~ Jackie Choffo
From the day I decided I wanted to become a registered dietitian I knew there was a step-wise process to follow. Get good grades in college with stellar volunteer experience. Apply for competitive internships and hopefully get accepted to one. Pass the registration exam for dietitians. Then FINALLY land my dream job. But there isn’t a magical formula that will lead me to a full-time position. Where was I going to start? It felt like for 8 months my sole focus was devoting all of my energy to perform well at my rotations and keep up on my internship work. Then suddenly I flipped my calendar and its April…cue the mild panicking.
Luckily, our internship director dedicated an entire class-day to going over resumes, job hunting, and the interview process. I would like to reflect on some of that information and how I am going to apply it to my job hunt in the coming months.
Why a strong resume is essential
Every single job posting requires a current resume. You have limited time to grab the reader’s attention so make sure the most important information is at the top! The resume can be used as a screening tool to assure applicants have the right qualifications for the job. In college, I enlisted the help of my friend who was a marketing major. He helped me reformat my resume so that it was appealing and descriptive. Now, as I start to submit resumes and cover letters, I am once again enlisting reviewing help. Multiple sets of eyes will reduce the chance that I have typos or confusing language in my resume. Different professions, or even different jobs within a profession, might prefer different styles and formats of resumes, so I have learned that it is important to know your audience! A resume is a work in progress. I have determined that it’s easier to update my resume as I go through the internship rather than waiting till the end and then trying to remember every single project you completed after graduation.
Characteristics of a good resume
For a person who does not like the spotlight, I find it hard to boast about my accomplishments. However, this is exactly what I should be doing on a resume. Many potential employers spend 30-60 seconds scanning a resume, so I need to make every single word count. I offer you some nuggets of advice that were shared with me:
- Develop specific resumes for different kinds of positions. For example, community vs. clinical positions.
- Highlight experiences that are relevant to the field of dietetics and set you apart.
- Plan your resume in a clear format that is easy to navigate.
- Use action verbs to describe specific skills you used on the job.
- Don’t just recite job duties – make the bullet points actions.
- Quantify whenever possible. For example, say “I saw 8-10 patients a day during my clinical staff relief.”
- Avoid expressions that say nothing give the employer something to visualize.
- White space is a must, so resist the urge to use ½ inch margins.
I have not yet reached this stage for my own job search, but I want to share some of what I have learned during my internship about interviewing. By the time you are called in for an interview, your killer resume has been submitted to your potential employer. The hiring manager thinks you are a great fit because of the meaningful experiences you had during the internship and is impressed by the metrics you provided in your resume. Now it’s time to really prepare yourself.
During the internship, I was able to sit in on multiple interviews for clinical and food service positions. My preceptors and I would discuss the strengths and weaknesses a candidate displayed during their interview. From what I gathered, a big recommendation was to show enthusiasm about the position. There is no shame in being excited about a job in a field you are passionate about. Managers also want to hire team players. Clinical skills can be taught on the job, but no one can teach you how to work well with your peers and have a positive attitude. Here are a few other miscellaneous tips to have a memorable interview:
- Thank you notes are a must, even if you do not get offered the position.
- Be prepared with specific examples for standard behavior questions, for example “Tell me about a time you worked as part of a group.”
- Technical questions might be included, be honest if you do not know the answer.
- Do not speak poorly about a former employer or preceptor.
- Pay attention to the non-verbal cues you are displaying, like eye contact and gestures.
- Prepare questions in advance of the interview to ask at the end, and ask them politely.
Job hunting is an exciting time. It is the culmination of all of your hard work and dedication to the profession. And it doesn’t have to be daunting! I have learned that the earlier you start the process of polishing your resume and brainstorming a list of “must-haves” for your future job, the more manageable this task seems. From the direction I received during the career prep class day, I started with what geographic location I would be willing to move to, and then what benefits I would like from a company. I am excited to start applying for jobs and showcasing all of the experiences I have had during the internship!