Category: Pre-Professional Skills (Page 2 of 2)

How to Talk to Important People Over the Phone

Prepping for a phone interview? Do you need to schedule an important phone call?

Watch this video or read the article below!

Although we do not talk over the phone as much as we used to, phone calls fulfill a very specific set of communication needs. 

I always recommend that applicants call organizations before they apply. Job applicants should call potential employers and current employees.  Academic or internship applicants should call program directors and current students/interns. 

The more people you talk to, the more information you gain and the more connections you make.

Phone calls are an efficient means of communication and provide the opportunity to build a personal connection. Unlike typed/written communication (e.g. email, text, etc.), phone calls support relationship building through real-time communication. BUT…

Talking over the phone poses a challenge to many people.  We email, text, and message much more than we talk over the phone. The time to contemplate and edit is dramatically reduced when speaking in real-time. So, many are uncomfortable over the phone and prefer emailing.

How do you overcome this challenge?

Whether you are preparing for a phone interview or an important phone meeting, practice is key. The more you talk over the phone the better you will get at it. However, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

How do you practice perfectly? 

First, you must remember the reason you are talking over the phone instead of emailing: to make a connection. In order to do this, you must convey your personality and character.

Here are six strategies that will help you convey your character and build a connection over the phone. 

6. Prepare

If you are hopelessly dependent on written communication, then compose an outline or email prior to your conversation. There are a few questions to answer when preparing for an important phone call:

  • a.  What do you want to accomplish? Determine the overall goal of this phone call.  Keeping this goal in mind will help you feel more confident and focused. 
  • b.  What are you two going to talk about? Plan the topics or points you want to address. Write them down.
  • c.  What kind of connection are trying to build? Professional? Respectful? Friendly? Brainstorm a list of terms and phrases that convey these adjectives. Thinking of these will help you incorporate them in your speech.
  • d.  How are you going to address this person? Determine whether you are going to use formal or informal (professional or casual) language. For example, how are you going to address this person (e.g. Dr.; Mrs.; Billy)?

5. Smile

Typically, you want to project a positive tone. Although the person on the other line cannot see you, smiling can be heard. The activation of these particular orofacial muscles changes your pronunciation and tone. It also releases endorphins which makes you feel more at ease.

When you feel at ease, so does the person on the other line. 


4. Pose

 If you are not power-posing yet, then it is time to start. The posture of your body influences your mood and behavior through hormonal fluctuations. 

 When you open up your shoulders and chest, stand tall, and stand proud…then you feel tall and proud. 

While on the phone, try to open up your posture and make yourself as big as possible. So, place your appendages outside the width of your torso. This can mean placing your hands on your hips and the back of your head, standing with feet hip-width apart, or crossing your ankle over your knee when you sit.

 For more information on power-posing, see Dr. Amy Cuddy discuss her research HERE.

3. Look Awesome

For important phone calls, you should feel important. Do not confuse this with dressing in an out-of-the ordinary, uncomfortable business suit. 

Only your opinion of “looking awesome” counts here!

Select an outfit, hairdo, and other accoutrement that makes you feel ‘on top of the world’. 

The better you look, the better you feel….the better you communicate.


2. Breathe

If you find yourself gasping for air, then you are not breathing. As innate as this is, without practice, we can improperly alternate speaking with breathing. 

This means that you are not thinking of your conversation in terms of sentences. You cannot breathe at the end of a sentence if you do not know where it is. 

Here is a technique to avoid this:

  • Start a thought with a preface word or phrase “Well…” or “What I was thinking…”
  • Take a deep breath. Loud enough for the other person to hear it. Out and in or in and out.
  • During the breath, think about the sentence you are about to say.
  • Finish the sentence with another breath while you think of the next sentence.

People do not mind hearing you breathe…this actually lets them know that you are still on the line. This breathing pattern will also let you set the pace. 

Once you find your pace, you will not have to think about it. So, practice with friends and family.

1. Get comfortable with silence

You also must practice to avoid filling silence. The need to fill silence with speech leads to jabbering. Providing too much unnecessary information can lead the conversation off topic, off schedule, and can make both parties feel uncomfortable. Not ideal.

