3 Questions to Ask Yourself During Your First Job Search

Closing in on that certificate of completion for a dietetics internship – you’re twenty something and geting ready to join the ‘work world’ horse race.

Another friend who had opted to get a Master’s Degree in Food Science is delayed a couple of years but joining the race soon.

Hoping to Find Your Dream Job.

Both have been dutifully tracking volunteer, and work experience, while building a professional ‘brand’ for themselves on social media.

For those starting the job hunting treadmill. STOP. RIGHT. THERE. Sllllloooowwwwllllyyyy put down your phone, or push away your keyboard. Let’s make sure you’all have thought this one through!

It’s all cool that you’ve been a focused student. You’ve got the grades. Plus worked in entry level jobs and as a volunteer. Blood, sweat, and tears have helped you confirm that working in the world of Dietetics, Food and Nutrition, or Food Science is really what you want.

Thinking if you’ve gotten to your sophomore year as an undergrad, you’ve already figured out this isn’t an easy career track. Let’s assess things a little bit more, to make life a little easier….

Self-reflection Question: What’s the average wage in my target region for the role that I am shooting for?

A cascade of other questions arise: Is this an amount that I can live on? Do I want to buy a car AND pay on student debt? Can I save enough for a home down payment? Point is, know the prevailing wage for that dream location where you want to live and work.

Simply sit down and add up your projected living expenses in whole numbers. During the interview process ask how much the monthly medical insurance premium and deductible’s involved will cost.

Compare that grand total as a monthly after tax sum to any eventual job offer will pay off. Concerning the taxes, just ask around about what percentage you should plan on subtracting from your monthly income. It will really help minimize ‘phone a friend or relative’ calls when money is short. Plan for independence.

Self-reflection Question: How much will my career cost me on a yearly basis?

Yeah, there’s a cost in time and money for any field. How much are you willing to spend?

Dietetics in particular can be a costly one. It is a profession which has mandated licenses, registrations, or certifications the require ongoing Professional Development, or Continuing Education units.

Continuing education after graduation costs money. On top of that expense, charges for renewing licensing and registration represents a separate fee. Questioning a future employer about the available amount of financial support to maintain licensing and registration is important.

Get the support amount in writing. If the future employer provides no financial support to pay for licensing and registration, then negotiate the cost of licensing and continued education into your required salary. If they won’t discuss it, then assume they won’t pay for it.

Be prepared to decline the job if the future employer won’t meet your salary needs. Another opportunity will appear. Standing up for yourself regarding salary needs will save you in future escalating credit card charges, and living from paycheck to paycheck. But don’t get over-confident and expect top dollar if you can’t provide documentation for additional skills not usually seen in a new graduate.

Self-reflection Question: How long do I plan on working in an industry that produces a Need based product?

Fact is, Dietetics and Foodservice management in particular can both be demanding yet rewarding at the same time. Especially for those working in the non-profit setting.

The hours are long, holidays are optional, and working hours are not always known weeks or even days beforehand when you try to plan for family events. If you decide to get into Foodservice Management some places do permit flexible schedules.

Also, the field does provide a steady and consistent income where layoffs are not common and benefits are available. Food science majors do benefit a bit more where the topic of bonuses and career advancement opportunity are concerned.

Bonuses and career advancement opportunities tend to be found more easily in the for-profit arena, vs. the more flatly managed non-profit organization. Both Dietetics and Food Science related managerial roles tend to involve working days driven by production needs and staff reliability, so control of one’s own daily destiny is hard.

Do a Regular Inventory of Your Skills

Even if you’re a new grad. Are your skills totally focused upon the Food and Nutrition world? Do you have any transferable skills? What exactly are transferable skills?

Keeping your adult learning balanced between field specific and transferable skills can really help if you do decide to climb the career ladder or go into another field.

In the end, it’s in all in your hands. How seriously do you want to take yourself, your job, and the resources that you bring into your household?

Career advancement and what price is too much to pay is an old discussion. But it’s an important one. Either internally, or as a shared conversation with those you love.

Don’t wait to live with clarity, in a not so clear world.

Author: Laura Schaufelberger

Laura has worked 15+ years gaining experience in clinical nutrition and foodservice management field. After transitioning into project and program management, she spent time working in a supply chain environment for a large equipment manufacturer.

Most recently, Laura’s career path has led her to Rembrandt Foods, an egg and egg protein product producer. There, Laura utilizes past nutrition, supply chain, and current program / project management experience gained for her current employer’s thriving future.


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