Caroline Allan, The Career Changer
Caroline Allan is a second-year graduate student in Boston University’s DPD/MS/DI program, and a career changer from the word of economics and consulting. She hopes her story helps others find the courage to find careers they are passionate about and gives them confidence that it isn’t impossible to change career goals if they choose to.
Follow her at @caroline_thefoodie on Instagram!
What school(s) do/did you attend for your undergraduate and/or master’s degree (if applicable)?
Dartmouth College (Undergrad) and Boston University (DPD/MS/DI)
What is your academic standing?
Graduate Student (2nd year)
How did you get into the field of nutrition?
I graduated Dartmouth with a double major in Economics and Engineering Sciences and went straight into the corporate world with a consulting job. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was on a path that wasn’t right for me. It felt like all of my peers from undergrad were entering the consulting and finance fields, and I didn’t pause to question whether I had a passion for those kinds of jobs.
When I entered the consulting industry as a junior-level consultant who worked with massive tech companies, it was hard for me to see how my work translated to anything meaningful. Although I liked the quantitative elements of my job, I realized I didn’t have a passion for it. I got sucked into an industry that felt like it provided the “best” job opportunities because of factors like job stability and pay, but I didn’t initially prioritize my passions when choosing careers, which was a mistake.
When I made the decision to change careers, I decided to make my long-time passions, food and nutrition, a priority. I knew that applying for nutrition graduate programs and entering the nutrition field would propel me into a career I absolutely love, and I haven’t looked back! After taking a few online courses to get caught up on prerequisite courses, I applied to grad school and officially made the switch.
What are your career goals?
Honestly, so much is still up in the air! I know that I want to work one-on-one with clients (as opposed to community-based programs or public policy work). Working in private practice could be great…I have also been thinking a lot about working with pregnant people. Another passion of mine is accessible nutrition – I want to help people understand that nutrition can be affordable, and health is for EVERYONE, not just people pushing supplements on Instagram.
What’s something surprising you’ve learned in your studies so far?
I think I have been surprised by just how flexible healthy diets can look. Recommended nutrient intakes are always changing, and so many cultures have different dietary patterns that result in great health outcomes. This flexibility is definitely something I want to take into my career.
Why do you think the nutrition field is important?
I think that nutrition has so much potential to really change healthcare’s impact, particularly in the United States. With proper nutrition care and education, so many chronic health issues can be prevented or delayed, and overall quality of life can substantially increase.
What tools/strategies do you use to maintain productivity?
My biggest strategy is to start early and get things done early. I usually start projects or assignments right as I get them, and if I finish early, I submit early. I also love blocking time – so I do all of my emails for the day at once, all of my computer work at once, etc. It is also SO important for me to carve out time daily to move my body. Lately, I have been loving long walks with podcasts. After exercise, I always feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
What is/was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class so far has been Nutrition Throughout the Lifecycle. It provided me with a really in-depth understanding of how a person’s nutrition needs change over time, and the class sparked my interest in nutrition during pregnancy.
What’s a lesson you learned you want to share with other students?
My biggest lesson is to follow your passions, even if they seem less “practical”. I was really nervous to quit my safe corporate job and make the leap into a new field, but I have not regretted my decision one time.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome with your studies and how did you do it?
My biggest hurdle was figuring out the logistics of transitioning careers, especially given that my undergraduate degrees and corporate career seemed irrelevant to the field of nutrition.
First, I had to figure out which U.S. programs even accepted “career changers” like me.
Then, I had to identify all of the coursework I lacked and take online classes to make up for my gaps in education. I also had to manage all of the other application logistics, like finding letters of recommendation, preparing for and taking the GRE, and figuring out how to effectively communicate my passion for nutrition given that my past experience didn’t fully reflect my interests.
All of this while maintaining a full-time consulting career – it was a lot!
What’s the funniest nutrition misinformation you’ve heard?
Oh gosh… so many things. I am not a fan of most diet trends. Celery juice as a cure-all, keto, food combining, apple cider vinegar chugging… to name a few.
Do you have a quote that you love?
Kind of cheesy, but one that I need to hear often is “Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
Being a dietetics student can be stressful! What do you do for fun/to relax?
I love to bake! My specialty is key lime pie, but I really love to bake anything. My most recent baking projects were a blueberry lemon almond cake, and a cherry crisp. I also caved and made a sourdough starter during the quarantine.
If you have a personal platform, what are your goals/message?
Yes! I recently started a food Instagram (@caroline_thefoodie) to document grad school and fun recipes I make. In addition to recipes, I also try to highlight sustainable cooking techniques on there, because food waste is a huge pet peeve of mine.