If you are preparing for an important phone call, then you may want to ask someone that you are not 100% comfortable with (e.g. a colleague, a family member of a friend, an acquaintance, etc.) to practice with you. 

Do not let them know that practicing bouts of silence is one of your aims. That way, they will say something if your bouts of silence are too long. 

Follow these strategies and soon you will be a pro at connecting over the phone.

For more tips like these, sign up for the Professional Insights newsletter.

To learn more about talking to DI Directors and dietetic interns over the phone, try out the DI Application Crash Course

Why Write a Personal Statement If it is Not Required?

One piece of advice that I give to those about to embark on an application or interview journey is to: write a personal statement. Even if it is not required or requested. 

It can take several hours. And although it can be used to form a letter of application, this is not the main reason that you should write it.

To understand the main reason behind developing a personal statement for yourself, you first need to understand the objectives that you will accomplish while writing it. 

You will:

Identify Your Professional Interests

Your work should revolve around subjects that you are deeply interested in. Writing a personal statement will require that you evaluate yourself and identify your deep interests. Interests evolve so, it is important to reassess prior to making a life change.

Clarify Your Mission

A personal statement contains your purpose and goals. What is it that you want to accomplish overall? What goals do you want to achieve in the near and far future? 

Every stage and change of your career should be contributing to your overall purpose. Do not apply to anything (job, internship, program, etc.) without knowing how it contributes to your purpose and how it helps you achieve your goals. 

Keep in mind, your goals (and maybe even your purpose) will change over time. So, you need to rewrite each time you are about to move to the next stage or start a new chapter.

Analyze Your Experience

As mentioned in a previous post, one of the best ways to reveal passion in a field is to discuss experiences you’ve gained in that field. To discuss this in writing, you must do some thinking. 

Which experiences influenced you most? Which accomplishments are you most proud of? Which experiences reveal your dedication and passion? 

 “People do not care about what you know until they know you care.”

Your actions and experiences in a field are the evidence that you care. Prove it to yourself before you set out to prove it to interviewers.

Assess Your Strengths & Limitations

Your personal statement may also include a statement about your strengths and your limitations. To write this, you must assess yourself to not only identify genuine strengths…but also provide evidence. 

In other words, your experiences mentioned above should require specific characteristics, abilities, and/or skills. Of all your strengths, these are the ones that you can easily demonstrate in application papers.

Your limitations change over time…since, of course, you are constantly striving to improve old limitations. You are also gaining exposure to new experiences and situations that may highlight new areas in need of improvement. 

Writing a personal statement allows you to identify your current limitations and develop phrasing that reveals your intention to improve.

Develop Self-Concept Language

Perhaps the most important benefit of writing a personal statement is that it prepares you to represent yourself in your application materials and during your interview.

You may already know all the information in your personal statement without having to write it…but, the process of composing requires that you find the language and phrasing that best expresses your ideas.

So, not only does this process force you to self-conceptualize, but it requires that you articulate this information in a professional and concise manner.

The act of writing a personal statement before you apply or interview to any position will allow you to:

  • represent yourself with confidence
  • reveal your passion for the position, profession, and field
  • explain the alignment of values between you and the organization
  • describe the ways in which the position/organization can help you achieve your goals
  • clarify the way in which you will contribute to the organization

The act of writing a personal statement is so valuable that I often say:

“If you cannot write a personal statement, then you are not ready to apply.”

Learn how to write a personal statement HERE.

Do you need coaching or guidance? Request more information about guidance calls with Dr. Devon L. Golem by using the contact forms at or email

Mission Statement Deconstructed: How & Why

The mission statement of any organization tells you about their values and purpose.  It is a great way to learn about the institution. 

This is particularly useful when you are considering a position (of any kind) within that organization.  Whether applying to be a pupil or an employee, evaluating the mission statement will serve you well. 

By gaining a deep understanding of the mission statement, you will not only gain a better understanding of the organization, but you will be better prepared to apply.  Your application materials and interview vernacular will reveal that “you did your research and liked what you saw”.

Every mission statement contains certain components, regardless of the type of institution.  Answer the following questions to deconstruct the mission statement of an organization that you are interested in.

