as an employee being managed.

I believe that the key to being a valuable manager, is to be more of a mentor who has a desire to help others grow and succeed. A previous client of mine, Richenda Vermeulen sums up the role of mentorship really well in this article that featured recently in B&T “You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need a genuine desire to listen. Often, what people need isn’t actually your advice, instead they need you to ask them the right questions to help them unlock the answers they have been looking for. That’s why mentorship isn’t always top down.”

Like Richenda, I too believe that no matter your age, skill set, education level or career status, a manager relationship should be a two-way relationship, where both parties can learn from each other and gain value, just like a mentor relationship. I think this is especially essential in the nutrition and dietetic industry, where young millennials can teach older dietitians almost as much as the younger graduates can learn from those with years of experience.

So here are some of my top five tips that I have gained from my experience on both sides of the fence, especially during my most recent experience managing contractors in my new business. When you are a manager, you should:

1. Let your direct reports have a go on their own first. You can then guide them and provide direction, but they will learn best by giving it a go.

2. Always start a conversation with positive praise. Nothing motivates more than recognition and gratitude and it’s important to recognise achievements, no matter how small.

3. Provide a detailed brief with clear expectations upfront. The more guidelines provided, the clearer it is for both parties what needs to be done.

4. Follow up! Touch base regularly to see how people are going, especially if working remotely. Don’t rely on staff to contact you with a problem.

5. Ask for input. I think this is extremely important as everyone has something to give and no-one knows it all. I have had some great advice from dietitians many years my junior who would have seen a situation with a different view point and provided great value with their thoughts and opinions.

When you are a contractor, you should:

1. Have the right attitude, always. It’s one thing to have the skill set to do something, but many dietitians will have that skill set and you need to set yourself apart from others by showing a “can-do” attitude. This does not mean you need to be a walk-over, but you need to demonstrate passion, attentiveness and a desire to produce the best result always.

2. Ask questions. We all know that the only dumb question is the one that is not asked. No matter how much detail is provided in a brief or other project document, if you are not sure, ask upfront rather than doing all the work and getting it wrong.

3. Be proactive and speak your mind. If you have an idea that you think could work better or a suggestion, put it forward. Your manager may not agree with you, but again it will show that you have that “something special” that stands you apart from your competitors.

4. Use spell check and other tools. I have received work from contractors that has been abysmal as far as grammar and spelling mistakes go. There really is no excuse with easy to use spell checks and professional presentation is essential.

5. Expect mentorship and leadership and ask for constructive feedback. When you are a newly-qualified dietitian, experience is everything but so is guidance and teaching. Whether this is formal or informal mentorship, you should use these opportunities to learn from the mistakes and successes of others who have been in the industry for years, as this will be invaluable in helping you develop your nutrition career.

FoodBytes is always on the lookout for exceptional dietitians and nutritionists (students too!) who have an interest and passion to work in digital communications and the food and health industry. If this sounds like you, get in touch with Teri at [email protected]