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You did not get a dietetic internship. Now what? [Part 1]

By Katy Wilson, BASc, RD
February often brings back memories of that pit in my stomach knowing that my internship applications were being read by internship committees across the country. I was incredibly anxious as I waited for the mid-march notification. Then, my biggest fear came true: I didn't get an internship.

I remember feeling left behind as I watched my classmates and friends moving on in their careers, some of them as dietitians. There I was with no internship. I really felt sorry for myself. I was convinced that not getting an internship was a personal failure or shortcoming.

I want to share the ups and downs of my experience and my tips for overcoming an unsuccessful application in hopes it will help others in the same situation. Here are some things to consider:

1.   Don’t panic 

I still cringe as I recall the memories of internship rejection and my time, tears, and energy spent on applying. The disappointment of not landing an internship the first time around can seem devastating, but it’s important to try and keep things in perspective (easier said than done!).

Without a doubt, not getting an internship can feel like a setback, especially for individuals who may be on their second degree or career. However, in the grand scheme of things, is one or two years going to have a huge impact on your career as a dietitian? Probably not. Plus, it gives you a chance to have new and diverse experiences. Try to embrace it!

2.       Have a backup plan in place before internship placements are announced

Internship hopefuls may quickly dismiss the need for a plan B, but it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case you don’t get one. I found that having a backup plan in place offset the shock when I did not get an internship. Your backup plan could even be how you are going to continue to work towards your goal of becoming a dietitian.

Before I found out about internship match results, I planned what I would do if I didn’t get an internship. This included continuing to volunteer in areas related to dietetics, taking advantage of new learning opportunities, networking, enrolling in a course or certificate to enhance my resume, and taking time to travel!

3.       Try to focus on something else (non-internship related)

Take time to focus on something you enjoy that is not internship related. It’s not slacking -- it’s called balance! It took me a while to realize that. (Dietetic students tend to have a poor school/work/life balance sometimes.)

If every waking moment is spent focused on internship applications, you are setting yourself up for exhaustion. I took time to travel and explore. This helped open my eyes to a wider view of the world and changed my perspective on everything.

There is a lot of valuable information and support out there on how to improve your internship package for the following year. Seek out resume and application workshops, networking opportunities, internship advisors, and so on. I found it all very helpful. Take advantage of any opportunity that may help you along the way.

When I eventually did get an internship, it was very rewarding. I was a little bit older than I had envisioned by the time I completed it, but I was also wiser and more confident.

I don’t think I would have lived up to my full potential as a dietetic intern had I landed an internship right away, nor would I have experienced the invaluable personal growth I did while “waiting” to be accepted. The time I spent pursuing an internship also solidified for me that this was what I wanted to do as my career and reassured me that becoming a dietitian was worth my continued pursuit.



Katy Wilson, BASc, RD completed her bachelor’s degree at Ryerson University and dietetic internship in northern Canada with a focus on Aboriginal populations. Since 2013, she has been working as a clinical dietitian within the Greater Toronto Area in a variety of inpatient and outpatient hospital settings. Katy loves her career and feels privileged to be able to help clients improve their health through food and nutrition. Contact Katy by email at katywilson_001@hotmail.com


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