THE JOB CENTRE – JESS MARK

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Age: 26

Occupation: Nutritionist

Which means: I’m currently working on a study at King’s College University, helping patients to reduce their risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease within the next 10 years. We are testing whether a psychological technique known as ‘Motivational Interviewing’ can help patients with lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and increasing exercise to reduce heart disease risk. I also write health and nutrition articles for TotallyTween – an online magazine for 8-12 year olds.

Did you go to uni? I studied Nutrition at the University of Nottingham and graduated in 2010.

What was your first job after graduating? I decided to go travelling, so my first job was working at Wimbledon. I had a few different jobs to save money to fund my 8 month long trip. When I got back from travelling, I decided to really pursue the nutrition route but it was so difficult to find a paid job! I did lots of volunteering at various charities, an internship at a Nutrition PR company and then decided to go freelance. My first proper nutritionist role was for Hillingdon council, working as a Nutrition Coach for teens, helping them to manage their weight and become more active. I was also running nutrition workshops for parents and children in primary schools across south London.

Do you have to have a degree to do your job, or is work experience more important? Having a nutrition degree and work experience were both really important in landing the job. For this project in particular, other health-related and psychology qualifications were also accepted as the role incorporates nutrition, exercise and psychology. However, other nutrition roles I have had ask for a degree as a requirement.

What’s the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietician? Currently, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as the title isn’t protected in the same way as a Dietitian. There is however, The Association for Nutrition (AfN), a charity that holds a register of Nutritionists who work at senior levels across the NHS, academia, industry and food service. This is to enable public safety and ensure those who release information are adequately trained and knowledgeable enough to provide evidence-based information and follow strict code of conduct. In order to join the register, you have to demonstrate core competencies in nutrition and science. The AfN currently accredits a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses – my course at Nottingham was one of them. Students completing an accredited degree programme have the right to apply to join the register. Joining the register post-graduation gives you the title Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and after 3 year’s worth of experience you can become a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). This is useful because employers are increasingly looking for registered status in posts they advertise.

What’s does a typical day at the office look like for you? No day is ever the same, which I love! I spend most of my time at GP surgeries or community venues working with my patients. If I’m in the office, I attend meetings, catch up on emails, book my patients in for the week and organise rooms at GP surgeries and venues. I also have to plan my sessions and write up patient outcomes from sessions. Working on a study means that there is quite a lot of data to be collected and recorded. When I’m out of the office, I’m either working one to one with patients or delivering group sessions.

What’s the dress code? Smart/casual. As I spend a lot of time travelling to different locations, my main priority is comfort but I try to look as professional as possible. I do have to carry lots of resources to sessions, so it’s not unusual to see me running around in my trainers with a change of shoes in my backpack!

Where do you see yourself in two to three years time? What are your achievable goals? I would like to get back doing freelance work. I really enjoyed creating my own projects, especially for children. I think it’s so important for children and parents to be properly educated about food, so I want to continue health promotion in this area. I would also quite like to do some more studying and work abroad.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I really can’t see myself not working in this field. I love food, so it would probably be something food related – maybe own a restaurant or set up a food delivery service?

The world has gone mad for ‘Super Foods’ and ‘Clean Eating’ – is it all  just another moneymaking scheme? I definitely see it as a massive marketing ploy. There’s always a particular food that we ‘must be eating’ that will ‘solve all our health problems’. The term ‘Superfood’, however, has no official definition and the EU have banned health claims on packaging unless it can be supported by scientific evidence because it gives us a false expectation of the benefits. ‘Clean eating’ also has no definition or scientific support. The reality is, if you eat a ‘Superfood’ thinking that it will undo the damage of consuming other unhealthy, processed foods, it won’t! Superfoods cannot compensate for unhealthy eating; no food on its own can work miracles. The Superfood trend exploits the fact that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, strokes and cancer. There’s a massive wellness trend at the moment with a lot of influence from social media- Instagram in particular. You see lots of incorrect advice being handed out which can be very dangerous as it promotes confusion and misinformation. I know it’s boring and everyone has heard it before, but a healthy and balanced diet really is key. Limiting yourself to consuming only a certain superfood or ‘eating clean’ and restricting other important nutrients can be detrimental too. Balance and moderation are what’s important. We need to eat what’s right according to our individual needs.

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

STOP WORRYING!  I would tell myself that there’s no point worrying if the problem can be solved, and if it can’t be solved there is still no point in worrying! It’s not going to help the situation, so just let it be. If you’ve tried hard enough and really given something your best shot, you’ve got to trust that things will take care of themselves and work out in the end.

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My beautiful best friend, confidante and foodie. We like to eat. And party.

Questions for Jess? Just ask.

The Job Hunt

You know when you feel like you could scream in the middle of a crowded room and no one would even blink? That’s what the graduate job hunt feels like.

