Take Two: Career Change Leads to Success and Rewards for Sarah Koszyk
Dec 18, 2013
I first met Sarah briefly at FNCE 2012 when I had a booth at the Member Product Marketplace next to Stacey Dunn-Emke of NutritionJobs.com, who Sarah does consulting work for. Then we met again at the DBC Communications Camp in Napa when we had the chance to get to know each other a little better. Sarah has a truly warm smile and warm personality – so easy to talk with. I loved learning about her “non-traditional” entry into the world of nutrition and am very impressed with how much she’s done in the field in such a short time. I am so pleased to share her story here with you!
MELISSA: I understand nutrition is a second career for you. Tell us about your first career and how you become interested in nutrition.
SARAH: I got my first two bachelor degrees in Speech & Communications and Spanish. After graduating, a friend and I started our own fashion company. I always knew I wanted to be my own boss and I liked the idea of going into business with a partner. We were just about to open our store when unfortunate circumstances happened and we had to fold our company. I was at a loss with what to do with my future and where I wanted to go with my career. After taking some time off to travel, I realized I wanted to have a career where I could help better the lives of other people.
I’ve always had a passion for cooking and eating, so my career path research brought me to the realm of dietetics. Knowing I’d have to go back to school to get a 3rd bachelor’s degree was not something I was looking forward to doing, but I did it while working full time. Four years later, I was able to complete my undergrad and dietetic internship debt free.
I’ve been an official RD since November of 2008. While doing my undergrad, I met my mentor, dear friend, and associate, Manuel Villacorta, owner of MV Nutrition & Eating Free. Once I decided to embark on the dietitian rollercoaster, I immediately joined the Academy and a few dietetic practice groups that I felt would be beneficial for my future endeavors. Nutrition Entrepreneurs was one of them. Looking for someone in my area to talk to in private practice, I went onto the electronic mailing list and submitted a post for a local dietitian. I was told to contact Manuel. I Googled him, met him, and we instantly connected. He offered me a job as his administrative assistant. I gobbled it up immediately. I worked with him during my undergrad studies. Once I completed my internship, he hired me on as an associate. I’ve been working at his private practice, MV Nutrition and online counseling program, Eating Free, ever since. He even married my husband and I!
As time went on, I continued to network and meet as many people as I could at events. I’ve landed other jobs, too, such as working with Stacey Dunn-Emke, owner of NutritionJobs.com and ExerciseJobs.com, job search engine websites. With Stacey, I write resource articles for her websites and assist with her social media. She’s another dietitian who I admire a lot. She owns her own successful business while maintaining a family of three kids like the rock star mom that she is! Stacey is a positive bowl of joy, very generous, and I’m lucky to have her around me.
MELISSA: Having Speech & Communications and Spanish as a foundation before getting into nutrition is interesting. I can see how you use this in your day to day work. Manuel and Stacey are both phenomenal people! I’m glad you know how lucky you are to work with them. Likewise, they were both very savvy to bring you onto their teams! By the way, I LOVE the Dietitian Career Spotlights you write for NutritionJobs.com (and was honored to be featured earlier this year)!
Tell me about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
SARAH: I’ve established myself as a pediatric expert. I work with families teaching healthy nutrition for all income levels in both English and Spanish. I customize programs for each family depending on their lifestyle, patterns, and habits, so that they are all able to make changes towards bettering their health. I’ve also been cooking a lot with kids in the kitchen and making videos on simple after-school snacks to encourage kids trying new foods and enjoying healthy, homemade snack options. Here’s a link to my FOOD: video blog and a snippet of one of my favorite recipes: Ranch Dressing (using Greek yogurt). Who doesn’t love to dip veggies into something?!
MELISSA: The Ranch video is so cute! I love it. Wow, you have a ton of videos on there! Great stuff. I’m going to tweet those out.
So, what inspired you to start your biz and your blog? What are you working on right now?
SARAH: When I first started at MV Nutrition, we primarily focused on weight management and sports nutrition for adults. We were getting more and more referrals from families asking about their kids’ health and wellness. I decided to jump into the scene. I enjoy working with kids and their parents.
In the last year and a half, after writing blogs/articles for Eating Free, Diakadi Body, Macaroni Kids, and many other publications and websites, I decided to start a blog of my own to reflect the family program I’d made. I had all this content and ideas, but no name. I met with Emma Fogt, another one of my dietetic idols. She is a super business-savvy powerhouse dietitian that originally gave me the great advice of starting a pediatric private practice. She helped me find the name of my blog and company: Family. Food. Fiesta. This blog has officially started my own dietetic “baby” and future career path where I am currently working on monetizing it. My latest and greatest business venture.
MELISSA: Excellent! Such a great niche and you KNOW I love the triplet and the alliteration of Family. Food. Fiesta.
I agree, Emma is a dynamo. She’s the one who suggested I get involved in the NE Executive Committee (as Speakers & Media Specialty Chair) with a bunch of other RD dynamos, like you! It’s so inspiring to work with this group.
Tell me about all of the different types of nutrition communications you are engaged in.
I blog 2-3 times per week at: Family. Food. Fiesta.
Family focuses on healthy living tips for the entire family.
