My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Business Lessons Learned – Go With The Flow

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I thought about nixing this blog until next week; however, I was up early with my lovely feline friend (aka my cat) so I figured why not! If you have been reading my blogs lately, you will notice that this is the second blog in my “Monthly Recap” series. Back in April’s post, I set three goals for myself. I am super happy to say that I accomplished all three! These have been goals on my list for a while now; however, there is just something about having that accountability factor that pushes you to follow through. While it might seem weird to think I am being accountable to my viewers, it really helped me to focus towards having something positive to share for this post.

Lessons Learned
Be Accountable to Someone
I am always telling my clients to have someone to be accountable to (whether it is me or a spouse/friend). Again, in taking my own advice, I realized that having the accountability really helps to just give that extra push. I would challenge any business owner to identify their go-to person that they will check in with each month (or week). They can help you to review your goals, ideas, issues, etc.

Flow With Your Business
Your business will change every year or month even. Now, while this might not be a huge change, always be open to assessing and adapting with the needs of your clients. I have been changing some of my services and offerings to suit my client needs better. I now have a monthly fee for a coaching option between appointments. I use to think I would always just do the counseling and classes; however, now I want to have more time to myself so I am working towards more products versus services. My point here is not to pigeon-hole yourself into one way of thinking about your business. Always be open to opportunity and change for that matter.

Act First
One of my biggest downfalls is over planning and not acting. It took me so long to get an outline written for my book because I was worried about how I would sell it. Why does selling it matter if I don’t even have a product to sell?? I can often waste hours researching and planning to start something and then not even starting it because I am so wrapped up in the preparation. While I think planning is a great step, don’t get hung-up on it for an extended time. Yes, do some short research and then ACT.

Key Defining Moment
Health Fair Competition
This month, I attended a health fair for one of the companies I work with for weight management classes and also provide on and off-site counseling for. This company has a few dietitians they work with since they have a huge incentive program around wellness. At this recent health fair, about 7 different dietitians were there promoting their business and counseling services. Being the 5th dietitian in the row of tables, I was wondering to myself what sets me apart from them? We all do counseling and accept insurance, so what makes me special? One little edge I have to some is that I offer in-home counseling services and still come on-site for the company. Although, this really got me thinking about my brand and how I want to promote myself.

After the health fair, I had one client tell me that they specifically chose me out of the other dietitians because they were impressed with my professionalism, table set-up, and business cards. Now, I am not one to ever put down another dietitian and I thought some of the other tables looked awesome, so I simply thanked him and moved on in conversation. I was one of the only tables without a food sample (since I had planned a game instead), so I originally thought no one would be interested in what I had. Although I did have quite a few sign-ups for counseling and my newsletter, I still didn’t think I would be standing out as much from the other tables.

0524171435c-02For any health fair, I always bring my PorrazzaNutrition banner, handout holders, 1-2 handouts (tip sheets), info sheet about myself that I put in a plastic stand-up, 2-3 recipe cards, 1-3 coupons, newsletter sign-up + counseling interest list, business cards in my shopping cart holder, pens, and 1-2 visuals (I had an avocado this day + poster on salt). All in all I realized a few things, I always cater to different individuals with my variety of handouts/recipes, I have visuals to grab attention, I have an awesome business card holder that spurs conversation, I keep the table clean and tidy (especially since I didn’t have food to worry about), and I dress to impress. I set-up my table based on my experiences with previous health fairs and what looks visually appealing to me. I learned, in this moment, that comparing myself to others is so silly since we all target different clients and have our own ways of doing things. There may be many clients who preferred other tables based on their specific needs and what appealed to them. This situation was a huge moment for me because I made a commitment to always keep that professionalism and par level high, no matter where I am or who is watching, and to only compare myself to my past self.

Business Goal #1 – Revise and Upload 3 Meal Plans to my Website
I have been trying to brainstorm more products to add to my business and I realized that I have about 50 meal plans that I created for past clients. Why not update those to sell on my website?! So many clients ask me for meal plans and I usually don’t create them, but instead work with the client to brainstorm meal ideas. What I realized is what I want is not always what everyone else does, so why not just give them that? I will still have a personalized plan option and work with clients during their appointments; however, this can just be another passive income stream for me that still supports my clients’ (and potential clients’) current needs.

Business Goal #2 – Finish First Rough Draft of Book
This month, I worked on an outline for my book and I brainstormed chapter ideas. For next month, I want to put that all into a first draft. This book is the first to many ideas that I have, so I am excited to finally be in the writing process! I typically just write ideas down whenever they come and then dedicate a couple hours one-day per week (for now) to fleshing out those ideas and making them into chapters. I find for myself that I have a hard time writing at home and not getting distracted so I have been writing while between classes (since I take the train and am usually pretty early).

Business Goal #3 – Continue Building My Brand (Including Online Presence)
For this goal, I am going to continue with my blog, video, and social media schedules. I am also brainstorming what my “brand” will look like. I want to have everything integrated to match my passion and niche. I want to move away from 100% service and I feel that building more of an online presence is key to this.

