As part of my Fund the Future initiative, I host quarterly mentorship calls for students, interns and early career RD’s who are interested in business, marketing and communications. I will be addressing some of the questions I receive here on the blog so others can benefit from the conversation!

One of those recent questions was:

How do I maintain an online presence and grow a following before I pass the RD exam? What can/can’t I say?

Wow, what a great question. As a 2009 graduate, I wasn’t faced with the pressure to “be more visible” or build an audience because there simply weren’t as many tools to do so. Facebook existed but at the time it was simply a community outlet for college students. I never would have imagined it would become the marketing and advertising powerhouse it is today, let alone all the new social media channels that would be developed in its wake.

Today’s graduates have the world at their fingertips. This opens more opportunities to connect with your colleagues and future customers years before entering the workforce. In fact, I know many college students with thriving {and profitable} blogs, Instagram accounts and more. Talk about a fun way to pay the bills!

But this access also muddies the waters ethically in a profession that prioritizes consumer transparency. It’s equally important whether you are developing a personal brand because you aspire to be an entrepreneur or land your first job.

For example/did you know, it’s inappropriate to use any variation of RDE or RD Eligible? In addition to not being a CDR-recognized credential, we also agree as a profession not to engage in false or misleading practices or communications.

So where do you draw the line?

The rule of thumb I recommend using when evaluating your online presence is whether you are 1) sharing your personal experience or 2) giving advice to the public. In general, it’s best to err on the side of simply speaking to what works for you rather than suggesting the same will work for others. In this way, you’re not acting in the role of an RD before you officially pass the registration exam.

The digital world is not black and white. Of course, you’ll see non-credentialed or self-proclaimed experts making claims, which challenges us as professionals to find creative ways to make an impact while abiding by a code of ethics. But these guidelines are in place for a reason – to protect the consumer – and they help us earn trust, respect and credibility.

What is insanely powerful about having a platform in your formative pre-RD years is that it allows you to find your voice and refine your philosophy. This takes time, practice and a lot of self-reflection. I tell my 1:1 coaching clients all the time that focusing on what we do believe in {rather than what we don’t believe in} is an opportunity area for RD’s. Sometimes our collective efforts to “defend and protect” our profession don’t come off the way we intended, and instead take a negative, combative tone. To be honest, it’s not very productive.

I believe that the future of our profession, and the ability for RD’s to be recognized {and paid for} being the experts they are, is a combination of owning our expertise, building influence and being of service. Your time is better spent drawing attention to the philosophies you support rather than debunking myths you don’t, and you can start now!

So, what next?

+ Get notified about future mentorship calls
+ Read the AND Code of Ethics and this Practice Paper on Social Media and the Dietetics Practitioner
+ Check your profile: Do you clearly communicate your student status?
+ Assess your tone: Is it positive, encouraging and helpful?
+ Evaluate your content: Are you speaking from personal experience or making blanket recommendations?

I get asked about personal and professional branding all the time, especially with my experience working in brand management for top food companies. So, I’m creating something for you!

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  1. Wow, I’m so happy I stumbled across this today! Lots of helpful information and links, thank you Katie!

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