By Skye Swaney

As I approach 10 years working as a dietitian, I thought it was time to reflect on what I’ve learned and what I would do differently knowing what I now know. In that time I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’m the first to say that I have a lot more to learn. In fact, I know in another 10 years time I’ll probably be providing similar advice to my 30 something self. But, at the quarter way mark, here is what I know:

You don’t need to be the smartest dietitian to be a great dietitian
So, you didn’t get top marks in your class. 10 years down the road (or even 2) no one is going to care. What they will care about is your passion, determination and hard work.

Taking a job far away might be scary, but it might also be the best thing you ever do
You might resist taking a job in another state, or another country, preferring to stay near friends and family, reasoning that you’ll need their support as you venture out into the scary world of professional life. But this is a risk that is totally worth taking. Yes, it will be scary and hard to start with but the experiences you have, the friends you make and the different perspectives this will open your eyes to will never happen in your comfort zone.

No, you’re not a fraud, no one else really knows exactly what they’re doing either
In your first job you’ll feel completely overwhelmed and terrified that at any moment someone is going to realise that you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t worry, you know a lot more than you think you do. And you’re a new grad, you’re not expected to know everything. Just do your best and trust that you’ll get better with time.

Experience is important, but experiences are more important
As a new grad you’ll be desperate to get some experience under your belt and be terrified by unfavourable new grad to new grad jobs ratio. But remember, getting a job is not the be all and end all. Sometimes the experiences you gain from travelling, and just generally living your life and doing interesting things can be far more beneficial in the long term.

Travel, as much as you can
Once you have a career and responsibilities this gets harder and harder. Work overseas, volunteer, or just backpack your way around South America while you can. The experiences you have doing this will change you for the better and give you something to look back fondly on during your years of full time work and responsibility.

Don’t stay in a job you don’t like
Clinical dietetics might be the Holy Grail for many of your uni mates, but if you just don’t share their enthusiasm, don’t force it. Yes, it’s great experience and you might convince yourself that you’ll grow to love it, that your indifference is just terror in disguise, but if you don’t like it, maybe it’s just not for you. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because there is something else out there that is.

Find your ‘thing’
Everyone has a ‘thing’ – something that they both love and are really good at. It might not be immediately obvious but keep searching for it. Once you find it, work really hard to become the best you can be. Finding your niche is one of the best things you can do for your career.

Ask…you might be surprised
As dietitians we’re often not the most demanding of types, preferring to follow the rules and wait our turn. But asking politely and respectfully for what you want – a job, work experience, mentoring, a television hosting gig – might just pay off. And if it doesn’t, who cares? Just move on to the next thing.

Be nice, be kind and be helpful
Dietetics is about science, but it’s also about caring for, nurturing and helping others.You can go a long way by just being kind to people, giving them your time with no expectation of getting anything in return. We’re extremely lucky to be in a profession where we have the opportunity to do this and, clichéd as it may be, the reward of knowing you’ve helped someone is honestly the best reward.

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