3 Ways to Bring Past Careers Into the Field of Dietetics

By Barbara Spalding, MA, MS, RDN, CDN
Future or Past - 3 Ways to Bring Past Careers Into the Field of Dietetics

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From former IT consultant to travel agent to a small wares buyer for a restaurant supply and gourmet food store — these individuals have moved on from their first professions to their second careers as registered dietitian nutritionists.

The field of dietetics is rapidly changing and dietitians have the opportunity to work in non-traditional jobs in the hospitality and food industries, private practice, public relations and consulting. While many longtime dietitians move into these fields after years in clinical settings, second career dietitians often take on these roles almost immediately after finishing their dietetics training.

Becoming a second career dietitian takes passion, perseverance, flexibility and hard work. Typically earning a second bachelor's degree (or master's degree) from an accredited DPD program, second career dietitians get "matched" to a dietetic internship, and complete a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised practice before they are ready for the RDN exam.

From IT to Dietetics

Lisa S. Paige, MBA, RDN, CNSC, now owns Red Runner Coaching LLC in Roaring Fork Valley, Colo., after five years as a clinical dietitian in a rural critical access hospital and two years as a school dietitian. Previously spending 25 years in the IT sector in jobs that ranged from programming to project management, Paige currently uses many of her project management skills in her private practice to help her patients improve their dietary patterns. Commenting on her transition from one career to the next, Paige recommends second career dietitians use a life coach, if possible, who is "skilled in transition and can help you discover your extraordinary in-born talents."

Skills that Travel Well

When David Orozco, MS, RDN, LD, of Atlanta, returned to school for dietetics, he left behind a career managing his family's travel agencies. Now the owner of a successful nutrition private practice and consulting business, Orozco uses the skills from his first career to build his business. "I learned to develop a thick skin," says Orozco, describing the virtual, and physical, doors that were closed as he distributed information about his practice.

The other top skills and traits he brings from his former profession: management, leadership, negotiation, finance skills and integrity. The most significant skills Orozco says he uses in his practice are "the ability to be patient, to build relationships and trust with all clients and people, and integrity through personal growth and development."

From Restaurant to RDN

Some dietitians enter the field with previous experience in the food and restaurant industry. Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, CSSD, CLT, began her career in the culinary arena working in a number of restaurants from Seattle to San Diego. After becoming an RDN and completing six months in clinical dietetics, Pine joined the University of Southern California in Los Angeles as the registered dietitian for USC Hospitality. This is in addition to recently starting her own nutrition coaching and consulting business, Tasty Balance Nutrition.

Pine's advice for second career dietitians? "No matter what your first career was, whether you were a cashier or the CEO of a company, the skills you used in that career will absolutely help you as a dietitian!"