Your Dietetics Career Plan

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?

2.      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 in 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. 

3.      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.

  • Complete an online search and interview a few role models to determine the education, experience, and skill criteria needed to meet your goals.
  • Rate your current level for each of these criteria.

Here is an example: I want to be an expert in diabetes management.

a.      I need formal/certification training, 1500 hours of experience working with patients with diabetes, and honed nutrition counseling skills.

b.      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.

4.      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.

5.      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!


Devon L Golem PhD RD


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 and ask her for a career plan template.

How Interviews Can Make You Sick

How Interviews Can Make You

Here are several ways that interviews can make you sick and how to avoid them:

Anticipation Anxiety

In our anticipation for the interview we worry, we stress, and we overthink. It is super easy to get nervous several days or weeks in advance. This anxiety leads to sleepless nights, skipped workouts, and stress eating. Our minds are filled with chatter, questions, and doubt. During this time, we stop taking care of ourselves, physically and mentally.

Making a plan and scheduling time to prep every day prior to the interview is the best way to reduce interview anxiety.

Our confidence grows with practice and education. So, learn about the organization/employer, the position, and yourself. Practice interview questions and answers aloud.  Getting used to hearing your own voice aloud while honing the answers you provide builds interview confidence.

Interview Diet & Dehydration

Not only do we fill the days before the interview with an “off-brand” diet, but then we tend to eat abnormally on the day of the interview. Some of us eat a larger breakfast than normal while some of us skip it completely.

During the interview, we act as if we are on a first date and eat scarcely. We avoid any spills, slops, and unsightly mouth wrestling while chomping on our food. Since we spend most the time talking, we eat and drink sparingly. (It’s always best not to choke or hack up food when on an interview.)

This leaves us undernourished and dehydrated. Not ideal for performance time. To counteract, eat all meals and snacks as usual prior to the interview. At the interview, bring your own water bottle filled with a sports drink. A little extra glucose, electrolytes, and fluid will help handle the elevated cortisol levels and increased energy needs.

Playing the Quarterback

The mind games that we play afterward can make us sick. Like a quarterback, many of us tend to replay scenes of the interview over and over again. “Should I have said this? Did they find my joke funny? Was I wearing the right clothes? What did he mean by…?”

Many questions circulate in our heads. If we spend too much time dwelling, we can make ourselves sick. The best way to handle this is to schedule a time immediately after the interview to give yourself a synopsis or summary. In your car, put a 5 min timer on your phone and answer these questions:

·        Overall, how do I feel?

·        Do I think I got the position?

·        Do I want the position?

·        What did I learn from this interview that I will use in future interviews?

If you keep your thoughts on the big picture and focus on your gut feelings, then you will be able to avoid the hours of mental torture on trivial aspects. In the grand scheme of things, you either feel good or you don’t. Learn to trust your gut and accept what you cannot change.


The underlying issue behind interview illness is doubt. Self-doubt leads to impulsive behavior and bad decisions. Your overall goal prior to the interview should be to build your confidence. There are a few ways to do this.

  • Recognize your ability and drive to learn. You are not supposed to know every aspect of the position at the interview. Employers would rather have someone who is eager and able to learn than someone who knows it all. Believe it or not, good employers want to train you and shape you. They want to know that you are flexible in learning and using their protocols and procedures.
  • Remind yourself that things always work out. Life is not going to end if you have a horrible interview. Applying for several positions and taking several interviews is going to help reinforce this notion. Remind yourself that you have always succeeded and overcome challenges in the past and you always will in the future. Your mind believes what you tell it. So, tell it that you are a wonderful person who always succeeds.
  • Do not limit your opportunities. Check out all of your options and compare them. Apply to several positions. Do not retract your application unless you had a dramatic life change since you applied. You can reserve your decision until after you are offered the job. If you are offered a job before you have completed other interviews, then ask for more time to decide (or request earlier interviews). It is okay to let your interviewers know that you have other interviews. You are not obligated to any one job until you accept it.

Notice that all of these requires certainty. Be certain in your decisions. Take your time, trust your gut, and do not get caught up in the small details. Have confidence in yourself. You will take care of yourself. You will be prepared. You will do well and you will make the right decision.

About the Author

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.

What is Gut Health?

GUT Health

Gut health is becoming more and more popular these days, but, what really is it?

The gut is referring to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  This tract starts at the mouth and ends at the…other end.  So, it includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.

The main function of the gut is to absorb nutrients from the food we consume while ridding the body of solid waste.  Yet, it has many other important functions like keeping harmful substances out of our bodies and cultivating a bounty of useful bacteria.  If it does these things well, then it is healthy.  If it does not do these things well…illness ensues.

Bacteria is normally thought of in a negative manner, but a healthy gut is filled with millions of different types of healthy bacteria.  This bacteria can aid with the digestion of nutrients, support a healthy immune system, and even stimulate the nervous system to function properly.