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame? Stay tuned for my upcoming blog’s on building YOUR brand!


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Top 10 Tips for a Successful Dietetic Intern

I am going to switch gears for a bit from my usual Dietitian-related tips to a focus on dietetic internships. I have been a preceptor for the last 2.5 years and it has been awesome. I would highly suggest any professional to take on an intern at some point in their career. It is such an eye-opening experience when you are teaching and basically helping to mold someone into their profession.

Over the last month, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me to be their preceptor for 2017-2018 dietetic internships. Only a small handful I ended up meeting with and agreeing to become their preceptor. In the process, I had a few asking what the qualities are of a “good” intern. While I hate using the word “good,” I do like thinking in terms of success. The top 10 list I complied below is a blend of tips from my own experience as being a preceptor plus what I observed during my internship (way back when).

Tip #1 – Show up on Time
This is an absolute must. There is nothing more off-putting than a late intern. Get up earlier and never assume traffic will be great (especially if you have a long drive). My practice is super busy and I am usually on a time crunch, especially if running a class that day, so tardiness just won’t cut it for me. If you do happen to be running late for some reason, always contact your preceptor. Let them know why you are running behind and your estimated time of arrival.

Tip #2 – Always Dress to Impress
I am sure you have heard this one a lot, but take it seriously. I have had interns show up for meetings with me in jeans (and not nice looking ones)! It is way better to be overdressed for a meeting. For your actual rotations, always contact your preceptor and find out the dress code. For my practice, there are days where we need to get dressy for classes or seeing clients. Other days, I am just working out of my home so there is no sense in getting all dolled up to just sit around and work.

Tip #3 – Come Prepared 
One of my biggest pet peeves is when an intern shows up with absolutely no work to do, no outlines or class assignments printed (or available on their computer), or nothing to do for downtime. Whether you are heading in for an initial interview with a potential preceptor or your first day on-site be PREPARED! Have an idea of what your rotation entails. What assignments do you need to accomplish? What tasks need to be done? Don’t assume your preceptor will have that information. Set aside time to speak with them to review everything. Also, make sure you have something to do when there is downtime. This could be reading journals, working on assignments, or studying for your RD exam. Again, this is a good time to ask your preceptor what the expectation is. Do they want you to be working on something for them? Do they want you to work on assignments? Lastly, don’t sit on your phone while you wait. Honestly, that makes me think you don’t take nutrition or the rotation seriously enough.

Tip #4 – Engage and Ask Questions
I always have interns tell me they don’t want to bother me with questions. I love questions and to me, this means you are excited and passionate about nutrition. One thing about questions is to time them correctly. If your preceptor is in the middle of a call or email, that might not be the best time to ask a question. Again, find out what they prefer for this too. I had preceptors who would tell me to interrupt them with anything. I had others that told me if they are busy to let them be. Asking questions about something is not a sign of weakness at all, instead it shows me that you are willing to learn, grow, and challenge yourself. If anyone ever gives you heat for asking questions, apologize maybe for your timing, but never, ever, apologize for your curiosity and desire to learn.

Tip #5 – Be Organized
For anyone that knows me personally, they know I am highly organized. My expectation for organizational skills is probably much higher than most professionals; however, it is for good reasons. My practice involves just me. I do all the scheduling, client-seeing, billing, follow-ups, emails, etc. I need to be organized to make sure everything gets done in a timely (and good quality) manner. While I don’t expect my interns to be like me, having some sense of organization will really suit you well.

Tip #6 – Give Good Quality Work
If your preceptor gives you an assignment or task to work on, take it seriously and take your time to produce good quality work. Don’t just slap something together to get it done. Do the research, invest the time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Tip #7 – Respond to Emails (Professionally)
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me as a preceptor in the last month, yet I only interviewed a few for my practice. A lot of this was due to that first impression I received via email. Frantic and desperate emails were red flags for me. I questioned if they prepared at all for the internship (i.e. finding preceptors). Again, are you taking this seriously? This makes me think about lack of organizational skills. Also, if students reached out for a clinical rotation with me or with incorrect information about my practice, another red flag went up. Obviously, you did not do your research very thoroughly, so this makes me think that attentiveness to detail is not a strong suit. I have also had potential interns reach out to me, interview with me, not get matched and never let me know (though they said they would). While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I spent the time setting up an interview with you, filling out paperwork and blocking your rotations in my calendar. At least have the decency to let me know if you will actually be coming. I had these same students reach back out again later when they did get an internship and needless to say, I was hesitant to work with them. While some of my perceptions could be totally off from the actual reality of the situation, that first impression is everything for me in choosing an intern that will work well in my practice. After all, this is my business and I rely on it for my income.

Tip #8 – Be Aware of Preceptor’s Time (Assignments)
Your preceptors are taking the time to work with you during your internship, so as much as you can make that process easier for them, the better. This means being on-top of your assignments and tasks, which goes along with being organized. Plan out when you will do your assignments and don’t wait until the last minute and then expect your preceptor to work it all out for you.