Food focuses on video blogs where I cook with kids from 4 to 16 years old to promote simple cooking techniques and delicious, healthy snacks/quick meals.
Fiesta focuses on family-friendly recipes that I made or modified.
I do a lot of presentations for local sports teams and clubs such as AIDS Lifecycle, Team In Training, Marathon Matt, Avon Breast Cancer Walk, and more.
Speaking of the NE Executive Committee, I’m the Incoming Director of PR & Marketing (for Nutrition Entrepreneurs dietetic practice group). I think it’s very important to be involved in a DPG. You meet so many amazing RDs, continue to grow and network and enhance your daily experience as a dietitian by learning from others. The best form of learning is from our colleagues!
MELISSA: So true. I’m curious what comes naturally for you and what you have to work hard on when it comes to nutrition communications.
SARAH: I’m actually really shy, so networking is very hard for me. I’d prefer to be a wall flower and just observe everyone else interacting. I can’t wait till I’m a super senior citizen where I can just sit and stare at people without causing concern or attracting negative attention! In order to combat my shyness, I just jump into the situation and put my best foot forward and mingle. Being more visible has opened many doors for me, so I know how important networking is.
Smiling comes naturally to me and I enjoy laughing. I also enjoy learning about others, so when I do meet people, it’s pretty easy for me to engage with them in a one-on-one situation because I’m always curious to learn about new personalities, places, and backgrounds. Writing also comes pretty naturally. I need to work on my sound bites, though. That’s another professional person I can hire for that: Hello Melissa Joy Dobbins!
MELISSA: I never would have guessed in a million years that you are shy. To me, you really seem very comfortable! It must be your smile.
Aw thanks for mentioning me. I really do like helping people work on “soundbites” because they don’t come naturally to me and I’ve had to learn how to tap into that part of my brain. So if I can do it, so can others!
Please share one experience that either taught you a lot about nutrition communications or you think would help other RDs.
SARAH: In order to enhance my communications skills, I attended the Communications Boot Camp weekend extravaganza through Dietitians in Business & Communications DPG. During that weekend in Napa, I learned some of the best information I’ve ever been taught from short sound bites by Melissa Joy Dobbins to how to make a stellar, captivating presentation using Prezi from Sonja Stetzler. I have to recommend everyone attend a conference and take full advantage of what it has to offer by talking to fellow RDs to learn about their life paths, their experiences, and their successes. Many times we learn from our fellow colleagues based on their trials and tribulations so we don’t have to go through the same troubles they did.
MELISSA: Thank you! Yes, DBC really put together a wonderful communications camp and I was so honored to be one of the presenters along with my friend and colleague Christine Palumbo. I’m so thrilled they are planning another camp January 15-17, 2015.
What are your top 3 tips for other RDs who want to improve their communication skills?
- Hire out when you need to. We all have our specialties and we already wear a ton of hats! Prioritize what you need to have done and hire professionals when you need extra assistance. I’ve hired website designers, logo designers, PR firms, accountants and more to help me reach my goals.
- Streamline what needs to be done in your career and prioritize your money-making gigs. Spreading yourself too thin can result in not being productive. Make a priority list on what needs to get done in a timely manner and stick to it.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. Whether you want to write, speak, or do media work. We are continually growing. Practice speaking in front of mirrors or practice writing for casual blogs to fine-tune your communication skills. Always continue to practice. Never get too comfortable.
MELISSA: Really smart advice! I know you love to scuba dive and travel. Tell us about some of your recent trips.
SARAH: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to scuba dive and travel. I’ve set it up so I can travel around the world and write articles or do research which helps pay for the travels! (I try to travel at least 2 months a year in various countries). My most recent adventure was to Peru where we went to the Amazon, Machu Picchu, and Lima. I was researching for assistance with an upcoming book, which was a great excuse to get to know the culture of the country, too! We took a cooking class at Sky Kitchen – tons of fun!
On another adventure this year, we went to Paris, France, where I was researching an article regarding understanding cultural cuisines. My husband and I had a ton of fun eating our way through Paris while visiting the sites such as Notre Dame.
MELISSA: Sounds like a dream come true. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share?
SARAH: I want to give a lot of credit to fellow RDs. Almost every RD I’ve ever met has given me some form of growth, knowledge, tidbit, friendship, smile, or encouragement that has helped shape me who I am today. I believe that continuing to pay it forward is very important. In order to help my fellow colleagues, I’m always willing to elevate the fellow RD or RD to be and provide guidance or advice. Let’s keep moving our industry to the top!
I echo that sentiment! As Leah McGrath would say #BuildUpRDs! A huge round of applause for Sarah and her story. By the way, Sarah and I just co-authored a 2-part article for the NE Ventures newsletter called “Asking for What You Are Worth” where we touch on how to figure out your pricing and how to speak up and negotiate! Be sure to check it out. And be sure to leave any questions or comments for us below.
Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!
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I’m the Guilt-Free RD® – “Because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!™”. So, on my Food for Thought blog I’m exploring the secret ingredients needed to enjoy your food with health in mind. I’m also a “Dietitian Enthusiast” so I’m showcasing interviews with dietitians. My “How To” Series shares practical advice to help boost communication skills and gain more visibility, influence and success.
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