Negative bacteria does find its way into the gut and when it does, it cause some major symptoms…diarrhea/constipation, excessive gas, intestinal inflammation, and even acne.  More and more research reveals a connection between negative bacteria in the gut and conditions such as depression, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity.

How to avoid negative bacteria in the gut

There are many causes of an imbalance between positive and negative gut bacteria.  Some of them cannot be helped such as aging or being ill.

Stress, unhealthy dietary habits, and the use of antibiotics are among the causes that can be helped.  Reducing and managing stress does wonders for gut health.  Avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary saves healthy bacteria from being wiped out for months to years.  That’s right…one week-long treatment of antibiotics can clear out all the good going on in the intestine.

Healthy eating is key to good intestinal health.  A variety of plant foods is necessary to have a variety of strains of health bacteria in the gut.  Consuming prebiotics and probiotics promotes gut health too.  Prebiotics are food components that promote bacterial growth. They are found in a lot of plant foods including asparagus, onions, garlic, and some legumes.  Probiotics are foods that contain live bacteria such as yogurt and kefir.


More and more evidence indicates that a healthy body is dependent on a healthy gut which is dependent on a healthy diet.  Eat well!

About the Author

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.

Kids Eat Right in August

Kids Eat Right logo

This infographic is from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit for more information on healthful eating or to find a registered dietitian nutritionist.

August is Kids Eat Right month!  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation sponsored this campaign to promote public education.  The Foundation is dedicated to providing  new resources to help kids eat better and move more.  Funding and resources are provided to active members to use in schools and in the community.  Take a look at some of these resources.

Many of these resources are available online.  Take a look at these links to learn how to encourage children to live healthy.

Webinars  (Free CPEU opportunities for dietetic professionals!)

Toolkits (Learn how healthy living is incorporated at home, school and during recreation.)

A Kids Webpage  (For all ages.  Tips, recipes, and helpful information.)

May you have a happy and healthy August!


About the Author:

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2015


This summer the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) was re-introduced into the legislative process.  It was introduced to the House on May 18th (H.R. 2404) and to the Senate on June 4th, 2015 (S.1509).   Like all bills, this one must be reported by Committee, passed by the Senate, and passed by the House before it is signed into law by the President.


Who does it benefit?

Medicare beneficiaries.  As the title reveals, this act targets the obesity epidemic by providing Medicare participants with increased access to weight management care.


What are the proposed benefits?

Coverage for weight management care. More specifically, this legislation would enable Medicare benefits to cover intensive behavioral counseling and prescription medications included in weight management therapies.


Who could provide the care?

Other than the primary care physician (PCP), a list of other healthcare providers would be able to provide weight management care to Medicare beneficiaries under this act.  Here is the list in the current bill:

  • Physician (other than the PCP)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Registered Dietitian or Nutrition Professional
  • An evidence-based, community-based lifestyle counseling program


Why now? Why not earlier?

Actually, the TROA was first introduced in 2013.  Strong support was received in both the Senate and House with 121 co-sponsors.  Yet, the legislation did not make it beyond the committee level.

Between 2013-2015 only 15% of the bills that were introduced past committee.  Only 3% of all those bills introduced were actually enacted.


How does an idea become a law?

Here is a little refresher about the lawmaking process.  There are nine main steps:

  1. Attention to an issue. A person, group, or organization increases the awareness of an issue and brings it to the attention of a government representative.
  2. Written, submitted, and sponsored. The bill is written by the representative and submitted to the clerk to be assigned a number and printed.  At least one legislative member (from either the House or Senate) must sponsor the bill. This is when the bill is introduced to either the House or Senate.
  3. Referred to committee. The appropriate committee is assigned to the bill.
  4. Subcommittee hearings and markup. The bill is referred to several committees and subcommittees within the House or Senate. These committees vote on whether to continue moving the bill forward or to table it.
  5. Full committee action. Once the bill is approved by the subcommittees it goes back to the full committee for amendments, debate, and a vote.
  6. Full chamber action. If the committee approves the bill, then the full membership of the House or Senate debates, makes amendments, and takes a vote.
  7. Conference committee. A committee with representatives from both the House and Senate work together to resolve differences and amend the two versions of the bill that had been approved separately by both the House and Senate.
  8. Final floor action. The final version approved by the conference committee then goes back to each legislative body for a final vote.
  9. Presidential action. Finally, once the two legislative bodies have passed the bill, it is sent to the President to be signed into law.


To make an impact on our community, we must communicate with these policymakers.  There are many steps in which a proposed bill could be stopped and only those with great support make it through.  To stay abreast of policy proceedings that may impact you, go to to read about and track bills of interest.  To learn more about TROA, go to


About the Author:

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Devon is the VAND Professional Education Chair and lives in Charlottesville, VA.  She is the founder and CEO of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.  Please email her with any questions or comments about the blog at