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Hear from an array of alumni who explored a VARIETY of career paths with their majors, and graduated during a less ideal US economy.
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So you’re interested in nutrition and/or fitness, but the idea of sitting in an office or confined to the walls of a hospital for 40 hours per week doesn’t rev your engine. I can relate.
When I pictured the notion of private practice during my undergraduate studies, this is what came to mind: a brick and mortar business, a huge investment/risk, and lots of overhead costs (think rent, insurance, advertising material, scheduling software, the works). The thought of “going out on my own” scared me, and I always thought I would feel much happier in a more regimented and secure job environment. Yet, within 2 years of working as a registered dietitian in a hospital setting, I felt stifled and uninspired. Sure, I enjoyed working with my patients and helping others, but the same day-to-day routine had me feeling stuck. There HAS to be something more, I would think to myself.
In the past five years, the demand for virtual healthcare (telehealth) has skyrocketed. But what exactly is telehealth? Telehealth is a relatively new phenomenon that is sweeping the healthcare industry as we know it. Telehealth is a method by which health care providers, such as dietitians and health coaches, communicate with patients without physically seeing them in the office. After learning more about telehealth, I began to notice other dietitians on social media catching onto this trend, and my interest was sparked. I began to wonder if I could make a business out of this.
“When I finally launched my telehealth business and blog, I felt a surge of excitement and hopefulness. I knew this is what I was meant to do. I could feel it.”
Telehealth benefits both parties in many ways. The startup costs for the provider, for example, are much lower. This allows dietitians to work remotely, set their own hours, and the opportunity to slowly grow an online business while still making money at their day job (i.e. less monetary risk). It also expands the reach of potential clients, as we are no longer limited to the geographical area. The benefit for the clients, is that appointments can be done from anywhere they have access to a phone and/or internet.
Technology has made the delivery of nutrition counseling and education more convenient and accessible for both the dietitian and the client. For months, I grappled with many of my own fears and insecurities about branching out into my own virtual nutrition business. I would worry, “what would people think?” or “what if I fail?”. When I finally launched my telehealth business and blog, I felt a surge of excitement and hopefulness. I knew this is what I was meant to do. I could feel it. It hasn’t been easy. The learning curve for online marketing, social media management, and website design was huge for me. But, I have learned a lot in just the short time that my business has been alive.
Here are three key recommendations when launching your own virtual or telehealth business:
1. Pick a niche.
As the saying goes, “a generalist knows less and less about more and more, until eventually he knows nothing about everything”. Narrowing into a specific nutrition niche will allow you to target your ideal customer even more. What are you passionate about? Do you love to cook and develop tasty recipes with a healthy twist? Maybe the healthy food blog avenue is your niche. Do you love counseling others about mindful eating, and having a healthy relationship with food? Perhaps an intuitive eating focus is the right avenue. I didn’t find my functional nutrition and gastrointestinal niche until 3 years into my career, and that’s OK too. To help find your niche, do some research. Listen to podcasts, search for blogs of various health professionals, or research articles on the topics that interest you.
2. Gain trust from your following.
Social media is 100 percent necessary to grow your online business. Start developing relationships with those that follow you. Engage with your followers by commenting on their posts and asking meaningful questions to build trust in your brand. Provide value to your followers by educating, inspiring, or entertaining. The engagement and trust value is much more important than the number of followers, so don’t be discouraged if your following is not huge when first starting out.
3. Show up every day.
Building an online business does not happen overnight. Many online entrepreneurs slowly grow their business for 2 to 5 years before having the freedom to make it their full-time job. What sets these people apart? They show up every day. Whether it is posting on social media, working on a blog post, or listening to an informative podcast on the drive to work, making time for your business is key to achieving success.
Creating an online nutrition business is not limited to registered dietitians, or college graduates. It is never too early to spread your knowledge. You may be asking: how do I get started? Once you have decided upon a niche (hint: it’s OK if you end up switching interests down the line, I did!), then a good next step is to start a blog. This is a great way to get your feet wet in the online health sphere. Most online nutrition entrepreneurs need a blog to keep interest and traffic going to their website. Pinterest is a great way to get ideas about setting up your blog, and structuring your blog posts in a manner that is interesting to your readers. Other helpful business resources include the Smart Passive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn, and the Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast by Amy Porterfield.
