Becoming a Leader as a Retail Dietitian

Becoming a Leader as a Retail Dietitian

June 10, 2015
Career Development

by Julie McMillin, RD, LD, Assistant Vice President of Retail Dietetics at Hy-Vee 

As the number of retail dietitians continues to grow, it's exciting to see the added growth opportunities for dietitians across the retail space. As a leader of a retail dietitian program that employs over 225 in-store dietitians, there are a handful of traits I look for when hiring a new dietitian. These are the traits and skills outside of just the knowledge base that a strong dietitian will have.

1. Be flexible. The retail setting is always changing and as retail dietitians, you have to be agile. The day you plan for may not end up being the day that happens. Having a task list can often be difficult because you may truly never cross anything off that list, which can be hard for some personality traits. A great retail dietitian will be highly adaptable and willing to embrace change, not fight change.

2. Be a self-starter. Most retailers will not have a “how to guide” developed for you. You will walk into the retail store or corporate office and be expected to just dive right it. RDBA and FMI have done a great job at providing resources, but the activation and initiation will be up to you. In most settings, you may not even be under direct supervision, and it is important to have the ability to function independently and work without that immediate supervision.

3. Don’t make it personal. As a healthcare provider your recommendations must stay science-based. It is important to understand and follow upcoming trends in the retail space such as new products, new diets and even new legislation. Your recommendations cannot be based on personal belief, but must be backed by true science. You must translate the science into understandable facts that consumers can understand and then allow them to make their own decisions.

4. Be approachable. Customers must feel like you are a real person, easy to talk to and not judgmental. Retail dietitians must be able to meet their customers where they are. If they eat fast food five days a week, how can you help them eat at home three days a week?  

5. There is no "I" in team. Retail dietitians must be team players. Your success will count on it. You need to rely on many other department leaders to help you understand what product and areas they will be focusing on. Being a good team leader may mean helping out on the front end during the holidays or stocking shelves during a special promotion. This will all pay off the next time you need help. 

Being a retail dietitian is a very rewarding career. Every day there are customer testimonials of how the information put out in the stores has impacted someone’s life. As the profession continues to grow, this will be a very exciting area to watch and grow right beside.