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5 July 2016

Career Spotlight: My leap from clinical nutrition to health communications marketing

Written by: Mariella Boger, Account Manager at Edelman

Careers, Culture, Health

We all have ideas that need exploring, thoughts that deserve provoking, aspirations that warrant pursuing. When I worked as a dietitian, I thoroughly enjoyed my role; the impact that you make at an individual level is every bit as rewarding as you might imagine. As someone who was also always very aware of the broader health stage though, I was also conscious of the impact that accurate messaging has on public health and society.

After graduating as a fresh-faced 22-year old with a Biology degree, I spent two years training to become a Registered Dietitian; the only nutrition professionals regulated by law. I began my career translating nutrition research into advice for patients with a whole range of conditions from stroke and liver disease to HIV, cancer, burns and much more. Over the next few years, I worked my way up to a senior position in weight loss surgery, supporting patients before and after they had their operation.

As a firm believer in the power of communication, I also sought out opportunities to spread this advice that little bit further – arranging pop-up educational events for ward nurses, producing newsletters and establishing group weight management programmes. Eventually, a more senior post became available – what I thought was my dream job – but I realised it wasn’t my dream any more.

Communications agency life is a world apart from hospital life and as such nothing could have prepared me for my first few weeks at Edelman. I was overwhelmed by the offices and completely terrified by all the buttons on my phone. Having come from a world where I scribbled medical speak in patient’s notes, I was now immersed in a new language of slide decks, playbooks and toolkits.

I had to hit the ground running as a Senior Account Executive and tried to grasp as much as I could by myself (turns out Google doesn’t know what a playbook is either). I followed email threads aggressively and when I had questions, I chose who to ask carefully. Occasionally, I had to hold my hands up to being the new kid on the block; however, whenever I did, the team was incredibly supportive, especially my peers who were always willing to explain tasks and swiftly resolve any confusion.

I had expected to develop content and conduct media relations but the opportunities for marrying up real life insights, creative thinking and smart strategy to help clients tell their stories and position them where they want to be was a welcome surprise. I love explorative and lateral thinking and the new normal was miles beyond what I had anticipated.

Gradually, all the bits came together. I was no longer doing everything for the first time and while the challenge of a steep learning curve was incredible and I had thoroughly enjoyed developing a new skillset, my role really came into my own as I began to get the hang of it.

I am now an Account Manager in the new Health Engagement team at Edelman, working with clients in the food, nutrition and consumer health spaces. Having come to grips with communications marketing, I’m now able to apply my dietetic knowledge and expertise – providing nutrition counsel to clients, acting as a consultant for other teams and participating in strategic planning. Life is about nothing if not experiences and previous careers can be incredibly transferrable in the right environment. And then when that contribution is valued, you can carve out really great niches that play to all your strengths.

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