True or False: “I need to have clinical experience in order to be competitive for an internship.” This may be true if the emphasis of the program is clinical. However, broad and unique experiences may sometimes outweigh clinical experience, depending on the selection criteria that the program director sets for its applicants. And since “a wide variety” implies having more than one dietetics experience, you must seek out experiences before your application year. Let’s get moving!
If you ask any dietetics student about what it takes to be more competitive with their internship applications you may hear, “Start volunteering soon and often!” Then, he or she will emphasize that you should get as many experiences as you can before you are in the process of applying. Your experience says a lot about your interests as well as your personality traits. Be proactive about gaining experiences by taking the initiative. Show that you have the ability to juggle multiple things at once. A great example is holding a part-time job during the semester. You also want to convey your willingness to learn new skills and show your enthusiasm for learning. Take on a position that may be extra challenging. As directors review your experiences, they will notice qualities like professionalism, multitasking, leadership, and solid communication (just to name a few).
Create Experiences worth Writing About
Your experiences are what you will use to show that you have the skills to excel in the internship. If you can’t find good experiences offered through your school or within your community, start a new club or work with an RD that can be your mentor and provide invaluable one-on-one experience. It shows that you are a go-getter and are not afraid to take initiative!
Variety is Key
During the internship, each rotation may be very different from the others. Racking up exposure in a lot of different areas will make your internship year less intimidating. Getting experience in basic clinical, food service, and community areas is crucial, since these are required rotations for every DI. Once you’ve done that, expand to more specialized areas like research, business, entrepreneurship, sports nutrition, pediatrics, or communications. Not only will you have your bases covered with “typical” student positions, you can bolster your application with impressive add- ons that allow you to rise above the crowd.
Making the Ask
How exactly are you supposed to go about finding these impressive add-ons? Let me be the first to tell you that Google can only take you so far! As dietetics students, we all crave opportunities to prove ourselves in the professional world. However, you must be willing to take some risks. I want to let you in on my own personal secret called “making the ask”. Here’s how it works. If you haven’t already spent some time on the Internet researching companies, hospitals, professional organizations, dietitians in private practice, etc., then it’s time you got started. First, do the obvious. Check and see if they offer established internships or volunteer experiences. If they don’t, make the ask! If you don’t ask, your answer is always NO.
Not quite “experience-hungry” yet? Keep in mind that a wide variety of experiences will allow you to:
- Decide what you are interested in
- Gain contacts in the field
- Show your willingness to learn and commitment to the profession
- Expand your skill set
- Prove to directors that you take initiative to gain as much experience as possible
- Take Advantage of Breaks
Use Your Breaks Wisely
If you are lucky enough to have them, utilize those month-long winter breaks to squeeze in more experience or even get started on applications! Here are some ideas to stay busy in between semesters:
- Volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. It will be especially busy during the holidays.
- Help an RD set up his/her blog and contribute posts regularly (nutrition communications!).
- Volunteer at a hospital for any holiday events, especially in the food service department.
- Start a blog of your own nutrition-related experiences.
- Reconnect with your summer job supervisor to see if they could use an extra hand.
- Use this time to set up shadowing appointments with a variety of RDs to get to know more about the field.
- Research and apply for summer job options. Many summer internships are filled by January.
- Collect awards, past work, and projects and create an online résumé using Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or VisualCV.com. Put this link on your application résumé. It’s all the rage!
There you have it! Ready for more? This was an excerpt from my free e-book Dietetic Internships 101, which you can download on our EBOOKS page!