Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Nutrition Student's Guide to FNCE 2013

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference is right around the corner. This year, it is being held in Houston, TX, beginning October 19th, 2013. As a young professional, who is just starting to make a name for myself, FNCE is the perfect networking opportunity. Thousands of dietitians from around the country gather together to meet each other and learn about upcoming nutrition trends. The only way I can explain this web of emotions is almost like going to the Oscars. Dietitians who I consider famous and who have been stealing the spotlight on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest suddenly become real, walking the same halls as... moi. Imagine coming face-to-face with Ryan Gosling or George Clooney. The typical girl would probably look something like this: pale as a ghost, weak at the knees, and stumbling over her own words. Well, that's probably someone like me, when I come to face-to-face with an A-list dietitian. I sure hope I'm not the only one who would feel this way, which is why I have created a handy dandy guidebook to get you (aka ME) through this Hollywood scene of stardom.

1. It's not what you know, it's who you know. 

The definition of networking is forming connections. These connections, or relationships  may just offer substantial benefits, like a job, or a referral. Networking also allows for the exchange of ideas, feedback, or a new perspective on a familiar topic. For students, speaking with experts in the field can lead to invaluable advice as we take our first steps towards becoming a registered dietitian. By putting ourselves out there and in-the-know, we have allowed ourselves to gain leadership skills which look all so important on dietetic internship applications. 

2. Make goals and commitments. 

I admit, sometimes I'm a little shy, which is even more of an incentive to speak up! In order to prepare yourself to let your personality shine, devise a plan. Make a mental note to introduce yourself to a specific number of people and collect this number of business cards. To accomplish these goals, you may have to get out of your comfort zone and physically make yourself visible in the room.  

3. Dress to impress. 

This is a professional event, not an 8am biology class. According to The Network Journal, about 55% of a first impression is based on how you present yourself. A first impression can be formed within as little as seven seconds of meeting, leaving little time to make it a lasting one. An appropriate wardrobe, proper posture, and a winning smile will create instant connections and will ultimately make you memorable.

4. Follow up for lasting connections.

You have said hundreds of hellos and your bag is filled with business cards. Now what? Keep in touch! Networking involves staying in touch with the connections you have made. Send an email to those who really stood out, thanking them for their time or advice. A thank you card can go a long way, if someone really stood out in your mind. Attend events regularly to become recognizable. You, too, can offer important resources and information. Send an invitation to an upcoming event or a recent article that pertains to a topic of conversation you had. 

Most importantly, be yourself! Confidence is key. 

...And don't overindulge at the expo. 

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