I gave a presentation for the Kent State Student Dietetic Association yesterday on 6 tips to success in dietetics and 6 career options/opportunities in the field for after gradation and during undergrad volunteer opportunities. I want to share this useful information that I have learned along the way!
I wish that I had some of these tips as a Freshman in college, because by the time I was a senior it was too late, and I had to continue to get experiences after graduation. I would not change my experiences for the world, but I would have been able to excel a lot faster with these tips. For those of you who did not get an internship, DO NOT WORRY! I am here to tell you that you can still get one, all you need to do is persevere and keep getting more experience. Your hard work will pay off, and it will be worth it in the end! And follow my advice….because I have been through it 3 times!
- Join free: www.allaccessinternships.com for information on all internships, tips, articles and work experience opportunities
- Do not despair if you did not get an internship this matching round, there is only a 50% acceptance rate! You can still gain experience and reapply next year.
- Consider distance internship. You can tailor your rotations to your professional goals, AND they accept more interns than the traditional intern! I got accepted to the Sodexo Distance Education DI and there were 40 spots open at this internship.
- I applied for internships the first time in the spring of 2009 and did not get matched, then I applied Again for the November fall matching in 2009 and after an interview flying out to philly, all paid by my nonexistent bank account, did not receive a match yet again. I felt completely defeated and broke. I kept telling myself throughout college that it will be worth it, just get through this impossible physiology test or nutrition test and deal with this professor and you will be done and things will get easier. I applied for the internships telling myself, just take the time to do this and it will be worth the effort put in. But when I did not match the second time, I felt like all my efforts were for nothing.
- After about a month of loathing in self-pity I decided that I was not going to work as a server any more, and that I deserved better, because I worked so hard for my college degree.
- I started searching the internet for jobs. At that point I was willing to travel, and that is when I applied for as many jobs where I fit the qualifications. I was called for a phone interview for a nutrition research assistant position in North Carolina at the Nutrition Research Institute, and was hired! Hope again filled my eyes. Working in research was a great experience that opened many doors for me. After research I worked volunteering with the community with the Children’s Hunger Alliance. After applying for the April 2011 matching round, I finally got a match!
Tip 1: Be willing to travel-
- Your chances of getting a job increase when you go outside of Ohio or whatever state you reside in.
- Consider a temp job somewhere if you do not want to stay permanently in another state.
- Consider a summer position if you have to come back to school
Job option 1: Research-
- Check out local and nonlocal hospital websites for job opportunities in research.
- Www.nutritionjobs.com is a great website for finding nutrition jobs in all areas including research.
- Consider a Research Assistant position in nutrition, biology, chemistry, physiology or food science.
- You can be hired with just a bachelor’s degree in nutrition if you have strong statistics, writing skills and research skills or have experience with lab work.
- Hospitals like the cleveland clinic, universities and laboratories are constantly hiring research assistants for their research
- You might even be given the opportunity to co-author a paper for a peer-reviewed journal.
- Get involved in the research going on at your own campus.
- In college I got a negative view on research from writing papers all the time, but writing real papers for real journals is way more exciting.
- It is exciting to be the one actually doing the cutting edge research and finding new results no one has discovered before.
- Some research positions can be in the lab or fieldwork where you can be doing the research first hand
Tip 2: Get your DTR certification-
- One of the best things you can do for yourself if you did not get an internship this matching round. It shows that you can pass a test like the RD test and gives you more opportunities in the clinical setting.
- The process to get all the forms takes about a month to complete as well as 120 dollars for the test. (also form to be signed by your director)
- Once you pass the test you will be able to work under a dietitian in the clinical or long term care settings (basically do everything a dietitian can do, just with her sign off) and gain great experience
- Looks amazing on DI applications! Some even waive hours. They look to see if you can pass the RD exam, and if you can pass the DTR exam you will be considered.
- If you have lower than a 3.5 GPA than getting the DTR helps you look better to the DI’s. You need to prove you are good at studying and are a good test taker. They need to know you can pass the RD exam after graduation, and if your grades don”t show that, they might not rank you.
- Visit: http://cdrnet.org/services-Prospective-RDs-DTRs for more information on how to apply for the test and for eligibility.
Job Option 2: WIC/Public health-
- Most WIC facilities hire nutrition graduates without being a RD.
- You can apply for a Nutritionist I position at WIC without being a RD.
- Job duties include: Providing basic nutrition services, including individual and group counseling to clients eligible for WIC’s special Supplemental Food program. Providing individual assessment and counseling support for breastfeeding, pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children to age 5
- Working at WIC looks really good on your resume.
