RD Close-Up: Jessica Serdikoff, RDN CPT Brookdale ShopRite, Inc By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at ShopRite.
My role has truly evolved over my years at ShopRite, growing from a traditional, in-store retail dietitian position into a more managerial one. I continue be a resource for customers and the community via classes, counseling, and store tours; only now I have been able to supervise undergraduate nutrition students and dietetic interns who can assist me in food demo, handout creation, and administrative tasks I used to cover myself. This frees up my time to take on more managerial responsibilities, including coordinating and monitoring our social media presence (Facebook), networking with new vendors to pilot innovative products on a local level, and playing an advisory role in new initiatives launched in the store.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at ShopRite?
Finishing up my internship, I had my heart set on retail. I had shadowed a dietitian at a supermarket during my internship elective rotation, and loved it. I applied to one ShopRite location around April, before my internship officially ended, and ultimately didn’t get the position. I didn’t give up, instead focusing on studying for and passing the RD Exam. Once I did, I got back in touch with the dietitian who had originally interviewed me and asked if any stores within my geographical area were hiring. She brought me in to interview at the Bloomfield, NJ location, and the rest is history! It just goes to show you that sometimes hearing “No” doesn’t mean “Never;” it just means “not right now.”
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Learning how to assert myself and communicate my value was not something I was taught by my formal education – and it is absolutely critical in retail dietetics. I don’t interact with many other dietitians or healthcare professionals day-to-day which means most of my coworkers and superiors don’t automatically understand what I do and what value I bring to the table. That can cause a lot of stress and feelings of isolation, as well as affect how readily my ideas and initiatives receive precedence and approval. It’s up to me to show my team what a dietitian does in a supermarket, and that takes a level of confidence, communication, and assertiveness that I had to cultivate for myself over my six years in my current position.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
I wish I had understood how “always on” it is in a retail environment. There are always more requests to answer, more customers to assist, and more programs and initiatives that need your attention. You can’t do it all, and you’ll run yourself into the ground if you try. Had I understood the nature of retail better going into my career, I’d like to think I’d have developed better boundary setting skills right away to protect my energy and mental health. I learned how to say “no” pretty quickly, but I could have saved myself a lot of stress had I known it right from the start.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I’m the quintessential Type A perfectionist dietitian and that definitely has held me back in the past. My friends affectionately phrase it as “analysis paralysis.” Think: spending an entire day creating one “perfect” handout or holding off on launching an initiative until I felt like I had all my ducks in a row. I see so many possibilities with a project, a class, or a decision, and I want to meticulously map each one out in order to decide on the best one. Unfortunately, retail is fast-paced and life never works out perfectly. Having support is really important to move past this “dark” side of that Type A personality. A lot of my growth has stemmed from conversations with my store manager, regional dietitian supervisor, and personal support like therapy and family. It also helps to fail – to be forced to execute something imperfectly – and to recognize that life still goes on. It builds resilience.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
I’ve always been fairly entrepreneurial, so I’m very self-motivated and independent when needed. I may not be running my own business as a retail dietitian, but those skills transfer well to the retail environment. I’ve been able to manage my time effectively, market myself and my services, and keep an eye out for new opportunities, which leadership within my store has recognized. It opens up doors for taking on new roles and responsibilities.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
Several years back, I challenged my intern (who is now a fellow ShopRite dietitian) to come up with a few recipes that could be featured in the foodservice departments. Together, we worked on recipes for bakery, the salad bar, and the kitchen, and he conducted sampling events with customers to see which ones were the most popular. Of the recipes, a trail mix cookie was the clear winner, and I worked with the bakery and management to make it a permanent fixture at our store. Fast forward four years and the cookie has done so well that it has now been picked up by all ShopRite stores and is ShopRite’s first dietitian-created fresh bake option!
About Jessica: Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jessica studied nutrition & dietetics at West Chester University of PA and completed the ARAMARK dietetic internship. In addition to her dietitian credentials, Jessica is certified in personal training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, graduated from the chef training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute of NYC, and as of December 2019 is finishing up her Intuitive Eating Counselor certification. She brings knowledge from all of these disciplines together in the work she does as the full-time in-store registered dietitian at Brookdale ShopRite in Bloomfield, NJ, where she has worked since 2013.