Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone to Grow Professionally

By: Julie Henderson

The fear of the unknown can be a stronghold. That is what I felt when I was assigned to do my first podcast in my dietetic internship program. I chose this internship program with the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) because of what I didn’t yet know and what I wanted to gain better development in, technology and informatics. And one thing I have learned is not to let the fear of trying something new keep you from achieving new heights in your career goals.

You may not know much about podcasts if you are anything like me. I had heard of them, but I had no idea how to access them, let alone develop and record one. One of our wonderful preceptors, Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F has many talents working with and teaching technology and informatics. She created a schedule and assigned each intern specific dates that their podcasts would be due. During the 10-month internship, everyone must complete two podcasts. My first podcast was not due until February but knowing that I would have other assignments along the way, I chose to get started a few months early when I had more available time.

To start, I had to choose a topic and obtain approval from my preceptor. I chose to discuss the differences in packaged food labeling of sodium/salt. Even though I was intimidated by this assignment, choosing a topic made me realize that I had been taking my knowledge for granted. As it has been said, “knowledge is power,” and this was an opportunity to use my knowledge to educate others about nutritional topics affecting their health and well-being. My podcast highlighted the differences in the label wording and meaning of sodium amounts in food. For example, “Salt/sodium free” means that a serving of a particular food has less than 5 mg of sodium, while “Low sodium” means a serving has less than 140 mg of sodium. I learned that podcasting is not only an outlet to inspire or entertain people, but also a platform to educate on topics about which the speaker is knowledgeable. So, with my podcast, I hoped to educate future UMD interns and the public by cross-posting the podcast on multiple social media outlets.

The next step was to write the rough draft for the podcast. The requirement was 1 page, double spaced to accomplish a recording of 2-3 minutes in length. It wasn’t difficult to get to the 1-page requirement, especially since I knew what I wanted to relay and I had the knowledge and passion to discuss it. In this case, I felt like it was important to explain that there is a real difference in the amount of sodium in foods based on the food label wording.

The finishing touch was to record the podcast. As stated, the recording for this assignment was limited to 2-3 minutes. I first had to play around with the free downloadable recording software, Audacity Team and Sound Cloud. I then chose one and set it up to record in what I thought was a quiet space, my home office. The first 4-5 recordings were either too long or I got tongue-tied while trying to speak. Just as I finished the last couple of sentences on my sixth attempt, a family member walked into the office and ruined it. Although this was very frustrating, I moved forward and recorded my seventh attempt. And lo and behold, I did it! I accomplished my very first podcast. I happily submitted it to my preceptor for finalization and posting.

It can be intimidating to do things that you have never done before, although it is rewarding afterward. Completingthese podcast experiences will help me in my future as a registered dietitian by giving me an outlet to educate and interview others, research the latest food and nutrition-related topics, and promote the dietetic profession. I could create podcasts for my own nutrition business or private practice or be interviewed on someone else’s podcast one day. Thankfully, along with the schedule, Megan provided clear directions and helpful hints that allowed me to obtain the growth I needed to feel competent in creating podcasts. Looking ahead, I am no longer intimidated by my next podcast as I have realized that there are many topics I am interested in educating the public about when it comes to food and nutrition.

I felt accomplished after completing the assignment and look forward to the next podcast creation.If interested, you can find my first podcast at: 

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