How to Build Career Paths in Retail
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
While many retail dietetics programs are well established, the ever-evolving nature of retail and fluctuating definition of health and wellbeing drives ongoing change and refinement in the structure of these programs. At the same time, many retailers are adding staff in support of healthy living programs, requirement layering and added structure. Finally, as dietitians in retail gain significantly more tenure, retailers have a need to create promotion opportunities to align with movement in other retail functions and to retail talented staff members.
Whether you’re a team manager or a team member, there are a variety of things to consider in establishing career paths within retail dietetics programs, including:
- Creating Steps in the Career Ladder. In most functions of retail (think marketing, finance, communications, buying), there are rungs in the ladder. Titles in these positions may move from specialist to manager to senior manager to director to vice president. Similar steps can be created within retail RD roles, assuming that with each rung there are additional responsibilities. Even starting at the store level, titles can run from retail RD to senior retail RD to regional manager to director of health and wellness and upward. Retailers with smaller retail RD programs can use the movement to a senior RD or a regional nutrition manager to recognize experience a store RD has gained or additional responsibility she has taken on with overall program development or management.
- Recognizing Advanced Subject Matter Expertise. Food companies often have two tracks within their technical departments (think food safety, quality, product development, regulatory) – a management path and a technical expertise path. Both options have promotional career steps in the path. Similar approaches can be taken in retail dietetics programs. For example, if a retailer’s health and wellness offerings include individual consults, a RD who gains additional credentialing or becomes expert in helping shoppers with a specific condition can advance within the corporate structure based on this expertise. Likewise, a RD who builds very successful programs that positively impacts the retailer’s sales can be promoted to a more senior level based on this expertise and success.
- Aligning with Retailer Titles. “Dietitian” is commonly used as a title for these positions but aligning with those titles used frequently at the retailer ensures responsibilities, pay, and bonus structure are consistent. The functional title of dietitian can still be used with media and other partners where a clear designation of expertise benefits the retailer, but remember that credentials also clarify expertise.