Who is the institution serving? – Customers

Typically, external customers, organizations often have a group of people that they set out to help.  One question to ask yourself when identifying these customers is “Do I want to serve this group?”.

What does the institution provide? – Products/Services

How do they serve their customers?  The mission statement will indicate the main services and/or products that this institution provides.  Whether this is education from a University or food products from a manufacturer, the mission statement will reveal how this organization fulfills their purpose.

Where does the institution contribute? – Market

The mission statement typically refers to a geographic location in which the institution functions.  Local community to global market, find out the reach of this institution.

What are the major concerns of the institution?

Is there a concern for survival, growth, profitability?  Is the institution committed to financial soundness and sustainability?  Or maybe the institution is concerned about equality or fair trade.  Concerns are values that you may share with the institution.

What is the institution’s philosophy?

The mission statement will reveal the beliefs and values of the organization.  It may indicate the ethical priorities and aspirations.  It is important to consider these and determine if you agree with this philosophy. 

What is the unique competence of this institution? – Self-concept

This statement should reveal the unique, competitive advantage of this organization.  How is it different from other institutions that serve similar customers with similar services/products?  How does this institution feel that they stand out from others?  This provides great insight into how the leaders view this organization.

Is there a concern for public image? If so, what is it?

Does the institution address social or environmental concerns?  Does it respond to community concerns?  Which ones?  Does this appeal to you?

Is there a concern for employees?

Employees (a.k.a. internal customers) are the pillars in which all institutions stand.  Does this institution show it in their mission statement?  Does this statement reveal that employees are a valued asset?

This is very important to consider if looking for employment within the organization.

Give it a try with the mission statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at  Compare your answers.

Customers – Members;

Services – research, education, and advocacy;

Market – American/US;

Concerns – communicating the expertise of its members;

Philosophy – nutritional well-being, public health, food conservation, professional leadership;

Unique – largest organization of food and nutrition professionals;

Public Image – advocates of public health, empower nutrition leaders;

Concerns for Employees – no mention of paid employees, but a concern for the advancement of the internal customer (i.e. the members).

For more great content, sign up for Professional Insights newsletter.

About the Author:  Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the founder and CEO of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.   She earned a PhD in Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University and has worked as a registered dietitian in a variety of settings.  Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

Join one or both of her LinkedIn Groups: Nutrition Professional Resource Group and Dietetic & Nutrition Students & Interns


Exploring Your Options: 5 tips for diving into the next stage of your career

One of the biggest issues in most of my professional advising sessions is the reluctance to seek out multiple options. Contrary to popular belief, having many options is the lesser of the evils when it comes to making life-changing, career decisions.  It provides broader perspective and enables individuals to seriously consider exciting new options.

Whether applying to academic or internship programs or setting out to find a new job, here are 5 principles to keep in mind when embarking on a new chapter in your career.

  1. Know all your options

If you are looking to make a change in your career, then know your options.   Avoid the pitfall of focusing solely on one option because it is convenient and/or easy. 

If you are ready to make a change, then make sure it is a good one.  Search for all opportunities that may be available to you and learn more.  The more flexible you are, the more options you will have. 

Learn about all of them.

  1. Prioritize your options from ideal to livable.

Once you have a great big list of options, then prioritize them.  Select a few factors that you can rank objectively for each option and create some criteria.  Also, listen to your intuition and learn to trust your gut feelings. 

Eliminate any option that ranks below the “livable” designation.  Your final list of possible options should only be filled with plausible options.

  1. Apply to all the options on your list.

Do not limit yourself, especially if the only cost is effort.  If you want to learn more about eight job positions, then apply to all eight. 

If you want to increase your chances of getting accepted into a graduate or internship program, then apply to all those that meet your criteria.

If you are serious about changing, then you will spend the effort and money needed to increase your odds of success.

  1. Accept Interview Invitations

Whether you are leaning towards a position or not, if you are asked to interview…say “YES”.   Always accept the invitation to interview. 

The interview process is a time to learn more about the position, institution, culture, and environment.  Not only are the interviewers going to learn about you, but you will learn all about them and more.  You may even learn a little bit more about yourself.

