Dietetic Career Spotlight on Sarah Oh, Dietetic Re-Entry
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on MARCH 27, 2019
Meet Sarah Oh, MPH, RDN, CLE, who is in-between jobs right now and is a fabulous reminder how we can continue to revamp our careers at any stage of the game. Sarah took some time off for family and other interests. Now, she is heading back into the dietetic industry. Read on to learn how she is moving forward with her career goals. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
In my 3rdyear in college (yes, 3rd!) I had a major shift in my thinking and what kind of career I wanted to pursue. It was important that I work in a field where I help others, and not just build success that’s all about me.
Around that time, I was taking a nutrition intro course as part of GE, and thought, hey, this is so interesting and I can help myself and others lead healthier lives. I was also drawn to this profession because of the diverse settings dietitians can work in—clinical, healthcare food service, schools, community health, private practice, etc. Since then, the options have increased even more. It really is limitless what we can do as dietitians these days.
Your Job Title?
In 2018, I took a gap year to focus on family obligations and pursue other interests. Since the new year (2019), I relocated in the Bay Area and am now in the process of starting my next professional chapter.
As such, I currently do not have a formal job title. But I can tell you this: My career history so far (WIC, Early Head Start, Black Infant Health, etc.) demonstrates my passion is rooted in the intersection of Nutrition, Health Equity, and/or Women/Maternal-Child Health.
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
I invest my time in networking (with dietitians, other professionals, old and new mentors, past co-workers, public health colleagues from Berkeley School of Public Health, etc.); taking webinars and virtual professional workshops for CE credits; setting up informational interviews with those in jobs that intrigue me; building up my social media presence (LinkedIn); and filling out applications/preparing for interviews. (Those of you who are/were in this stage know that this process is a job in itself!)
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
Some of my innate traits that have helped me professionally (also just in life general) are my love of learning, connecting with individuals easily, and independent thinking/creativity to view and approach situations/issues differently sometimes.
I also have acquired so many other skills (mostly through mistakes and errors) along the way since I’ve been practicing dietetics as of 2005. I will highlight 2 of the most impactful skills I learned.
First, I learned that often times, it’s not whatyou say, but howyou say it. This is nothing new. I think most of us have heard this phrase—Well, I’ve experienced this several times, especially as a team leader. Through coaching from my mentors, I learned to be more mindful of how my message will be heard/interpreted by others. So now, I try to frame my messages from their point of view, and am more careful about the phrases/words I choose, with the goal of persuading, and not just stating my thoughts/ideas. This has had a huge impact on how I collaborate with others.
My second monumental lesson I acquired is the importance of self-care. Many dietitians have type A personality and are over-achievers and driven. (In one sense, I guess we have to be to journey through the arduous process of becoming an RDN!) I always worked very hard to go ‘above and beyond’ of what’s required of me—For example, while working as a WIC Nutritionist, I initiated and launched a media campaign (without being asked) to reach out to the Korean immigrant community who were underutilizing the WIC services in Southern California (YouTube video can be viewed through my LinkedIn). But often times, I got burnt out after these special projects. So now, while still working hard, I try to think more long-term and pace myself to ensure sustained productivity without burning out or crashing. I value work-life balance very much these days, and prioritize my time off is spent on resting and nourishing myself with relationships/recreational activities that bring joy and vitality.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
One of my life mottos is “Always evolving.”
I think it’s important dietitians not only stay up-to-date with science and evidence-based practices (they evolve constantly), but also stay open-minded and be attuned to current trends in the general public. We have to remember that dietetic practice is both science AND art. That helps us to adapt, stay relevant/fresh, and more effective as leading nutrition experts.
This also applies to personal life as well. To live an interesting, meaningful, and happy life, continue to learn, explore, and try new things!