My RD Journey

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


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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.


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April Recap – Lessons Learned

April has probably been my busiest month so far in full-time private practice. I had two conferences, both of which I was apart of the planning process, 3 speaking engagements, plus my normal business load (clients and classes). I definitely thought a lot about balance and what that means for myself and my future practice. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have been trying to change how I do business to allow for more free time.

So, this month (and those in the future), I want to share with you my “Lessons Learned,” “Key Defining Moments,” and “Business Goals.” I decided on these topics for a few reasons; one of which is that other RDs always ask me what I would have done differently (hence lessons learned) when starting my practice. I also always get asked how I keep myself motivated, which involves pivotal moments and setting goals for myself. My hope is that my monthly recap can help someone else in their practice or career in general.

Lessons Learned 
“Always assume there is something to learn.” “Don’t just show-up, but engage.” 
Sometimes when I think about going somewhere I question whether I will get anything out of it. I mean, after all, my time is critical for me to keep a hold on. I realized that you get what you put into ANY situation. If you want to learn, ask questions and be involved. Engage in conversations and do more than just show-up. If you approach situations with a mindset of knowing you will learn, you will.

“Take advice from the experts.” 
What is funny about this lesson is that I always tell people to see a Dietitian for nutrition help because they are the experts. Somewhere along the way I stopped applying this to my personal/business life. Instead of hiring an accountant for tax season, I figured I would do it myself. About 6 hours later, I filed my federal and state taxes, plus learned how to pay quarterly ones. I then realized I had two city taxes to file only days before the deadline. I tried doing the forms myself online and could not get the numbers to populate correctly. It basically kept saying I owed $0, which I knew was incorrect. After a brief panic attack, I realized that I had the business card of an accountant I knew from school AND I had just reconnected with him while on the train. Despite it being late notice, he helped me to figure out what I was doing wrong fairly quickly and all was well. What I learned from this was breaking down wasn’t going to solve a thing; taking action and figuring out a plan would. I also realized it would have been so much easier (and tax deductible) to have worked with him from the beginning instead of wasting all that time stressing and struggling through it on my own. While I am a huge proponent of learning for yourself, it is really important to know what your limits are.

Key Defining Moments 
PAND AME 
This year I was apart of the planning process for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Annual Meeting and Exhibition. To be honest, I had not gone in the past since I thought I wouldn’t get much out of it. It was such an awesome experience for me. Not only did I get to know some other great Dietitians, but I learned a ton! The best thing about it was that a few RDs came up to me saying they had read my RD Journey blog and had followed me to learn more about private practice. These were people I either never met before or those I knew from years ago but didn’t keep in touch. I also saw a few of my previous preceptors and one had said she still used materials I created for her programming. I was super proud of myself but also realized that I needed to continue on the path I was on to build my brand and products even further.

Running for the Train
Since I really hate driving downtown for my cooking classes, I have been taking the train instead. This means I walk about 1.2 miles to the train station lugging all of my stuff for class. I had a lot of materials for my class last week, so I had a backpack full of stuff plus a rolling suitcase. I had a difficult class attendee who was arguing with me about olive oil being bad for you since it is controlled by the MAFIA, yes the MAFIA. This attendee also said doctors have nutrition certs and you should trust them for diet advice. Needless to say, I was a bit flustered, which then led to me being a careless and cutting my thumb with a knife. Not sure anyone noticed; however, fast forward to me rushing to clean-up to catch the train on time. I ran 3 blocks with a huge backpack and a rolling suitcase all while holding a paper towel on my bleeding thumb since I couldn’t find band-aids. Two ladies also yelled to me, “Run! You will make it. We believe in you,” which just added to the level of crazy. I made it with 3 minutes to spare (only because the train schedule changed and I didn’t realize). So, I am standing there sweating with a bleeding thumb and said to myself, “Never again.” This day was a huge defining moment for me because not only was the afternoon stressful, but I was doing all of it to not even represent my own brand. I definitely had a lot to think about while walking the 1.2 miles home.

Business Goal #1 – Do more as PorrazzaNutrition and less as a contract worker to build someone else’s company.
I made the decision this month, to cut back on the number of cooking classes I do for contract work (see train story above). Not only was the pay not adding up in terms of the time spent, but I also realized these classes are just providing income in the short-term and not allowing me to grow as PorrazzaNutrition. I made a commitment to myself to really focus on doing things that will build my brand and provide income, even if it is in the long-term. This is a huge mental shift for me since I am walking away from quick income; however, long-term, I know this is the best route.

