The Challenges of Changing Careers to Become a Registered Dietitian (and How to Overcome Them)

You’ve decided to take the plunge! You are changing careers in order to become a registered dietitian. Hooray! While excited for this, you also know that the transition period is probably going to be..rocky.

This post overviews the challenges you may face as a career-changing registered dietitian to be, and what you can do to over them. 

Challenge 1: Time Management

Your 9-5 job already takes up a lot of time. Now add in time-intensive classes (like general chemistry or organic chem), and volunteer hours in. That’s a recipe for a shortage of time. There is no way to “add” more time in the day unfortunately and sleeping less is not the answer, I promise. 

The real answer is to master time management. If you haven’t mastered this skill already, nothing will force you to become a great time manager like trying to balance a full-time job, a new degree, the rest of your life’s responsibilities with trying to get enough sleep.

Time management and organization go hand in hand, so if you get organized, your time should be easier to manage. It’s also important to recognize your limits and know what you can or can’t reasonably do with the time you have. 

Tips for Staying On Top of Your Time management:

  • Use resources like your calendar app or a Google doc file to keep track of your tasks. 
  • Spend about 20 minutes at the end of a week to organize your weekly tasks for the next week and schedule them into your calendar app. 
  • Take another 20 minutes in a week to review your past week. See how what is or isn’t working for you. 

Challenge 2: Handling Expectations as a Student Again

When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like you’re not doing your best. A common feeling we all can relate to, but, honestly, it is unreasonable to expect yourself to give 100% all of the time when you’re doing so much.

Sure, you chose this life, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have limits. 

On top of that, going back to school brings grades back into our lives. In a working environment, we are usually “tested” to perform in tasks we already know how to do. Even when we take on new projects, we are still building on the foundation of knowledge and skills we already have. 

In school, you’re learning something completely different all of the time AND constantly being tested on it. With limited time, you will inevitably “rush” through some chapters and then you might not do as well on exams or projects as you would have liked. 

We’d like to make more time, but those bills don’t pay themselves. 

This can be a hit to our self-esteem because deep down, we know we can do great work. But our school work might not reflect it. People tend to be their biggest critic, especially when they do perform well in their job or in other aspects of their life. 

Failure isn’t easy. If it’s any consolation, people learn more from failure than they do for success. That won’t give you a 4.0 GPA, but grades don’t define your value as a person. 

I’ll say that again. Your grades don’t define you. If you’re changing careers, you’ve probably already been in school before, you have a job, and hopefully you have supportive relationships around you. That is also success. 

How to Manage Expectations

  • Be realistic with your priorities
  • Know your limits
  • Find ways to make adjustments to your schedule so you have more time to focus on schoolwork. 
  • Reframe your idea of “success” and “productivity”. 

Challenge 3: Bringing your Skills into Your New Field

You’re eager to leave your current career behind and start fresh in dietetics. However, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you disregard all of the transferrable skills you have. Find a way to utilize what you have now and make it work for you. 

How to Apply Your Transferrable Skills to Nutrition

Find non-traditional volunteer opportunities that need your skills. With a shortage of time, you need to maximize your time, so offering your services to nutrition-related organizations can create a situation where you both benefit. Marketing is the first example that comes to mind. All organizations need to market if they want to thrive in the current economic environment, so volunteering your marketing skills is a great way for you to get some volunteer experience within the field of nutrition. 

Or, perhaps you want to set the foundation to combine your current work with dietetics in the future. For example, maybe you’re a teacher now going into nutrition, and in the future you want to teach nutrition courses. This means you know how to teach, create lessons and develop materials, you’re just missing the nutrition knowledge. Instead of waiting until you graduate, reach out to a dietitian and see if they want to pair with you to develop a course.

Conclusion

Being a career changer comes with its challenges. Time management, handling expectations and finding ways to apply your transferrable skills within dietetics will require flexibility, and even a little creativity, on your part, but you can overcome these difficulties. Spend some time testing out different methods and approaches until you find what works best for you and remember that facing these hurdles will be a process rather than a “one-and-done” ordeal. 

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