Career Advice from 3 Food Scientists

Adam, My Food Job Rocks! podcaster-at-large, has been really busy in the last couple of months. He’s interviewed so many people from all aspects of the food industry. If you haven’t subscribed to the My Food Job Rocks podcast yet, I’d highly recommend it. The interviews will open your mind to the endless opportunities available in food. The first few podcasts feature young (mid 20’s) Food Scientists who are loving their jobs. The interviews contain a wealth of great career advice for graduates looking to launch their career in food. So, because FoodGrads wants to make sure that you, too, are successful in your food career, we decided to summarize what these hip foodies advise. This advice comes “straight from the horses mouth” given by people who have been in the same situation as you are now, looking for your first role.

Who did we ask?

  • Brian, the food consultant from The Helmsman Group, who sets the gold standard for the clients whose products he helps bring to market
  • Taryn, the food scientist who works for Albertsons/Safeway to bring new products to grocery stores across the US
  • Trevor the chocolatier from Dandelion Chocolates who makes chocolate!

What is their best advice?

  • Travel; Brian suggests that you ALWAYS take the opportunity to travel. Travelling will allow you to experience different food cultures and, because many organizations have an international product focus, you will put yourself at an advantage over others
  • Keep an open mind; Don’t limit your thinking when it comes to your career in food. You don’t have to only pursue culinary or product development roles. You can use your food science background for many other positions including logistics, marketing, packaging or health and safety to name a few
  • Start to network early; Taryn suggests beginning your networking while you are still in school. She advises participating in any competitions you can in the food science sector. Also becoming a student member of the local chapter of the food science/technology association in your country is a good idea. These efforts really helped her to network and get exposure to different opportunities in the food industry and understand more about the companies operating within it.
  • Internships; She also suggests that you should take any and all opportunities available to you. Do as many internships as you can, even if these are not part of your academic program.
  • Be Nice; Her final piece of advice is to have thick skin, don’t be embarrassed and don’t be scared to make mistakes. Be nice, do the best you can, don’t back down, have courage, be honest. Oh, and did we mention it before? BE NICE!!
  • Start early; Trevor also suggests getting relevant experience while you are in school. He worked at the University of California’s chocolate factory. First as a volunteer and then in a paid role. It was here that he developed his love for chocolate making
  • Learn by doing; Theory is great, but applying your knowledge in a practical setting as soon as you can is really important. This gives you the opportunity to expand your skills and learn by making mistakes.
  • Don’t be picky initially; Stay open to opportunity to get work experience. As an example, let’s say you end up in quality assurance. You might not have dreamed of that job, but you will get good work experience and it could open up other opportunities. Trevor also suggests that any kind of manufacturing experience is very important and will serve you well in your future career in food.

Why do they love their jobs?

Taryn said that she loved the fact she has the opportunity to reach and feed people all across the US. She loves the impact she can have on other people’s eating experiences. Although she is no longer in school, Taryn also said that she loved her food science major because it was so interactive and ‘hands on’. Because her role is in co-packing she works on many different projects with companies and their products. He role is predominantly in a test kitchen and she loves the interactivity with her team.

Brian loves the combination of working in a lab and on a laptop. While he says he couldn’t work all day in a kitchen, the combination is perfect. This is because he interacts with food when in the kitchen and then gets to play to his high level of detail orientation. He also says he likes the fact that he is never bound to one company. He works works with multiple customers, helping them to bring their food product dream to reality. It’s this that brings joy to his life.

Trevor said that he loves food and he loves chocolate and the best thing about his job was the ability to spend working all day with the type of ingredient he loves!

All of the food scientists said that what made their job great was the ability to interact with people through one medium – food. All of them grew up either in families who loved food, or had developed a passion for food early in life.

Do these people sound like you? Do you have any additional advice to add?

If you haven’t listened to these episodes yet, head over to My Food Job Rocks and load ’em up on to you favourite podcast player!