“It is important to realize that your opportunities as a health and/or nutrition major are widespread far beyond the walls of an office or hospital”
Ultimately, it is important to realize that your opportunities as a health and/or nutrition major are widespread and far beyond the walls of an office or hospital. Technology has opened many pathways for telehealth, blogging, and making money online for health entrepreneurs. A powerful mantra that I often refer to in my online business is this: “if it is both terrifying and amazing, then it’s a sign you should pursue it”. The sky is the limit.
“What are you studying?” You’ve undoubtedly been asked this question at least 5 times, just during your first week of college. I remember being asked this question so often during my first year, and I remember feeling the awkwardness that would take over the conversation when I responded with, “I’m undeclared.” People would almost always respond to me in one of two ways; they’d say, “Oh, that’s okay,” or “What do you think you want to study?” When people responded to me with, “Oh, that’s okay,” it made me feel like there was an expectation that I should feel ashamed for being undeclared. When they responded with, “what do you think you want to study,” it made me feel like I needed to justify being undeclared to them because even though I did have interests in a few majors, I was still undeclared because I hadn’t decided on one yet. While these people always meant well, their responses acted as a reminder to me that our society has difficulty accepting uncertainty around education. Very few people know exactly what they want to do after college, especially not during their first year of college. So why do we expect everyone to know? People are afraid to waste time in college without having a major or a plan, but honestly, sometimes admitting you don’t have a plan is the best way to stay on track in college. An article on USA today explains “approximately 80% of students change their majors before they graduate” (National Center for Education Statistics). When you are early on in your college career, being undeclared means that you are taking general education courses that can be used for almost any major you choose. If you declare a major, some of the classes you take will be more specific and may not transfer as easily to other majors. This means that being undeclared and then declaring a major can be a simpler process than declaring a major and then switching it.
Something to keep in mind as an undeclared student is that it is important to be purposeful in your choices. It is okay to not know what you want to do, but it will be the most beneficial if you use your time while undeclared to explore your options.
Here are some tips on how I used being undeclared to make purposeful choices in my education:
Plan backwards- when I was a first year student, I met with Jon Linn, a career education manager at the Career Center. He told me to first think about what career I wanted, and then plan my education around that. This helped me to make choices in college that would keep me on a path for attaining the career I want after I graduate.
Meet with an advisor for a major you’re interested in- Thinking about majoring in Political Science? Schedule an appointment with a Political Science advisor! Doing this can provide a much more clear picture of what each major can offer you so you can see if it aligns with your goals. They can give you a list of the required courses, tell you about what most students do with the major, and give you an overall feel of the department.
Get involved- If there’s a major you’re curious about, try to get involved in it even before you declare. You can do this by speaking with a professor in the department, getting involved in research, joining a department’s club, or even applying for internships in that industry. These will allow you to test out the major to see if you enjoy it!
People say that college is the best four years of your life, and the truth is, college is whatever you make it. You’ve been through trials, heartbreak, and wonderful experiences to get here. Now you are situated in a unique position. You are surrounded by people whose minds are ready to share and absorb new perspectives; you are surrounded by intellectually stimulating conversations, academia, professional opportunities, and a brand new community. Now you have two options: Dive in or hide away.
Diving into new experiences could be intimidating, but I can promise you it is worth it. Sometimes all that we need to be bold and dive in is a little bit of re-framing our way of thinking about intimidating experiences.
Here are some tips to help motivate yourself to make the most of your experience:
- Stay curious– We have so much access to new ideas and new experiences that it’s sometimes natural for us to want to reject it. I want to challenge you to take a moment to consider a new perspective, and to decide whether you agree with it or not later. This way, you will allow yourself to grow and develop a deeper understanding of your own beliefs, as well as the beliefs of others.
