Skills That Dietitians Need
Knowledge of nutrition and healthy foods is just one component of what it takes to successfully work in a nutrition job. Day-to-day duties will require you to complete paper work, talk with individuals and small groups, and promote behavior change for healthy eating. These duties require special skills. By perfecting these skills you will make yourself more competitive in the job search, and your work will be much more achievable and enjoyable once you do get the job.
Working with people and behavior change. When working one-on-one or in small groups you must be friendly and approachable in your correspondence. Nutrition and eating habits can be a delicate subject for many, and people may be stepping out of their comfort zone when discussing this topic with you. It is important to show that you respect that. In addition it is important to understand and practice the theories of health promotion. For example, the Transtheoretical Model classifies people into five stages of change. By utilizing these theories when working with people you can best determine how to help them with their nutrition goals.
Know your way around a computer. Nutrition jobs require work on a computer and often the Internet. You will be required to create spreadsheets, keep track of client information, use software to analyze the nutritional content of foods and develop meal plans, utilize email, get involved with web-based social media, and conduct informational research on the computer. It is important to become familiar with using these tools in your daily work.
Organizational skills. These jobs are demanding. They require work outside the normal 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. work day, and many involve several types of duties labeled under one position title. You may have client meetings, coalition meetings, evening workshops, consultations with colleagues, research to conduct, papers to write and lectures to teach. It is a necessity that you are a very organized person to successfully work in a nutrition job.
Research translation. Employment in the nutrition field often requires that you put complicated research findings and technical nutrition information into a form that can be understood by those not familiar with the field.
If you work with the general public in a community-based position or one-on-one with clients you will have to translate this information to make it understandable, and then use it to educate consumers on how to put it into practice in their daily lives. Remember that you will be working with people that know nothing about nutrition. This means you need to be able to take a step back and simplify nutrition information as much as possible.
Ability to be non-judgmental. It is impossible to work in nutrition and successfully help others if you have a judgmental attitude. Those working in nutrition must possess the ability to listen to people with an open mind and use that information to help them with their eating. You cannot expect people to eat the way you do or understand nutritional information like you do. Each person is in a different place in life, and faces different barriers that prevent them from eating well. It is the job of those working in nutrition to use their knowledge to develop a way to help others based on individual needs.