Dietetic Career Spotlight on Vanessa Costa, KIND Healthy Snacks
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on NOVEMBER 21, 2016
Career changes can happen. Meet Vanessa Costa, MS, RDN, who started her first career as an investment banker and business development. Fast forward, she’s now a health & wellness communications specialist with KIND Healthy Snacks providing the public with smart, science-based nutritional information. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I actually began my career in investment banking and business development, but I quickly realized that I didn’t feel inspired or challenged by the work I was doing and struggled to find larger meaning in my day-to-day responsibilities. Meanwhile, I had been personally passionate about nutrition and wellness since making major changes to my own diet and activity patterns as a teenager that resulted in powerful improvements to my health and happiness. I spent free time learning about nutrition on my own and grew ever-more fascinated by the evolving nature of nutrition science, the behavioral aspects of food and nutrition choices and the numerous ways our diets impact our lives.
At some point, I finally realized I had to change course and pursue graduate education to move into the field of nutrition and dietetics. It was a long road for me; I had an undergraduate degree in business and no science background! Through several years, numerous undergraduate and graduate courses and multiple unpaid internship gigs, I never doubted my decision to start on the path toward becoming a dietitian.
Your Job Title?
Health & Wellness Communications Specialist
Company you are with now?
KIND Healthy Snacks
– Instagram: @VanessaCostaRDN
– Twitter: @VanessaCostaRDN
Describe a typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
One of the many fantastic things about working at KIND is that there’s really no typical day! While a lot of my work centers on building and developing relationships with nutrition professionals as part of our Nutrition Collective, I also help with content creation, strategy development and media relations. Additionally, along with our other in-house RD, Stephanie Perruzza, MS, RD, I serve as internal resource and provide nutrition counsel to other teams at KIND. At the moment, I’m spending a lot of my time planning KIND’s presence at FNCE this year. It’s this first year we’ll be exhibiting since launching the Nutrition Collective program, so we’re really excited to see many of our existing members and connect with others who may want to apply to join the program!
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
When I entered the field, I was determined to seek out opportunities that were aligned with the areas of practice I was most interested in: 1) one-on-one nutrition counseling and 2) consulting for businesses that had a stake in food, health and/or wellness. Charting this untraditional path as a nutrition professional allowed me to cultivate existing skills and develop new ones. I consulted for food and beverage companies, worked part-time at a private practice, and did some freelance writing.
It was exciting working in different capacities within the field of nutrition and dietetics, however I had long thought I’d be well-suited for working in-house at a health-minded food company that made products I believed in and recommended to my clients. So when the opportunity with KIND came along, it felt like a perfect fit. While I was sad to leave my clients in private practice and my more flexible schedule, I was incredibly excited to join the amazing, spirited team at KIND and begin contributing to their mission of delivering healthy and tasty snacks and spreading kindness. My role draws on my nutrition expertise, business knowledge and experience and also challenges me to think and work dynamically everyday.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I’ve been blessed (and sometimes cursed!) with an analytical mindset. I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit which has allowed me to think creatively, take calculated professional risks and follow my passions to carve an unusual career path for myself. I have a strong work ethic and try to see every opportunity as one where I can learn something.
In terms of skills that didn’t come naturally, I’ve realized over the course of my working life how critical it is to foster and maintain relationships. I’m not talking about traditional “networking” that might seem self-serving and contrived, but rather taking the time to keep in touch with former colleagues and classmates with whom you’ve already built great relationships. I’ve also learned that I can always continue working on being a good listener since that skill is invaluable in work and life.
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
It’s never too late to pivot in your career. If you’re worried about stability and staying the course but feel a nagging feeling that your job or industry isn’t fulfilling you, don’t ignore it! Take action, even if it’s just researching a new field or role or connecting with someone who has a job that sounds interesting to you, to start moving closer toward a possible new path.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what
would it be?
Time! Nothing is more valuable to me than having wide open days to do the things I love and be with family and friends.