- Get past the first 15 seconds– Going to a new club meeting or activity where you don’t know anyone can be nerve-wracking. It’s easy to decide to avoid it and stay in your comfort zone instead, but what’s the fun in that? When I was a first-year student, I wanted to try out new clubs and organizations on campus, but I didn’t know anyone and felt super nervous to attend the events alone. Something that helped me was to remind myself that I just needed to get through the first 15 seconds of the experience. The hardest part of something new is forcing yourself to take the leap, but once you do, all you have to do is just ride it out and see what happens. For instance, if there is a student organization that you want to join, and you are going to an event alone, the hardest part is often just getting yourself through the doors, and saying “hello” to a new person. Once you get past that moment, you start to see that there are other people there who feel the same way as you do, and the event doesn’t feel so intimidating anymore.
- Think of each experience as a story that you can tell later– When you put yourself out there and dive into new experiences, sometimes they won’t turn out the way you expected them to — and that is okay. Don’t get me wrong, it is still important to trust your instincts and remind yourself that if you do feel uncomfortable for any reason, you have every right to get yourself out of the situation. But if you find yourself in a moment that is just not what you were expecting it to be, or just kind of awkward, don’t turn that tension inward by blaming yourself. Instead, just let yourself be entertained by the moment, and later tell the story to someone you know well and laugh about it.
- You are not committed to something just because you tried it- You think you may be interested in rock climbing, but you’re not sure. You start to doubt yourself, you think, “well, I’ve never been interested in it before, it’s not who I am, I don’t belong there.” But what’s the harm in trying it? When you look back on your college experience, you probably will not regret that time, sophomore year when you joined rock climbing club for two weeks and decided that you didn’t enjoy the early mornings so you quit. Sometimes you get an urge to try out something new. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll get bored of it after a month. Either way, you gained value from the experience. Every time you try out a new club, you become familiar with new faces that you can smile at on your walk to class. You gain a fun fact to share at work events. You gain a stepping stone that will guide you closer to the knowledge of what you enjoy and value, and knowing what you don’t.
- Be creative– CSU has so many resources available to you, and by taking the time to learn about them, you can find creative ways to set yourself up with some amazing opportunities. For instance, when I was a first-year student, I was very interested in studying psychology. I decided that I didn’t want to major in it, because I wasn’t necessarily interested in a career in Psychology. CSU doesn’t have a minor in Psychology, so I decided that I would get involved in the department through speaking with my professor. My second year at CSU, I was able to work in her research lab and become a teaching assistant for her Psych 100 class, which gave me the opportunity to continue learning and teaching others about Psychology, without taking the traditional pathway of declaring it as a major.
- Enjoy each moment for what it is– Sometimes you try something new and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Maybe you aren’t hired for a job you were really excited to apply for, or maybe you get rejected from a performance that you auditioned for. When these moments happen, it is easy to blame yourself and become discouraged. Instead, try to view these moments as just being a small piece in a larger puzzle. You’re still building your skillset. Ask for constructive feedback when you can, so you know what you can do to improve. Remember that life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. Sometimes what you want in the moment is not going to work out simply because you need to leave room for something even better. Just remember your value, and try not to take rejections personally. Keep learning from them, working on them, and stay open to new opportunities, because some of the best experiences in life show up in disguise.
As I think back to my first year of college, it amazes me to reflect on how different I was. There were times when my attempts to get involved and experience new things resulted in awkward moments, and some moments that I wouldn’t repeat, but looking back on my college experience, I have no regrets. The truth is, I needed each and every one of those moments in order to become the person that I am now. They opened my mind, they gave me funny stories to share, and taught me lessons that will last a lifetime.
Versatile PhD is the oldest, largest online community dedicated to non-academic and non-faculty careers for PhDs in humanities, social science and STEM.
Key resource for PhD Scientists to learn how to get into industry including jobs, resumes, and blogs.
CSU students who have a strong desire to be engaged in entrepreneurship can pursue this 24-credit minor developed for business and non-business students.
Explore the different major tracks here at CSU, whether you are undecided or checking what your options are, CSU can help!