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Jorie Janzen Human Nutritional Sciences Alumni

Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?

As a registered dietitian working in sport nutrition I wear several hats. I work full time as the director of sport dietetics at the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba (CSCM). At the CSCM I work with an integrated support team consisting of an exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning coaches, a sport psychologist, athlete services manager, the communications and marketing coordinator and the general manager of the centre. Together we provide services to National, Olympic and Paralympic level athletes in Manitoba. I also keep a small private practice on the side, which includes sports nutrition for health and performance, as well I work with individuals, athletes and teams and corporations. I have provided services from the grass roots level up to the NHL level in sport. I also provide services to those with eating disorders who either just completed the eating disorder program or are waiting to get into the program. I provide mentorship for students who are interested in a career in sport nutrition. For past 13 years, I have been providing opportunities for nutrition students, recent grads, dietetic interns and dietitians to both observe and get hands-on experience in working in sport nutrition. 

My job is not 8 to 4 or 9 to 5, nor is it Monday to Friday. If you want to work in sport you have to be both flexible with and protective of your time. This has been and continues to be a challenge for me. Coaches and athletes are not always available during normal working hours. Or, they need to discuss issues and concerns before they can move on with their work. This can mean calls, texts, emails, face time/Skype meetings late into the evening, beyond your already full workday. It is exactly this that I do find rewarding and challenging at the same time. I absolutely love what I do (most days!) and love knowing that those I work with know they can count on me when they need me. And at the same time, drawing the line as to when to shut things down so that I can recover and be my best can be a hard thing to do. 

What experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?

When I first started at the University of Manitoba I had no idea what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I thought that teaching would be great. I was also really interested in the social sciences but I just couldn’t commit to either area. I went to Career Services for assistance and what showed up was the field of nutrition. The defining moment that lead me to where I am today was a course in the nutrition program that required us to conduct an interview with a dietitian working in the area we were interested in. I assumed that had to be diabetes or the elderly as these were major topics in the course work. However, my schedule could not line up with the dietitians I tried to connect with. One day, out of desperation to get my assignment done, I flipped through the Yellow Pages (that was a business phone book we used before the internet came along) and found a sports nutritionist. I had absolutely no idea what a sports nutritionist did; but I am sure glad I made that contact. The dietitian took me under her wing and not only mentored me but truly gave me my start in sport nutrition…thank you Rennie Benedict! 

As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed? 

As a student, I had no idea what a dietitian really did, never mind working and specializing in sport nutrition. So, no, I did not see myself in my current career. In fact, in my last year when I was starting to think how I could work in sport nutrition I was told by a classmate that I could never be a sports dietitian because I was not a high-level athlete. I have to admit, I was pretty bummed when I heard those words come out of her mouth. After all, I am not a high-level athlete and there were no courses at the time in sport nutrition. That said, I am not a quitter and I was not going to let a little thing like not being a high-level athlete stop me from pursuing an area I had fallen in love with. Does someone specializing in diabetes or cancer have to have experienced diabetes or cancer? Or, being a great athlete does not necessarily translate into becoming a great coach. Those experiences can absolutely help, but they don’t guarantee you will be able to work in the area. So, instead, I decided to keep all potential opportunities in dietetics as options for me and my career path. This included the area in sport nutrition. 

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in human nutritional sciences?

My advice is simple. Follow your passion(s). That said, you will have to put in a ton of free time and labor to gain the experiences and practical skill set to work in this field of sport dietetics. Volunteering, networking, studying and having patience and perseverance will help get you to where you want to be. Some of the activities that helped me gain practical experience include: 

  • Volunteering with the Women’s Health Clinic in delivering Body Image, Self-esteem and Weight Preoccupation presentations. I learned so much from the training program, those also training in the program and the delivery and interactions with participants in the sessions. I unfortunately work with amazing athletes and too often they have body image issues, disordered eating or eating disorders. 
  • Volunteering at the Running Room helped build my skill set in gaging the audience as to what level of information was needed. Not everyone who is active wants to be a high level athlete! 
  • Volunteering and being mentored by a dietitian working in sport allowed me to both gain knowledge, practical experience and network with coaches, athletes and learn what committees I could participate in. 
  • Becoming a Dietitians of Canada student member provided me with the opportunity to join and eventually participate with networks. 

What job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?

I did not jump into a full-time sport nutrition position straight out of internship. There was no such thing at the time and I had much to learn before it could even become a reality. As a registered dietitian I started working in two long-term care facilities, then to a larger facility while working evenings and weekends on my private practice – which I mainly focused on sport nutrition. I then spent several years working with the WRHA Surgery Prehabilitation Program for my day job and continued to build my private practice. Eventually, my contract work with the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba grew into a permanent part time position for my first year. It then quickly moved to a permanent full-time position. Perseverance and networking were definitely major contributors to my success in sport nutrition. 

Tell us a fun fact about your career path.

My position with the CSCM is the only permanent, never mind full-time sport nutrition position in the province! Yes, I am truly blessed.

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