A friend recently asked me if I had any advice for her about procuring a dietetic internship. I thought this would be a great blog topic. There are many things to know and be aware of when trying to land an internship of any kind, and dietetics is no different, and is just as difficult. Roughly only about 50% of students land one, so obviously your chances are 50-50. How do you get one of these prize, coveted spots? What does it take? I am absolutely no expert on the topic, but I did end up miraculously landing one, so I will tell you what I focused on and maybe it will help you.
1. Volunteer: Internships and graduate schools love to see philanthropic work on your resume. And I am not talking about working in a soup kitchen for a day. Regular, steady volunteer work looks great on your resume. Make sure the work has something to do with dietetics, like Project Angel Food, Meals on Wheels, volunteering in an outpatient dietitian’s practice. Get real-world unpaid experience and you will stand out from the crowd.
2. Get AMAZING grades: Not everyone who gets an internship has a 4.0, but it certainly doesn’t hurt! You don’t want to sacrifice potential experience in your field by locking yourself in a dungeon and focusing only on grades, but having all of that and a 4.0 certainly doesn’t hurt.
3. Reach out to potential internships: I am not suggesting becoming a pest, but trying to get on your internship director’s radar doesn’t do any harm, as long as you don’t become a stalker. An email here and there, tour the school, perhaps even a call will help get your name in that person’s mind once you apply.
4. Attend open houses: Go to every open house you can find to get as much info as possible, but also to network a bit.
5. Rock your resume: I am lucky to have had some amazing, unbelievable help with my resume from a really smart guy. He helped make my resume stand out from the crowd. Check it out in my dietetics portfolio: Supatra Hanna’s Dietetics Portfolio.
6. Speaking of which, create an online portfolio: I had to do this to be even considered for my internship with Sodexo. It was super stressful, but it was obviously worth it. Having something online you can point people towards just shows them you are serious about your career, that you are responsible, and also shows your creative side.
7. Write a blog: Write anything. Get published. Do some public speaking. Have samples on hand so you can show people the human side of you. Love cooking? Post recipes. Even if you are super busy and had no time to write, do something, no matter how small.
8. Make nice with influential people: Be awesome to your teachers, reach out to industry people. Then, ask them for recommendations. The more people in executive level positions that you know, the better. A very influential lady in healthcare was one of my references. I am pretty sure her recommendation was a key factor in being considered. Make sure your recommendations are from industry professionals.
9. Make sure you dot all your i’s and cross your t’s: The DPD application process is HELL! It is so confusing, difficult to navigate, some schools and programs require this, some require that. It is maddening. I almost had a heart attack because I missed a small step after I submitted my final application. DON’T BE ME. Thankfully, it did not hurt, and strangely, may have even helped because I had to contact each school and program just in case and it may have put me on their radar. BUT, I don’t recommend it! Make sure that before you hit “send” you have all of your ducks in a row. Be anal.
10. Hone your interviewing skills: Now. Go online and google the most common questions. Be ready to have an awesome answer for “Tell me of the time when you had a conflict with a coworker. Tell me how you resolved it?” If you don’t have a killer answer that makes you look awesome, start over until you do. And make sure you have answers ready to go for any potential question they might have.
11. Know your program: If you know your program has a big clinical focus, don’t tell them you want to go into holistic practice when you’re done. Don’t necessarily lie, just make sure you are appealing to them. They absolutely love it when you know everything there is to know about their program. Know their mission statement and philosophy. Also, make sure you write a different statement of purpose tailored to each program. DO NOT send the same old essay out to everyone. If you are going for the VA, do you have military experience or a family member in the military? Know your audience and write for them.
12. I highly suggest you also think about getting a Masters Degree: If you are in undergraduate school for nutrition, look into programs that offer a dual masters degree/internship. In a few years, it will be a requirement to have a masters degree to apply for any internship. So you might as well do it now. Make no mistake, it’s hard. I did mine all at once with my internship and have never worked so hard in my life. But it is doable. And I think doing it now puts you ahead of the rest.
I hope this helps. Do your research, be on top of your game. Show your strengths, your passion, your drive to succeed. Stand out from the crowd, and go for it! If you have any questions at all, I would be happy to answer them!