Business Goal #2 – Create and upload at least 3 YouTube videos in May. 
As some of you may know, my drive for video creation was halted when I was in a car accident about a year and a half ago. This is another piece of my business that will not only expand the individuals that I reach, but also, create passive income in the future.

Business Goal #3 – Create a solid outline for my first e-book.
I keep saying that I want to write an e-book and telling people my plan; however, all I have done is write down topics. So, my goal for this month is to actually get more of an outline together and brainstorm chapter specifics. I got so caught up in formatting and how to write the book that I lost sight of the fact that the content is the most important thing. Who cares about formatting and selling when you don’t have a product yet? Priorities!

What lessons have you learned this month? Did you have any defining moments or obstacles you overcame this month?

Stay tuned for next week’s post for my thoughts on my first conference speaking engagement!


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Balancing Work & Personal Life

Happy Saturday! This is going to be a bit shorter of a post since I have a ton of cooking to do for Easter tomorrow. I am making about 70% of the menu this year, which I am so happy about, since it was a slow process getting my whole family interested in healthier meals/sides.

The past few weeks, I have had a lot of time to reflect on how one-sided my life felt in terms of balance. I felt like I was always working and just squeezed in time for myself or my family. I still wasn’t working on the things that I had set goals for (like writing an e-book or creating Podcasts) and I really needed to make that change. I had a few family issues this week (all resolved) that made me appreciate the fact that I have a private practice and do have flexibility. I did realize that my time still needed to be adjusted for a more optimal day-to-day routine. So, with that being said, this post brings to you my top 3 tips/lessons for having a more balanced work and personal life.

1. Set (and Keep) Boundaries for Yourself
I am the worst at keeping my boundaries. I will say to myself that Tuesday I am not booking clients so I can work on x-y-z. Then, a client comes along needing an appointment and I say, “Hey, what’s an hour?” The reality is that the 1-hour appointment also includes travel time + prep + post work (billing, report writing, etc) and can really break the concentration I had going for the day. I now schedule in my calendar the days where I don’t see clients and I stick to it. Setting boundaries also means not checking emails or your phone constantly. I no longer answer emails after 8pm, unless it has been a late day for me. I always think to myself that, “It can wait, or they would call.” If not, I end up checking the email, spending the time to respond or react in some way and ultimately it feels like my work day is just dragging on and well into my personal time.

2. Schedule It
Going along with keeping boundaries, use your calendar to schedule when you are doing personal things. I planned out the days I would go to the gym and when I would be gardening. I also set days for office-work for my business and times when I would work on content creation. This could mean seeing clients on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays and also teaching classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It could mean Tuesdays are when I garden and spend time doing personal things. It could mean Fridays are office-work days where I follow-up on billing issues, work on social media, etc. At first I had the thought that my life was so planned it leaves no wiggle room; however, I discovered that by setting aside the time initially, I had more freedom and flexibility.

3. Don’t Overbook Yourself
When I first started my practice full-time, I just wanted to get as many clients scheduled as I possibly could. After realizing that I wasn’t spending time on furthering my practice, I began to cut back on my workload and space it out a bit more. If I overbook, I end up stressed out and really just not at my prime. Not overbooking yourself ties right into keeping the boundaries you set. If I lose a client because I can’t see them in 2 weeks, then so be it. It rarely has happened that someone doesn’t want to wait for an appointment; however, I know for my sanity and stress level that cramming in an appointment isn’t good for me. Usually, those cram-in appointments take the place of the time I wanted to go to the gym or time I wanted to create something. In the long-term, it isn’t worth it. In my last blog post, you can read all about how I have been striving to reform my practice to allow for more flexibility while maintaining income in the long-term.

In the end, the reason I am so busy is due to my own fault in over scheduling and plain overbooking myself. I no longer want to be so busy that I can’t enjoy the things I love like gardening or spending time with my family or cooking. So, my personal commitment is to streamline my business and tasks that go along with it to be able to have the optimal work-life balance for me.

Leave a comment and let me know what your tips/strategies are for keeping your work and personal life in balance.


