Can skills gap training benefit you?

There is certainly a reason why ‘what are you going to do next?’ is a question often feared by those in the early stages of their career, or those thinking about changing direction. This is often the result of a combination of many factors. However, during the early stages of a career, the fear of not having had quite enough experience can often prevent people from moving on or developing within an existing role. The question then, is can transferable skills training benefit you?

Having run a short survey of the Society’s membership (and particularly the student/graduate members) it is encouraging that there is such a desire for transferable skills training, with many wanting training so that they can undertake their job to the highest standard. Skills-based training not only provides an opportunity to build upon existing transferable skills (particularly those not taught during higher education) but can also help to develop confidence. The Society’s Training Academy is therefore aiming to provide the appropriate transferable skills training to help with this, in the hope that if nothing else it leaves early career nutrition professionals more confident when answering the dreaded question.  

Skills beyond the science

The Nutrition Society Training Academy (NSTA) recently ran a careers workshop ‘Ideas for Careers’ at FENS 2019. This saw 35 enthusiastic students asking an expert panel representing various areas of nutritional science (Dr Louise Durrant, Yakult; Professor Bruce Griffin, Academia; Penny Hunking, Freelance Dietitian and Rhiannon Lambert, Clinical practice) their most pressing questions to understand how to forge a career in these respective areas.

What was evident in the workshop was how much encouragement an hour with an expert panel provides. The questions asked were not in-depth scientific ones, but more along the lines of ‘how did you get where you are now?’ These questions were the ones that provided individuals with those light bulb moments on where to turn next and how to achieve their preferred occupation; rather than simply being about gaining new scientific knowledge. Those who attended ‘Ideas for Careers’ left with a new-found confidence in believing they could achieve what they wanted within nutritional science because they better understood their wider skill set, potential, and how to progress in their area of interest.

A few tips from the professionals at Ideas for Careers

  • Appropriate use of social media can be a great way to fight pseudoscience, raise your profile, build your own knowledge, and develop an international network of nutrition colleagues
  • When using social media professionally, don’t worry too much about the number of followers you have, or feel you have to share anything about your private life to make an impact.
  • Set career goals regularly to help identify long-term objectives
  • Internships can be a great way to work out what you want (or don’t want) to do
  • What is meaningful work for you? Work out what you value and use that to guide your career choices
  • Choose your thesis topic carefully. It can be a great route into different types of roles and sectors or to talk about on your CV
  • The world is small so be sure not to burn any bridges

Next steps
Having spent the past year developing a portfolio of webinars and workshops that focus on nutrition science topics, the Nutrition Society Training Academy (NSTA) sees skills-based training as a logical next step. The aim is a straightforward one; to support and engage those seeking career development (either new or directional change). 

Two particular areas of interest for the budding nutrition professional are working in the media and science communications. Science communication is a critical part of evidence-based nutrition practice and an important way of informing non-experts about science-related topics. However, in the modern world and in an often-confused landscape filled with various different forms of communication media, including both traditional channels like newspapers and magazines as well as blogs, vlogs and various social media streams, it can be difficult to navigate. Elsewhere, nutrition professionals are increasingly looking to engage with the media to provide evidence-based practice through press, television and radio. But how do you get involved when you come out of university with little or no experience, competing against many others in the industry promoting attractive content? 

The Society’s Training Academy is here to help.  ‘How to manage the media as a nutrition professional?’ and ‘Science communications for nutrition professionals’ are two NSTA webinars planned for January. Kick start your 2020 CPD portfolio and potentially discover a passion for a new type of work in the process.