After completing my degree and dietetic internship, I wanted to find the right job as quickly as possible. Finding a job is a stressful process so I’ve teamed up with Dietitians to create a series of blogs providing tips to help you secure that dream job.
A year ago, I graduated from the St. Michael’s Hospital/Ryerson University Collaborative Program in Toronto along with seven other Registered Dietitians. After internship, we each took unique paths into the world of dietetics, and over the next few weeks a couple of us will share our victories and challenges when it came to finding jobs. Today, Hannah Magee, a Clinical Dietitian based in Nova Scotia, and myself discuss our journey entering the workforce.
Where do you work and what is the description of your role?
Hannah: I work as a Clinical Dietitian in an inpatient setting. My main assignment is a geriatric rehabilitation unit where each admitted patient receives a comprehensive nutrition assessment and nutrition care if appropriate. I also provide coverage on other inpatient units such as critical care and acute stroke. I assess swallowing and determine appropriate texture-modified diets, I assess for and implement enteral and parenteral nutrition regimens and work closely with my patients and team members to coordinate discharge planning.
Evita: Two weeks after graduating from our internship, I secured a job as a Dietitian in a private clinic where I worked for a few months before transitioning to another organization. I now work as the Director of Marketing and Registered Dietitian at a health technology company that has created a mobile fitness app. The nutrition team consists of myself, and another dietitian. We ensure the nutrition section of our mobile app is up to par with accurate information, and we have created balanced and nutritionally adequate meal plans depending on each user’s fitness goals and cooking ability. But with the company being a start up, our responsibilities stretch beyond Dietetics-related tasks. I enjoy working in tech, where I have the opportunity to participate in a variety of areas, like learning how code works, business development, digital marketing, social media strategy, and communication.
Hannah also offers nutrition services, and shares tasty recipes, real-talk health and wellness posts on her website.
Describe a typical day (or two different typical days)
Hannah: I start work at 8:00, but typically am in my office by 7:45. Usually in the mornings we have bedside or modified barium swallowing assessments between 8:30 and 10:00 am. After the assessments I order appropriate diets, educate patients and families about their new modified texture diet and communicate these changes with the nursing staff and physicians. On Wednesdays, I attend Rehab team rounds that pretty much take up my morning. The rest of my days are often spent doing comprehensive nutrition assessments or follow up visits with my patients. I get an automatic referral for nutrition assessment for each patient admitted to my unit, so my caseload is usually quite large. Luckily, it’s common for my patients to stay on the unit for weeks at a time so I have plenty of time to complete assessments and follow-ups if needed. I also provide coverage for the other two dietitians at my hospital as needed.
Evita: A typical day in the office involves a lot of communication and collaboration. We start the day with a team meeting where we monitor our progress and timeline to complete our tasks. We prioritize concerns and growth prospects with the mobile app, clients and partners, and then discuss our tasks for the day. Every day is different and I am grateful to work in a startup with creative people in diverse fields, where I am constantly learning. Our team is made up of software developers, mathematicians, engineers, personal trainers, dietitians, and product managers – and we regularly consult each other to help grow the business and company.
How did you prepare for the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CDRE)?
Hannah: I prepared for the CDRE using the Inman Guide as well as old notes from university and internship. I tried to focus on areas that I felt less confident in (e.g. food service) but also made sure to brush up on all appropriate areas. Additionally, my regulatory college also hosted a webinar for those preparing for the exam which I attended.
How did you prepare for your interviews?
Hannah: Mainly lots and lots of practicing. I researched common questions and interview tips and practiced both by myself and with my partner. I like to remind myself that everything in life is an experience (including job interviews) and that even if I bombed it or didn’t get the job, I would learn from it for the next one. This often helped calm my nerves.
Evita: Besides preparing for common interview questions, I spent time researching the organizations and industry of jobs I was applying to. As I was applying to a health technology company, I read up on current tech happenings, and relevant industry news. I thought about why I was passionate about the job I was applying for, why I would be a good fit for the position and also why the organization would be a good fit for me. I recommend you think about your personal and professional, and short-term and long-term goals; how your past experiences relate to the job you’re applying to and what you can bring to the role; make a list of your skills, interests and personality traits that make you a good fit; and prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end.
What were the challenges in your job search or during interviews?
Hannah: My main challenge was the time it took to land a job. It took about 6 months for me, and while that’s common it was more of a mental struggle as I wanted that “first job” so badly. Another challenge I came across was my lack of experience in specific areas. Having to explain this to interviewers and ensure them that despite this I have the skills, knowledge and resources to learn as I go was not always easy to get across.
What’s your favorite resource or book for professional development?
Hannah: I don’t have one! Definitely something I need to work on.
Evita: My coworkers and other Dietitians. I used to rely more on books for learning about professional development, but now I take inspiration from the people I interact with on a daily basis and my interactions through social media. Wherever I am now, I make an effort to have conversations about professional development and learn how others are advancing in their respective fields. I reflect and try to apply this in my own life.
If you could go back one year to graduation date, what advice would you give your younger self?
Hannah: Be patient with the job search. It won’t happen overnight and that’s okay. You will have to pay your dues and may not have the job of your dreams right away, and that is also okay. You may still feel lost and even though you are now a dietitian it may still take time to figure out where in the profession you want to be.
Evita: Hannah said it so well! Everything happens for a reason and in its own time – trust in who you are and what you have to offer. It all works out in the end. I wish I took more time off after completing internship, as you’re going to have plenty of time to work, so just give yourself a little bit of a break, and don’t get too stressed out in the process.
What do you think about the future of dietetics/food and nutrition?
Hannah: There is so, so much happening online and on social media. I love the idea of virtual nutrition counselling – that people can have access to nutrition education and help from the comfort of their own homes. That being said, there is so much misinformation out there that it is important for dietitians to show up online to combat the false claims and poor health/nutrition advice being provided as well.
Evita: Within the field of technology, jobs are emerging for Dietitians to provide online counselling. However, we are yet to be invited to actually help build these platforms for healthcare to be dispersed. I think in the future, Dietitians, as the experts on food and nutrition will be asked to engage in the design and implementation of nutrition informatics to help create future technology that enhances our practice. Right now, jobs in technology have half the unemployment rate of the rest of the workforce and there is no sign that this will change anytime soon. If growth continues at the current rate, it will be great if more Dietitians get involved in this field.
Do you have more questions for Dietitians? Comment below and I will include them in the next part of my blog series.