As nutrition becomes ever more present in the media, more and more people are wanting to work in the industry. It may be fairly simple process to qualify as a dietitian – do the degree and register with the HCPC. But, how do you actually get a job as a dietitian?
Each day I get emails from students looking for work experience and can only offer this to a small number. However, there are some tricks you can do to heighten your chances of getting a graduate job when you qualify.
- Stop obsessing over your grade. No one cares what grade you got as being a dietitian is both academic and practical. If you passed your degree, your academic ability has been proven – now show the employer what else you can offer. You will all be able to think about someone on your course who gets great marks but would make a terrible dietitian and equally someone who gets just the pass mark but would be fantastic – who would you employee?
- Your degree is not enough. Many graduates qualify with this attitude that they have a good chance of getting a job. Well, guess what? Having your degree was the absolute minimum needed to apply so what else have you done that is better than the other candidates?
- Get work experience. Yes, placements come into this, but as we said – everyone has done placements. What else can you do? Think about other dietetic skills which you often do not get too much experience in during under-grad years – e.g. audit, research, teaching, writing – these are all areas which you can target to enhance your CV above others. Charities, dietetic departments and freelance dietitians will often let you do voluntary work for them. The other consideration is writing for CND or the BDA magazine – why not? When I was at Uni, I volunteered with Sure Start and did data collection for an audit at The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
- Tailor your placements. Placements are difficult to organise and you often don’t get a chance to choose where you go. BUT if there is something you want to experience more of then ask your placement to accommodate it – this is a huge example of you taking responsibility for your own learning.
- Make use of your uni. Lecturers love forward thinking students – if you are wanting research experience, why not drop your lecturer an email and see if you could help out with any of the masters or pHD projects?
- Don’t burn bridges. Dietetics is a small world (VERY small)! Try your best not to burn any bridges – remember you don’t have to be someone’s best friend but you do have to be professional. I personally had a terrible experience on one of my placements – so much so that I could not go back there for the next one. What did I do? – sent an email saying ‘thank you very much but I don’t think my learning style suits your teaching style at present.’
- Have focus beyond your finals. Consider what your ideal job would be and what skills you could gain to make you the best candidate. For instance, if you want to work in paediatrics, why not contact local schools to see if you could do a healthy eating talk or produce some healthy eating leaflets for them?
- Tell people what you can do. I have students asking me for experience almost daily and its the same old thing – they haven’t looked at your site, they have no idea what your company does and they just say that they want ‘experience.’ This is really poor and pretty unprofessional – when you make contact with dietitians for experience – tell them why you want experience in their company and what you are willing to do e.g. you can write blog posts, design written information or you would like to come and shadow a specific patient type.
- Reflect Reflect REFLECT. When I finished uni I thought that I would never do another bloody reflection again but I was so so wrong. It can just be in bullet points in a diary for your own learning – it is not an essay. However, reflecting on interviews / placements / current learning / where you are etc is an amazing way to progress and fill in those missing gaps.
- Start CPD. This is a good practise to get into both during and after you qualify. CPD comes in many forms, but always set out a plan of what you want to do that year – are there specific course you can go on? Are there groups you could join? This is also a great talking point in an interview.