Maximize Your Internship Experience
August 8, 2016
By Janelle Gomez, RD
Dietetic Internships are designed to provide nutrition students with the skills necessary to function as entry level dietitians and to compete effectively in the rapidly changing job market. Most students are more than ready to get the process underway so they can begin to earn an income. However, the internship time is also a not-be-be-missed opportunity that can open up the career pathway in exciting and creative directions. Take a minute to consider the following ideas before starting the next phase of becoming an RDN. Perhaps you can gain a new perspective of the internship and insight for the year ahead.
Build a network. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking and having a friend in the business. Sometimes it really is who you know. This time in your profession can be key to future career as you meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. Typically a dietetic internship rotates between 4 or 5 workplace settings, each one allowing new opportunities to meet and greet with a variety of professionals. Take advantage of this opportunity to network and meet people. Introduce yourself, go out to lunch, ask questions, participate in events, or even just a coffee. Building connections is a great way to gain knowledge about your industry, get recommendations, and find future career opportunities.
Gain a skill set. Every workplace presents an opportunity to learn a skill that will enhance your work as a Dietitian. Set yourself apart from others by demonstrating you are a quick study of technology and work flow processes. Look for ways to learn a new technology, organizational method on a spreadsheet, or even inventory tracking and rotation. These are skills outside of a usual RD position that future employers will appreciate. As you begin a new position, pay attention to how work flow and routine processes are tracked and completed. Ask questions, take notes, learn the technology systems that are utilized on a daily basis. Many organizations use similar technology and you can set yourself apart during a future job interview by being proficient with a variety of systems.
Expand horizons. If you are lucky enough to to uproot yourself, take the opportunity to grow. Apply for positions that require you to pack your bags, meet new people, and tackle new challenges. Use your network of friends, family, peers, and professionals to find opportunities in another part of the country away from your usual routine. The process of branching out will allow new friendships and networks to form. First positions are typically not forever positions, but they provide significant jumping off platforms to move into a potential forever position.
If moving for a position is not an option, look for positions with a company that has multiple sites or locations. A regional or national organization will provide opportunities to network with professionals who live outside your current area and allow you to expand your horizons. Join specialty AND practice groups and become an active member. Read the newsletters, follow the links to participate and learn about an area of practice maybe outside of what you currently do, but one that is of interest now or will provide opportunity in the future.
Set lofty goals. The sky is the limit. How often do you hear this cliche? Do not sell yourself short during the beginning of a new career. Dream big and jot down all the things you would like to accomplish or do in your career. Yes, some may seem a little unrealistic at this early stage. However, having a wish list in mind sets you on the course to looking for opportunities to help make those dreams come alive. As you begin each day, look for people and skills that will help you achieve your dreams. Familiarize yourself with the names of leaders, movers, and shakers within your Industry and learn what steps they taken to be where they are today. Make mental notes of necessary steps that might be available to you along the way to refine your goals.
Many opportunities in the field of Dietetics continue to expand and emerge as technology and science shape our profession. Creative talents and unique skill sets are invaluable as these allows the Professional to create the opportunities to fit the needs and lifestyles of today’s workplace. Be vigilant and thoughtful of your forever future as you begin the first steps in the workplace of your next career.
Janelle is a Registered Dietitian whose home base is Proctor, MN.
She worked as a consultant RD for Dietitians on Demand in 2014 and 2015.