Creating Your Own Opportunities

Creating Your Own Opportunities

June 19, 2013
Business Skills

Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly

I recently had coffee with a student who had just finished her freshman year at Texas A&M University and was contemplating switching her major to nutrition. She’s learning how nutrition is reshaping businesses throughout the food industry and is curious to learn more about emerging career opportunities for dietitians.  And when she asked me what should be a super-simple question, “what are some of the job titles for non-traditional RD positions?” I felt a little stuck. 

Well, hmmm…there really aren’t standard job titles.  Or job descriptions. In fact, there really isn’t a standard way to even find these jobs. And unlike many well-established career paths in other industries (think: finance, advertising, accounting, etc.), non-traditional approaches don’t have a clear-cut “ladder” for advancement. 

This scenario often plays out with dietitians at retail. And while some may find it difficult to navigate, this type of “undefined” career path presents unique opportunities that are ultimately up to the individual to identify and pursue.

So how can you, as a retail dietitian, use your unique position within your company to create exciting career growth opportunities?  Here are a few tips.

  • Have a vision.  Think big.  Do not let the classical definition of “dietitian” limit your potential.  Think outside the box about what you would ultimately like to contribute and the impact you want to have.  For a moment, take off your dietitian hat and think of yourself as a retail executive. 
  • Get out there! Spend time exposing yourself to what others in your company are doing.  Learn what is important to them and if you have shared business interests.  If you do, you’ve got a new opportunity to build connections where none previously existed, and connections facilitate opportunities. 
  • Rewrite your job description.  Every year.   Job descriptions should never be static documents, they need to evolve as the position and individual evolve.  This is especially important if there is no clear path for climb-the-ladder-style advancement.  When it comes time for your annual performance review, make your job description part of the review process as well.  And if it’s time for a change to reflect your growing and changing responsibilities, by all means change it!
  • Remember that YOU are your most important advocate.  When your company or supervisor doesn’t understand your background, know what you should be doing, or fully appreciate what you can contribute, it’s up to you to educate them.  Brief them on your skills and experience, but most importantly, demonstrate your expertise by making things happen and letting your supervisor know when you do. 

Taking a non-traditional or emerging career path requires a lot of resourcefulness and willingness to think differently.  And without question, these paths often provide substantial satisfaction and rewards.  But, it’s ultimately up to you to create the opportunities.