- Volunteer at WIC
Tip 3: Networking and Shadowing-
- Connect with Dietitians in the area.
- Collect business cards
- Join local and national associations such as your local dietetic association and ADA, and participate in volunteer opportunities, committees for these organizations.
- Shadowing dietitians not only give you great connections/friendships, but also can give you an idea of where your niche may be in dietetics.
- Dietitians love to have students. So don’t be shy!!!
- I highly stress this, I wish I would have started sooner in networking and shadowing dietitians.
Job Option 3: Get involved in the Community-
- Join the AmeriCorps, HealthCorps or PeaceCorps.
- Get involved in local nutrition and health organizations.
- Volunteer at food banks, food pantries, promote food security
- Find your interest in nutrition and there will probably be somewhere you can volunteer.
Tip 4: Work your way up-
- Work as a dietary aide in the hospital in which the internship you want is held
- Working as a dietary aide looks WAY better than working as a server or in retail, even though the pay may be less.
Job Option 4: Work at a summer camp-
- Working at a weight loss, diabetic, or even an adventure camp as a counselor, fitness instructor or even diet aide in the kitchen can be both rewarding and FUN!
Tip 5: Interviewing
- 80% you, 20% interviewer talking
- Take your time
- Ask what types of questions will be asked (calculations?)
- Be prepared-have questions already answered!
Common Questions that I have been asked before during dietetic internship interviews:
- You don’t know the definition of a word on your clinical rotation, what do you do?
- An obese patient for bariatric surgery is not complying, what do you do?
- How have you been resourceful?
- Your preceptor is does not have the right Nutrition Care Process formula, how do you deal with that?
- Your preceptor does not have the right number used for the amount of calories someone should have, how do you approach your preceptor?
- Why do you like this internship/program?
- How do you think graduate coursework will differ than undergraduate coursework?
- If you were giving a presentation and didn’t know the answer to a question someone asked, what would you do?
- Why should we pick you?
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths?
- Give an example of your critical thinking skills.
- When have you shown emotional stability and maturity?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Name three words that describe yourself?
- Talk about your ability to learn and function in a variety of settings.
- What do you know about the internship/company?
- What role do you take in group settings?
- Why are you interested in dietetics?
- What are your professional goals both long term and short term.
- What is a recent nutrition topic that has interested you lately and why?
- Pediatrics: How will you deal with dying children?
- Name a time when you were in a conflict, and how you resolved it.
- What got you interested in dietetics?
- Name a time when you had an impossible task and how you got it done on time.
- What would you do if a preceptor was not cooperating with you, what would you do?
- Name a time when you worked with a team and how you worked together.
- How are you able to perform under pressure?
- What makes you prepared for this program/job/internship?
- Do you think that your marks are a true indicator of your academic potential
Questions to ask internship/program/employer:
- What do you like about working for this company?
- What would you consider to be the company’s strength?
- Are there any weaknesses in the department you’re working on improving?
- What would you consider to be your leadership style?
- What do you like about working for this company?
- How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be evaluated? By whom? How often?
- How is this internship perceived by the hospital?
- What do you see in my personality, work history or skill set that attracts you to me?
- What particular computer equipment and software do you use?
- How do I compare to the other people you have interviewed so far?
- Can you describe and ideal intern?
Job Option 5: Personal Training/Fitness Instructor-
- Earn 17-45 dollars an hour!
- Get CPR/AED certified as well as your personal training certifications
- Certification organizations: NASM; ACSM; AFAA; ACE; IFPA; CSCS; ISSA; NSCA; Cooper Institute
- Background in nutrition gives you a competitive advantage.
Tip 6: Think Like an Entrepreneur-
- With your bachelors in nutrition you have some freedom to teach nutrition, just not practice dietetics.
- Visit http://www.dietetics.ohio.gov/guides.stm to see what is considered practicing dietetics, and what is non-medical nutrition (which you can teach).
Job Option 6: Non profits-
- Visit www.nonprofitlist.org for a list of non profits across the USA
- Working with non profit organizations is very rewarding, and I highly recommend volunteering or considering a staff position to one of the many thousands of non profits across the USA.
- You can find paid and volunteer positions
Other Job Options-
- Food Technologist/Food Scientist
- Policy-public health, economic, nutrition related
- Internet nutrition-
- livestrong.com-freelance writers
- Marketing/public relations
- Sales-special formulas companies like Vitaflo USA and Ensure
- School food service
Bottom Line: GET EXPERIENCE!!! You can do IT! Do NOT give up!!
Best of Luck!
Colleen Poling, RD, LD