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Private Practice Tip: Thinking of Your Big Picture

After my last two blog posts, I found myself thinking a lot about where I wanted my practice to be in the next few years. Although I am still working out the details, I finally have a clear picture of what I envision for PorrazzaNutrition. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone reading this, whether you have a private practice or not, to really brainstorm your ideal set-up. Do you want to niche down in a certain area of your field? Do you want this to be a full-time role or just something you will do on the side? Do you want to take insurance? Do you want to have a virtual component? Questions like these can help you to see the big picture and give you a sense of direction.

I hear so many dietitians say to me that they want to have their own practice, but most don’t have a clue as to what they want to do with it. While that may not be a bad thing, I realized, for myself, that having little sense of direction can be paralyzing. We often do nothing when faced with too much unknown. Having that big picture in mind will allow you to focus your efforts towards a path that will help you to reach your goal. I have been asking myself this question a lot –> “Are the things you are doing now, supporting your end goal?” If the answer is yes, I keep investing my time in that area. If the answer is no, I think to myself if this is something I need to stop doing or spending less time on.

Once you have an idea of what you want your practice to entail, think about your action steps. An idea or knowledge is great, but it is what you actually do that matters. Let’s say you want your practice to be able to accept insurance to drive more clientele while first starting out. Some of your action steps may be: 1. Gain an NPI, 2. Gain a Federal Tax ID Number , 3. Fill out a CAQH application, 4. Send in provider inquiries or initial applications for each insurance company, etc. Prioritize your goals! No matter how big your end result (goal) is, make it manageable and less intimidating by breaking it down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.

This week, I also made a commitment to myself that I would not buy or read another business-related book until I took action. While these personal/business-development books are really awesome and provide a lot of great information, the information means nothing unless you actually use it. Instead of just taking notes and moving on to the next book, I create actionable steps for the knowledge I gain in any capacity to use either that day, or that week.

For all my readers out there (whether you are dietitians or not), I challenge you to think about your ‘big picture” or “end goal.” What does that really look like and how can you break it down into small and manageable steps? Leave a comment and let me know what YOUR journey looks like.

Check out my first week in Private Practice HERE or my last post about organization HERE


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Preparing for Your First Internship Rotation

In exactly 11 days, I will begin my first dietetic intern rotation in food service management (cue the bells and whistles). I am very excited/nervous to begin my next step in my RD journey. A lot of people in my internship program have already started their rotations. Hearing their positive experiences have really made me antsy to have my own and just get started.

 

With my internship, I also take a certain amount of graduate credits. At first, I thought this would be a ton of work; however, the assignments and lectures are spaced out and prepared very well. Also, with the online format, it is easy to jump on and work for an hour or two, then move on to something else.

 

Some ways I have been preparing for the rotation are: 1. Complete quizzes and lectures supplied by my internship (If your internship does not have these, there are plenty online). 2. Read through my foodservice organizations book. 3. Read through all the assignments I will be completing. 4. Create a semi-timeline of the rotation. 4. Give an overview of assignments to my preceptor (I am in a distance program). I also found it to be helpful to gather all of my rotation materials in one binder so that I can reference assignments or notes with ease. I also read through some of my notes from my food service management classes and quantity food production class that I had in college

 

Besides preparing myself for the work portion, I have been mentally preparing myself for the rest of the program. Not only do I not know my surroundings, but, I also don’t know my preceptors very well, or what their schedules are really like. It is more of preparing myself for the unknown of that first day; accepting what will happen and just going with the flow. There is always that feeling that “maybe I don’t know enough” however, the comments and feedback I have heard from the other interns have really made me excited and know that I can do it. Having the other interns to talk to and share stories with has been such a great addition to my internship. I know that if I need help with assignment I can always turn to the other interns. Also, seeing that some of them struggled with similar assignments has really made me think that I wasn’t the only one to be in that situation.

 

Just some final words of advice to those of you who have either just begun your internship or are waiting to start:

-Don’t feel like you are alone in the process! You will always have the other interns and your directors to turn to for help or guidance.

-Have confidence in yourself and know that you can do it! Trust the knowledge you have. Brush up on some information to boost your confidence.

-Be flexible and go with the flow. As much as you want your first day to go smoothly, know that it will probably be crazy or very different than what you are used to. Embrace the change and accept what is in front of you.

-Prepare your materials ahead of time so that it is one less thing to worry about.

-Get to know your preceptor and supply them with your assignments prior to starting. It will help the process run a bit more smoothly.

-Lastly, share your story with others! It always helps to share your positive experiences with others who are just starting.