 Even if you are not strongly considering a position, complete the interview for practice and exposure.  If this is a plausible option, then give yourself and them a chance.  You might just learn something that will change your view.

  1. Open Your Mind

Do not be bogged down by fear or preconceived notions.  To find your best match, you need to reassess your thoughts about each option after you learn, apply, and interview.  New information may sway your opinion.

Also, avoid “scaring” yourself out of a great opportunity.  Fear of moving and fear of failure tend to be the most common reasons that some people do not even learn about all the opportunities available to them.

You will only be able to succeed in change that you believe you can make.  Don’t let barriers stop you from realizing your dreams.  Try to find others who have made these types of choices. People have moved their families all over the world to make great strides in their life and career.

Recognize that everyone has barriers but those that open their mind to all their options…succeed.   

For more guidance, consider the Developing Your Career Plan course or the DI Application Crash Course.



Why Get Cozy With Your DPD Director

There are many reasons to “get cozy” with your Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) Director.  When I say “get cozy”, I mean to build a comfortable yet professional relationship with her/him.

There are many ways that a DPD Director can positively influence your life.  Make sure that you take full advantage of this resource while you have it.  This person can prove to be valuable to you NOW & LATER.

Here are some of the ways in which she/he can do that:

A Reference

The most common reason that most dietetic students try to get on the good side of the DPD Director is to secure a positive reference letter.  But, if you build the relationship well, then you will find that a letter of recommendation is just the tip of the iceberg.

Course Guidance

Usually, your DPD Director is one of your professors.  He/she teaches a few courses in the program and oversees the nutrition curriculum throughout the entire program.  In other words, they work with the other faculty members to make sure that you are learning everything that you need to learn at this point in your academic career.

They can explain all the concepts from life-cycle nutrition to nutritional biochemistry and food service management.  They know it so well that it seems almost like common knowledge.  If you need help in a nutrition course and are not getting the help you need from your instructor, you need to tell your DPD Director.  Not only will they address this with the instructor, but they will help you understand what you need to know.

Program Guidance

The DPD Director should be able to give you all the information you need to know about the dietetics program that you are enrolled in.  From course requirements and your academic schedule to the global learning objectives that you should achieve by the end of the program.

It’s not all about what you need to do to complete the program.  It is also about what you should get out of the program.

Career Guidance

Ignore the old saying “Those who can’t do teach.”  That does not apply in this field.  Your DPD Director is a registered dietetic professional who has gained a ton of experience in the field.  Some of them still work in the field on the side.

DPD Directors are on the cusp of pre-professionals and professionals.  They get to see the field from a wider perspective than most practitioners.  Mainly because they continually learn about the field with their students in mind.

You will definitely want to get their advice on your career and the options available to you.  Ask them about the different positions, roles, and responsibilities of dietetic professionals.  You will be surprised what a good DPD Director will tell you.


DPD Directors have a lot of connections.  Not only do they know other directors and dietetic professionals from all over the world.  They also know successful graduates of your DPD Program as well as local dietetic professionals.  A good DPD Director knows how to network and is a great role model.

So, the next time he/she encourages you to attend a meeting or join a professional organization or connect with them on LinkedIn…do not hesitate.  Follow suit.


Through courses and conversations, your DPD Director can help expand your view of the field.  DPD Directors receive notifications of opportunities for their students (volunteer and paid).  They are usually asked to provide services to the community and may need your help.

Talk to them about their experiences and let them know you are interested in gaining more exposure.  Ask them to help you get a better idea of all the different facets of the field.  From laboratory research to community outreach to clinical field experience…the DPD Director is in the know.

Future Employment

DPD Directors are often the first people who are approached when employers are looking for applicants.  If they get to know you, then you might be the first person to pop in their head when they hear of a potential position for you.

Not only will you ensure a great reference by building your relationship with your DPD Director, you will also gain a potential employer.  The DPD Director is often involved in the search for instructors (whether full-time or adjunct), laboratory managers, and research assistants.

Some become employers outside of academia. Take me, for instance.  I am the CEO of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.  The students that built a relationship with me, while I was their DPD Director, are on my shortlist for employment opportunities within the Institute.


