Caroline Allan and Changing Careers

From Finance & Consulting to Dietetics

Hi! My name is Caroline – I am a second-year graduate student in Boston University’s DPD/MS/DI program. My road to dietetics was long and winding, full of many career “happy accidents” and jobs I was not passionate about. I hope sharing my story and some tips can help others feel less stuck in careers that are not the right fit for them.

My freshman year of college…

I started taking some common intro-level classes in economics and engineering. I had always preferred science and math over reading and writing, so I figured I would enjoy those classes. I kept taking more classes in these departments. Without ever making a conscious decision, I became a double major in economics and engineering sciences.

Around my junior year…

I became aware of corporate recruiting, a process in which mostly finance and consulting firms visit campus to interview and recruit interns and full-time hires. Almost everyone I knew in my majors participated, so I did too. I didn’t really stop to think about whether I was interested in finance or consulting. Corporate recruiting seemed to be what everyone did to get a job at my college. I knew that I was passionate about food and nutrition. For some reason, those careers seemed less “practical” than a stable, high-paying consulting job. Big mistake!

Fast forward a few years…

I was well into my full-time consulting job, which mainly focused on providing analytical assistance to big tech companies entrenched in lawsuits. Whenever a friend or family member asked me what I did for a living, I had a hard time communicating what my job actually was, and an impossible time making it sound interesting. 

At work, I would get promoted, and have this “so what?” feeling, like none of it mattered because the work wasn’t important to me. I found myself internally eye-rolling at all of the silly business jargon, and eventually started dreading going to work each day, despite having lovely coworkers and excellent mentors. 

Eventually, I started to research food and nutrition-related careers

I knew that those had always been my biggest passions. At first, starting a new career from scratch seemed impossible (if you have looked into this, you know what I mean!). But I decided to give myself a long timeline and meticulously plan out the details. About a year and a half after my initial research, I got my acceptance letters from a few fantastic nutrition programs. 

My decision to leave my corporate consulting job and dive into the field of nutrition was overwhelming. However, it is completely doable with some careful planning and patience. Here are my top tips for others considering a career change into dietetics!

  1. Research programs, and be prepared to be ineligible to apply to some of them. There are a handful of schools that offer graduate programs tailored to those who lack undergraduate experience in nutrition, but I found that the majority of schools did not. Often, this type of information can be found on the program website, but if not, definitely reach out to the school via phone or email. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time (especially your own!) by applying to a program that only accepts those with a nutrition background.
  1. Knock out prerequisite courses. Anyone changing careers will absolutely need to get caught up on some prerequisite courses. Make a list of prereqs for each of the programs you are interested in and eligible for, and then start to knock off courses that overlap across programs. A lot of schools let you apply without 100% of the prereqs finished as long as you can demonstrate how you intend to complete them, so don’t let prereqs be the reason you don’t apply! Be sure to check whether the courses can be online and whether they require a lab component. I was able to take intro to nutrition, 2 introductory bio classes, organic chemistry, and biochemistry online without taking time off of work. 
  1. Think about finances early. How do you plan to fund grad school? Everyone’s financial situation will be different, so this will vary a lot person to person. Do you plan on taking a loan? Dipping into savings? Applying for scholarships? Think through these early and make a plan for how you will cover school and living costs without a full-time job. 
  1. Manage application logistics. At least a year in advance, start thinking about all of the elements of the application, including the GRE, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement. As a career changer, your background likely lacks some relevant experience, so you need to work on honing in on your “story” that effectively communicates why you are making the change into dietetics. 
  1. Be grateful for your old career. Choosing a career that you don’t absolutely love in your early 20s is incredibly common, but it can still feel frustrating to have a job that doesn’t feel right for you. As I transitioned into nutrition, it was important to me to reflect on elements of my old career that positioned me well to thrive in grad school and as a future dietitian. Although I can’t say a corporate job in consulting was a great fit for me long term, I am so grateful for the skills I picked up and close friends I made while working there. 

If you are considering changing careers into dietetics and need someone to chat with about it, I would love to help! Feel free to DM me @caroline_thefoodie

Read Caroline’s Student Spotlight Interview