Tip #9 – Be Open to Learning
You might not love every rotation and you might already have an idea of which area of dietetics you want to go into. This doesn’t mean you should just do the bare minimum for your other rotations. Even if you know clinical is not for you, engage and ask questions. You never know when you might find a new passion or learning something exciting.

Tip #10 – Be Open to Feedback 
One of the most important pieces of any profession is getting and giving feedback. Feedback is crucial since it can help to shape you into a better professional. Always be open to getting feedback from your preceptor, even if it is negative. After such, do something about it! If your organization is slacking, how can you improve? Get used to giving feedback as well. Don’t just say everything is great when it isn’t. You can always attempt to improve a situation (or work environment) by giving constructive feedback. Are you frustrated with the lack of time your preceptor is giving you for questions? Are you not learning enough from them? See if you can compromise or come up with a solution that will work for the both of you. I always say that the worst that can happen is someone says, “no” but at least you know that you tried.

I hope this list helps any current or potential interns out there to enhance their experience in the dietetic internship. Good luck to everyone beginning their internships and leave a comment to let me know how yours is going!

For more tips on Preparing for Your Internship, check out the BLOG 

For more information on joining the AND Preceptor Database, click the LINK.


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5 Tips for Speaking at Conferences

Welcome back to “My RD Journey!” If you read my last blog post, you will already know that this post is all about my first time speaking at a large conference (The Inaugural Women in Business Conference hosted by the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce). I was able to lead an individual breakout session and also serve as a panelist for a discussion on balance. In the past, I have lead seminars, given talks to students, conducted cooking classes and more; however, this was the first conference I was apart of. Today’s post, I will recap for you my (awesome) experience, plus give you tips that I learned along the way.

Tip #1 – Keep it Simple & Organized
I decided that for my individual session, I would touch on general nutrition (building a healthy plate) needs and motivation. I find with my clients that a lot know what to do; however, putting it into action is the hardest part. I wasn’t totally sure of my audience beforehand, so I tried to keep it basic and relate-able. I, for one, hate dry presentations, so I mixed up some of the general education with a few myth-busters throughout. I did use a PowerPoint; however, I didn’t put a ton of words on the slides because I didn’t want the audience to just be reading versus listening. I am definitely one that will completely stray from my outline, which isn’t a bad thing, so I didn’t want the audience trying to find where I was on the slides. One key thing here is that while having a lot of information is great, remember to keep it organized. Don’t jump around too much since you might lose the interest of your group.

Tip #2 – Allow Time for Questions
You can decide whether or not to have participants ask questions throughout your presentation or just at the end. I usually say that they can ask questions throughout if they need clarification; however, I do ask them to otherwise wait until the end. I do this mainly because I had a few instances where people just constantly asked questions and I couldn’t get through all the material. Sometimes the questions were relevant to the topic and other times they were too specific for others in the class to benefit from them. I let the participants know I allotted time for questions at the end and I stuck to my timeline to keep to that.

Tip #3 – Have Evaluations
Getting feedback on your presentation is key! Sometimes, participants in my seminars don’t ask any questions and their facial expressions lead me to think they are bored out of their minds. After doing a lot of different presentations over the years, I found that a lot of people don’t want to ask questions for a few reasons. Some think their questions are “stupid” – I have never had a “stupid” serious question. Some would rather ask questions individually after the session. Some are just taking in all the information and don’t have questions just yet. There are so many reasons for lack of questions. With all that being said, the evaluations are a great way for you to get feedback (positive or negative) and work out the kinks for next time.

Tip #4 – Come Prepared
Being prepared is a huge part of your presentation success. Know what your talking about so you are not just reading from your notes. Have your business cards available so the participants can follow-up with you later (possibly become clients of yours). Make a simple handout and pass it out at the end so you don’t end up with distracted participants. Know what setting is available for your presentation too. Do you have the ability to run a PowerPoint and if so, do you bring the hook-ups and laptop? Will there be tables for the audience or just chairs (important if doing writing activities)? Get as much information as you can beforehand so you are ready to go the day of. Being prepared will help you to eliminate unnecessary stress and be able to deliver an effective presentation that will engage your audience.

Tip #5 – Have Fun & Just Be You
This conference was such an awesome experience for me. I am so passionate about what I do and teach that after a presentation, I usually feel energized and invigorated. With practicing a lot over the years in different settings, I am now really comfortable public speaking and answering on-the-spot questions. I typically get at least a few attendees come up to me after with positive comments; however, I was totally blown away by the positive response at this conference. I had so many women come up to me throughout the rest of the day to introduce me to their friends, comment on the information, and speak to my enthusiasm and positive energy for the topic. It really is a crazy feeling to have people tell you that you are an inspiration to them. As a dietitian, I try to help others find a passion for nutrition and healthy eating; however, some days are just really difficult inspiring change. To know that I inspired a group of women in just 45-minutes was just so awesome (for lack of a better word).

So, if you are presenting in any type of setting, just remember that your enthusiasm and your passion can inspire others to make a change. Put your own spin on things and just relate to your crowd in any way that you can. The more you can connect the better the experience is for everyone.