DI Applications

Of course your DPD Director can provide you information on the dietetic internship  (DI) application process.  She/he may also have served on many DI Selection Committees.  This means that they have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly applications.  This is definitely one person with which you will want to discuss your DI application.

If you want to learn even more insider tips on DI Applications and/or get one-on-one guidance, click HERE.  Or go to and look at the services for Pre-Professionals.

The DI Application Crash Course is about to launch!  Learn the insider strategies that many applicants don’t know.

Your Dietetics Career Plan


Its best to think of a career plan as a continually evolving structure.   Our perspective and goals change as we gain experience over time.  We need to continually evaluate our values and skills.  Developing a career plan every couple of years is a way to explore available options and make desirable life changes.

The following is a summary of the five main components of a career plan.


  1. A self-assessment

We need to learn about ourselves and the ways in which we have changed over time.  Developing a new career plan allows for this by beginning with a self-assessment.  Answer questions such as:

  • Which aspects of dietetics/nutrition interest me the most?
  • What skills have I acquired over the past few years?
  • What do I value most in my life?
  • How could my career address my top values?



  1. Determining career goals

At this step, we will determine 2 to 4 career goals.  This is an extension of our self-assessment and includes visualizing the future.  Where do we want to be in 2 years from now? 5 years from now? and 10 years from now?

One easy way to do this is to imagine a typical day in our future.

  • How will I describe to friends and family what I do for a living?
  • Who will I work with?
  • How much time will I spend working?
  • What will my role be at work? (Will I be an administrator or an employee, a leader or a follower, overseeing or enacting?)
  • What will I love about my job?
  • How much money will I earn? (What kind of lifestyle will I be able to afford?)
  • How much responsibility will I have? (A lot, moderate amounts, or very little?)

Completing a small job search is helpful in expanding our perspective.  Even if we are not currently looking for a job, this kind of search helps us recognize unique opportunities.  After contemplation about the information we collected, we can develop our career goals.  Here are some examples:

  • Career Goal 1: My career will allow for work-life balance which means that I will never work more than 40 hours per week, have flexibility to tend to family, have all major holidays off, and have 4 or more weeks of paid vacation per year.
  • Career Goal 2: I will specialize in diabetes management.



  1. A gap analysis

After we determine our goals, we need to determine the gap between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be.’  This will help us determine education, experience, and skills needed to meet our goals.

  1. Complete an online search and interview a few role models to determine the education, experience, and skill criteria needed to meet your goals.
  2. Rate your current level for each of these criteria.
    1. Here is an example:
      1. I want to be an expert in diabetes management.
        1. I need formal/certification training, 1500 hours of experience working with patients with diabetes, and honed nutrition counseling skills.
        2. I do not have formal training (CDE). I have ~50 hours of experience.  I am new to nutrition counseling and would rate my skills as low.



  1. Identifying needs

Apply the results from the gap analysis to identify training and experience needs.  We may need more exposure to a particular clientele.  We may need more education.  We may need more leadership experience or to hone our communication skills.  Review your gap analysis and identify at least 3 needs to work on.

Remember that we need support in order to grow.  Some of our needs will include time, monetary support, and social support.  Always ask employers for assistance to improve your professional expertise.  Presenting them with a plan and a list of ways in which they will benefit are useful negotiating tactics.


  1. Developing a plan

Finally, we will use all the gathered information to develop a plan of action.  Now that we know our needs, we will find ways to meet those needs.  We will research the steps it takes, the resources, and the pathway that is best suited for us.

Answer the following questions to help develop a plan.

  • How do I get certified as a diabetes educator?
  • How much does it cost? How much time does it take? What steps are required?
  • Where can I find the time, money, and self-guided experience to complete the certification?
  • Who will support me during my growth period?
  • How can I include this in my CDR Personal Development Plan?

Start planning today to obtain your dream career tomorrow!


Get help with your career plan.  Take the Developing Your Career Plan online course (5 CPEUs) and/or request information about one-on-one coaching (


ABOUT THE AUTHORD Golem at Podium with Flag

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD is the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.  She has spent over a decade providing education and career guidance to nutrition students, interns, and professionals.

Connect with Devon on LinkedIn.


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