7 Tips for New RDNs Looking for a First Job

When I passed the Registration Examination for Dietitians in 2013, I expected to have a full time job as an RDN within six months. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

While employed in a warehouse immediately after graduation, I submitted 50 to 60 applications for various jobs. Interviews came, but with no luck. With three schools within a two-hour drive offering dietetic internships and undergraduate and graduate programs, my area is saturated with recent dietetic graduates.

As I approached the first anniversary of my credential, I was still at the warehouse and starting to get nervous. I decided to try for any job in a hospital and was hired in a local hospital's Materials department. My job entails collecting dirty linens and cleaning and delivering equipment. Not the best job for an RDN wanting to get started in the field.

But, after time, I applied for dietetics jobs within the hospital network. In March 2015, I got a part-time clinical dietitian position. It's amazing! I still work in Materials as well, but I continue applying for other part-time RDN positions. For those who find themselves in the position of looking for that first dietetics job, here are seven tips to help to increase your marketability and visibility.

Network and Volunteer

I am involved with my state affiliate in an elected position, which is a great way to connect with other RDNs. You can also get good experience without pay by seeking out organizations in your area that need volunteers, such as prisons, food banks or kitchens, recreation centers, nursing homes, gyms, schools, senior centers and preschools. Build your skills and give back to your community by teaching classes, providing consultation and meal planning, and offering individual counseling. Look at VolunteerMatch.org for opportunities.

Read Online Job Posts

The Internet is the best place to start looking for job openings. State and local dietetics affiliates sometimes post job notifications online and provide email updates, which is how I heard about my clinical part-time job. Check your city's website for government dietetics jobs. Many private-sector employers post jobs on employment websites. Apply for anything and everything that will help you get closer to your career goals. I just received an email about a potential job from a company I applied to two years ago. Even if a job doesn't come through right now, it might later.

Get a Foot in the Door

I took my Materials job so I could get into the hospital network. Once employees are past orientation and training, the company usually has a vested interest in keeping them. One typically has a better chance to be hired in a desirable position from the inside. Employees also often have access to internal job postings before the public knows about them.

Expand Your Search

I take the train to my Materials job, and my commute is a total of 3 hours. My clinical dietetics job is 1 hour and 15 minute drive away. This schedule works for me, but don't apply to a job if it doesn't fit your schedule, abilities or interests. Being miserable is not worth it.

Keep Up on Nutrition

Reading the Academy's publications, such as the Daily News, Food & Nutrition Magazine and the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are wonderful ways to stay current. Work on CPE credits by reading articles, going to conferences or listening to webinars. Reading nutrition textbooks as a refresher is also a good way to maintain knowledge.

Talk to Others

I met with the hospital career counselor who gave me the names of managers and recruiters to contact. Through a series of emails, calls and face-to-face meetings, I let them know I was looking for work. One of these recruiters ended up hiring me for my part-time clinical job.

Don't Lose Hope

Six months ago, I would not have believed that I would have a dietetics job. Keep going and things will start to happen!

Melissa Baugh
Melissa Baugh, RDN, CD, is a clinical dietitian working at a small rural hospital in Utah.