As all the economists at university applied for grad schemes and the rest of my friends were flaunting their father’s abilities in finding them their dream job, I was chilling at the beach wondering what all the fuss was about. As an English student, I didn’t think there was much I could do. Turns out, there really isn’t. Except for undertake ridiculous work experience placements without expenses even being paid for and applying endlessly on journalistic jobsites for vacancies WAY above my station because let’s face it, when it comes to publishing, someone has to have a baby, or die, before anyone else even gets an interview.

So since May last year, this is what I’ve been doing. And now I’ve pretty much hit rock bottom. After maxing out my hefty overdraft while completing placements at various magazines, I am left with a pretty nice looking CV, but still no job and no money. And there is nothing more depressing than knowing you’ve spent £10,000 studying to no gain. In fact yes there is. There’s being interviewed for a job that you really don’t want, and have only applied for because you are living below the breadline, only for them to tell you that your heart’s not in making moulds of children’s hands and feet for their middle class parents. NO IT BLOODY ISN’T!!! But I’ll do it. And I’ll do it well.

Just the other day I walked into a salon on the Fulham Road where I had applied (and been rejected for) a receptionist role. The woman who had pipped me to the poorly-paid post could barely string a sentence together let alone answer my mum’s questions about facial appointments and gift cards. How on earth is this fair?! I was rejected due to “a lack of commitment to the job” and being “overqualified”. What does that even mean and how would you even know if you don’t give me the chance?!

Throw a girl a bone.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not alone in sitting behind a computer screen with a pretty sick degree, some fantastic work experience and a cup of tea, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be a little frustrated.

So employers, if you’re reading this, I have worked in some of the worst conditions throughout my life, stuck with them AND did a good job, have come across the most challenging of bosses and have even worked for free with very little reward. So please, find it in your hearts to employ me. And pay me. You will not regret it. I’ll even stop talking about sex on here if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Plus, I’m a right laugh at office parties.

The cherry on top of the job hunt cake? Putting on five stone as you spend endless hours in front of Gorkana and Gumtree with slice after slice of peanut butter on toast.

Excuse me while I roll to my interview at McDonald’s…

Pah! I should be so lucky.

The End

I think it would be unfair to say that I loved every second of university. In fact, the work was hard and at times boring and I found the city itself rather dull. But something I will say is that Exeter is what you make it. And what makes it, are the people. So, three years, thirty grand, 3000 bottles of gin, and many memories later, it’s all over. I’ve finally graduated.

It feels like a matter of days ago that I found myself in an empty room in halls, wondering what lay ahead of me. But in a flash, “Grad Week” was here and we were all saying goodbye for the last time.  Although it was sad to be saying farewell, the fact that everyone was so sad to leave meant that we made the most of every single moment. Some by dancing until they passed out, some by drinking until they chundered outside the club the night before their graduation and others by “gold rushing” with everything in sight. All of these options, in my opinion, are very favourable and made for a hilarious week.

But not only were they some of the happiest few days of my life, they were also some of the saddest.

Although I know that I’ll see my very closest friends again, it’s sad to think that I won’t see them day in, day out. I won’t be able to pop round the corner for a cup of tea, prelash at theirs or have an impromptu trip to the beach in the summer. Instead, we’ve all gone back to our respective towns and even countries where we once lived, to our lives before any of the past three years had happened and before any of us existed to each other. It’s strange to think of a time where they weren’t a part of my day to day life.

But not only will I miss my closest friends. I’ll miss all those people that you drunkenly bump into on a night out, share some tequila with and enjoy some light hearted (and at times emotional) chats with in the smoking area. It’s those people that (albeit rather pessimistic), you might never see again that makes the whole goodbye thing so tragic. It’s the people that you drunkenly kissed or perhaps shared a few days of fun with where there might have been a spark but down to bad timing, it never developed. It’s those people you admired from afar and never really got to know properly. It’s the people from your course who you worshipped because they were always far less hungover than you at 9am lectures. It’s those people, the people that you’re saying goodbye to before you’ve even really said hello to properly, that makes it so sad.

I have so many memories from university that they’ve sort of merged into one big blur but some that stand out for me and i’m sure many of you are; post lash at 12 Springfield, Arena, prelash in the lobby, nakedness and antics in the football stadium, Canoe Lash, varsity, SSB, the hotel, Mambos, Lash Olympics and the beach. But one night that will stand out for me over most is the Grad Ball. As my house mate said before we got in the taxi, ‘Don’t be sad Liv. This isn’t the last night, this is the night’. And it really was.  I got to say my goodbyes and have fun at the same time. I really couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my three years at university.

So, as we say our final farewells, unpack for the very last time and look back on our time at Exeter, I want to wish everyone the very best of luck for the future and hope that we will all, one day, come back together and party in style with some apple VK’s. For old time’s sake.

Now it’s time for us to down some aspirin, get some sleep and get over our three year hangovers.

For all the wonderful people I met at the University of Exeter, 2008-2011.