5 Lessons Learned as a New Grad
Isn’t it unbelievable how fast a year goes by? It’s been one year since I completed my dietetic internship (well, fourteen months to be exact). To be quite honest I still feel sometimes like I’m fresh out of my dietetic internship and just jumping in to the working world of a Registered Dietitian. It’s funny, two weeks ago in my clinical job I also took on the role as preceptor to my first dietetic intern. Like, whoa – am I ready for this?
Today I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that I’ve learned since completing my dietetic internship and getting my Registered Dietitian license. I have lot of readers who are either dietetic students or dietetic interns, and I get frequent questions about becoming and being a dietitian. So I decided to put together a list of 5 lessons that I’ve learned as a new-grad dietitian and young professional. I hope it’s helpful in giving some insight as to what the start of your career may look like once you graduate and get that “RD” – or any credentials, for that matter. I think a lot of these lessons are applicable outside of the dietetics arena and to other twenty-somethings pursuing their dreams in other fields.
- You’ve got the credentials, but the resume building isn’t over.
The path to becoming a dietitian is full of extracurriculars, resume building and cover letter writing. I can’t even tell you how many hours I sat at my parents’ kitchen table writing and re-writing my application letters for my dietetic internship. Once I got my license to practice as a dietitian I came to the realization – “I have to do this sh** all over again?!” Yes. You do. Over and over again. The hard work doesn’t stop once you get those pretty little letters beside your name, it’s time to get a job.
Just like when I was applying for internship, it was back to perfecting my resume. Getting back in to volunteering, picking up my old job in Restaurant Services at the hospital to be keep my “internal” applicant status in the health authority, taking French classes because most job postings said “Alternate languages an asset, French preferred.” It didn’t feel glamorous, in fact most days I was embarrassed to be seen working my old job when I had this flashy title of Registered Dietitian.
Once I landed a job, it didn’t end there. The French classes continued, I joined a working group and professional networks. When you’re a new, young professional who wants to stand out in a crowd of other keen little new grads, it will help to keep building up that resume.
- Neither is your learning.
Fresh out of my internship I felt good. I had just finished an intense, clinical-heavy internship in a big city that challenged me and made me cry more times than I’d like to admit. My last rotation of internship was in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit at one of Toronto’s largest acute-care hospitals, and I completed that four weeks with a very encouraging evaluation from an intimidating yet inspiringly knowledgeable, experienced preceptor.
It took me a solid 6 months to get a job. Studying for the CDRE helped to keep all the knowledge fresh in my brain, but I still started my first clinical job kinda feeling like an intern all over again. New charting systems, new food service department, new diet orders to learn – oh and did I mention that I no longer had a preceptor reviewing all of my work? Hello, learning curve.
Our education and training prepare us by giving us knowledge, yes. I learned so much in my dietetics training, but I’ll never know the answers to every food and nutrition-related question off-hand. What our degrees and internships really do is give us skills and tools to navigate the professional world.
I have been asked many questions in my current position and via blogging/social media that I didn’t know the answer to. At first it would put me into a panic, but I realize my education and internship gave me the tools I need to find the right answers – the ones backed by scientific evidence. It gave me the tools to communicate these answers to clients, families, team members, oh and 20,000 people on Instagram.
When I’m asked a work-related question that I can give a sound, confident answer to, it’s a great feeling. With increasing experience in whatever field you’re in – that will happen more and more. But when starting out, not knowing all of the answers is no biggie.
- Your first job isn’t your career.
It’s important to realize this, because job hunting and accepting job offers can be scary. “What if there’s something better out there?” “What if I’m unhappy?”
Stop. Right. There. You’re a new grad. This is your first (or second, or third) job. It is not your whole life, and there’s a great chance it won’t totally define your career. It’s important not to be too choosy when starting out – especially if you need to get a jump-start on making some money and paying off student debts. Also, depending on where you live, there may not be a ton of job opportunities out there.
Once you get going and get some experience under your belt you’ll get more of a feel for what you like and what you want, also what you don’t like and don’t want – which is just as important. You may find out that the specific area you thought you wanted to work in really isn’t where you want to be at all. That can be scary too, but that’s life. That’s when you know it’s time to make a change and try something new – and that brings me to my next lesson.
- Say YES to things that scare you.
Just like students, as young professionals we should be like little sponges – soaking up new experiences. Have an opportunity to take on more of a leadership role related to your field? Asked to speak about your work in front of a large audience? Even if it’s scary and you feel you don’t know what you’re doing (story of my life), we need to start saying yes – or really, “Why the heck not?”.
I try to look at life and each day like one big experiment. Yes, I work hard and try my best, but I stress less because I just want to learn from everything I do. When we start saying yes to opportunities and things that are unfamiliar and even slightly (or majorly) scary, that’s when we tend to learn the most about ourselves. We learn things like what we’re good at and what we’re not, what we need to work on, where we want to invest more of our time, what might make a solid career path or business venture, and etc. etc. etc.
Tying back in Lesson #1 and #2, saying yes to things that scare us will also help us build our resumes and learn new things. Even more reason to say yes.
- Everyone is on his or her own time.
Defffffinitely something I’ve learned – and continue to learn in my career journey and my life journey in general. Whether it takes you one week or one year to land your first job, whether you’re getting engaged or splitting up, whether you’re living with your parents or pimping out your apartment (did I just say pimping?) – who cares? Literally no one, except for you.
There will always be areas of our lives that we want to seek growth and continue to improve, and these areas will be different for all of us at different times. So how can we even compare ourselves?
Professional or personal, stop worrying about where you are in life do you. Focus on your own path. It’s unique and beautiful and it’s where you’re meant to be. What someone else is doing right now doesn’t matter. We’re all on our own schedules, and things will happen for you when they’re supposed to, so no need to get caught up comparing someone else’s life to yours. I remind myself of this all the time. I’m not an expert on life or careers or anything like that, but remembering has helped me stay focused and positive over the last year. I hope it helps you too!