Siân is now working with the British Dietetic Association as Professional Practice Manager. She previously worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham. She has worked in a range of clinical areas, specialising in learning disabilities, palliative care and nutritional support.

Twitter@: siancunningham2

Siân Cunningham, MSc, RD, AFHEA

Professional Practice Manager, BDA

The idea of ‘networking can make even an experienced dietitian cringe at the thought, particularly if networking to you means attempting to mingle with a room full of strangers! Whilst the extroverts among you may love the opportunity to charge your social batteries, for many of us, even the thought of such intensive socialising can make us feel tired! But what do we mean by 'networking' and how can it help us in our dietetic careers?

Put simply, networking is the establishment of a network of people whom you can draw upon for discussion, support, guidance and advice.  This can be face to face, virtually or both depending on your situation and preference. Being part of a network can be a fantastic way to understand what others working in your field are experiencing in their roles, helping you to identify common themes within your areas of work and identify possible solutions to any shared concerns. It can be very reassuring to know that you are not alone in the challenges that you may be facing.

It is never too soon to start building your network. University presents a golden opportunity to build relationships with your lecturers and the people in your cohort.

Start to build relationships with peers and colleagues at university

It is never too soon to start building your network, university presents a golden opportunity to build relationships with your lecturers and the people in your cohort. As your former classmates move through their careers you may very soon find that you have specialist dietitians, freelancers, sports dietitians, researchers, industry dietitians, lecturers and dietetic managers within your network, so do keep in touch!

For some of you working in areas where you are the sole dietitian in your team, courses and workshops, even virtual ones such as webinars, can be a great opportunity to catch up with other dietitians and nutrition professionals.

Sign up for courses and workshops...

Your professional body, the British Dietetic Association, also creates opportunities for you to meet other dietitians. This can be through attending a course in your area of specialism, of which they have a wide range available. These are likely to be attended by people working in similar roles.

Take time on any course or conference you attend to chat to people and find out about their experiences and commonalities.

The BDA has specialist interest groups that offer current information, leadership and the expertise of dietitians working in specific areas of practice. These groups are open to experienced dietitians, new graduates and students who would like to learn more about a specialist area. Joining a specialist group will help you to develop both your network and career by giving you access to online discussion networks, expert professional knowledge and CPD events. 

BDA branches also provide networking opportunities and are spread throughout the UK. Members can attend branch meetings which offer CPD and networking opportunities in your local area, helping to increase the breadth of your network.

Specialist interest groups and branches are run by committees. There are opportunities to get involved by volunteering your time. This can provide great opportunities to make new contacts and broaden your networks. You never know, the people you meet might be future colleagues, clinical supervisors or mentors.

Of course, we must also mention Social media! Used professionally, it is a brilliant way to connect with other dietitians from across the country and from around the world. Whether you use TikTok, LinkedIn, X (formerly known as Twitter) or Facebook, there are lots of great networking opportunities to be found online.

Finally, whichever form of networking you prefer and chose to engage with, and I strongly encourage you to do so.

Happy networking!

Dietetics is a small profession, and you will meet people twice in the course of your career, so always remember to be friendly, polite and professional!