We're at the end of May, about to turn the corner into June, which means the majority of you are on summer break and aren't thinking and worry about internships-- at least not as much as you did during the school year when the thought of applications weighed heavily on your shoulders.
Have you had a nightmare about internships yet?
Hilariously, to this day, I still have dreams that I registered for a class and forgot about it entirely. In the dream I never showed up to that one class and failed it, and come graduation day ( in the dream I had an internship on graduation day) they shooed me off the stage! "No degree for you!" Then panic sets in of will I still have the internship?
I had the same nightmare throughout my internship too, except it ended instead with being kicked out of the internship.
Today, instead of not getting the degree, the dream is that they take away my degree and my RDN. . Not a good way to wake up in the morning!
There is so much anxiety surrounding the RD credential, and most of us in the nutrition world are Type A personalities and perfectionists... so its no wonder we stress dream... Funny enough many of my peers have similar dreams to this day. We work so hard!!! It's so awful to think someone could take it away from us!
As you probably know by now, some internships conduct interviews of their candidates. With how competitive the field is becoming, more and more programs are requiring interviews.
If you're like I was as a student...this greatly freaks you out!
Below are some questions I chose to give example answers. There is a mixture of difficult and most common questions below to give you the best head start to practicing answers of your own. For more questions, check out my book Road to R.D. for more help.
1. How did you become interested in dietetics?
This should be the easiest question to answer, but it is also the most common.
Tips: Don't be overly personal. This is a personal question, but getting too personal means TMI and a very wordy answer. Let them get to know you, but don't be too detailed.
"When I was in high school my mother was diagnosed with high cholesterol. It was recommended she go on Lipitor to bring her numbers down, however she knew the side effects it could have on her liver and that it would require frequent blood tests. That wasn't something she was interested in. Instead, she contacted a local dietitian who introduced her to a Mediterranean style diet and helped her bring her cholesterol down. It was really powerful to see how her diet could make such improvement to her health, and how empowered she felt by having that control in her hands. "
What I didn't mention is that this same dietitian called me chubby... at 16 years old. That would have been too personal. Anger and bitterness have no place in an interview.
2. Why would you like to do your internship at _____?
This is a tough question. As a nutrition student, and likely still someone in your early twenties, you've only just been exposed to the world of dietetics. That's okay. You've had some exposure, so just pick something that is relevant. Its okay if your interests change.
"I chose Penrose because it has a reputation for excellence, demonstrated by its Health Grades top 1% distinction, and multiple awards. I appreciate that there is a Cancer unit and a rehab unit that can introduce me to a variety of uses for nutrition, as well as comprehensive program that is both challenging and rewarding. Hearing from past interns with your facility, they stated the program really prepared them well for their first job. "
3. Tell us about a time you had to deal with an extremely difficult or unhappy customer, patient or coworker. How did you deal with the situation and what was the outcome? Would you do anything differently next time?
Be careful. Don't sound like a drama mama answering this question. And ALWAYS give an example of what to do next time.
"While working as a waitress my grandfather had passed away, and on my return I wasn't at the restaurant in person to view the schedule. I had called and spoke with a new member of the team about my shifts. Unfortunately, she had read the schedule wrong and I ended up missing a shift my very first day back. A gal I worked with frequently while I was out running errands to let me know, by the time I was able to get there they would have been too understaffed to handle the weekend rush. Given the situation she just told me to take a day off and she would cover it for me and it wasn't a problem, I would just owe her one in the future. Another waitress had overheard this conversation and, as I heard later, the owner was less than kind when she had accidentally missed a shift in the past. So because of this, she felt the need to start leaving rude messages in my mailbox at work. I chose to ignore them because of how immature they were. I had had enough when she started writing rude things to my facebook account. I called the owner and asked that we not be scheduled on the same shift, he understood and agreed. There was one night that we were short staffed and the owner had to call anyone to come cover. And as luck would have it, she was the one who was able to come in. Instead of shunning her, I caught her just as she walked through the door, and I said to her "Thank you for coming in. It's really crazy in here, I need a co-worker not an enemy. Are we good?" I offered a handshake, she took it and agree that we were good. I later found out her brother had been in a car accident and she wasn't given the time off work to go be with him while he was in the hospital. So it seemed that my granted time off for the funeral and then mistaken missed shift really struck a nerve with her for personal reasons. To this day the whole situation still frustrates me, but we were able to work together until I quit at the end of my college career."
What I didn't mention: The owner liked to use the same piece of paper every week for the schedule. He used pencil and would just erase it. I could have mentioned that, but it would have sounded defensive. I also chose not to use the word "bully". I did not label her, and I did not make assumptions. I did not attach a character to her.... notice I didn't use the word "jealous" even though that would be a very good description here. It doesn't come across well to label people.
4. How do you handle stress in your life?
The best answer here is the thoughtful one.
"On a day to day basis I exercise and run with my dog to reduce stress and feel rejuvenated. I do a lot of thinking on my runs and it typically helps me to clear up things that may have been muddled before. I also made schedules and lists to prevent stress in the first place, I always make the effort to prepare ahead of time so I'm not rushing. If I'm working on a project and its becoming difficult and frustrating to the point that I'm not making any headway, I'll go for a walk for 5 minutes and clear my head, come back and approach the problem from a different angle. If I don't have the opportunity to get up and walk, I'll change gears to a different subject if possible, or just take a moment to take a deep breath and try again."
5. What does it mean to be a leader?
"A leader is someone who demonstrates the behavior or qualities they want to see in someone. I believe leading by example is very important. In my opinion, a leader also points out the positive characteristics in someone and encourages them to use or develop those strengths, they may also provide a means of using those strengths. Ultimately, a leader takes the values and desires of a group and unites them towards one common goal."
Get creative here! Don't give a definition of leadership. Think about the good and bad leaders in your life and what they did to be good or bad. You can also answer this with what a leader is not. A leader is not someone who criticizes people in public, or abuses their authority.
For more guidance on internship applications, check out the book Road to R.D. In Kindle and Paperback! format!