Communication skills are for more than just TV interviews! Dietitians with great communication skills have more career opportunities, more job satisfaction, and higher income than dietitians with technical skills alone. They have more influence in their organization, are more effective with patients or clients, negotiate better raises or benefits, and have more visibility in their community. 

Earlier in my career I negotiated a 20% pay raise by relying on the media and communication skills I’d learned and used on the job.  Prior to my annual review, I had given a great deal of thought to what I wanted and was very clear about what I was willing to accept and what I was not.  I presented my “case” using 3 main points and stayed “on message” whenever I encountered roadblocks in the conversation.  In some ways it was easy – because I was prepared.  I knew what I was worth and I was ready to ask for it.  In the end, I was thrilled (and surprised) when my employer ultimately said “Yes!”

According to Barbara Stanny, author of “Secrets of Six-Figure Women,” a principal tenet of higher earnings is this: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Stanny says, “Like it or not, your financial fate depends heavily on what you’re willing to ask for, no matter how stellar your conduct, how vast your experience, or how impressive your credentials.”  Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, seems to agree.  In her book “Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead,” she shares that women are more reluctant (than men) “to apply for promotions even when deserved, often believing that good job performance will naturally lead to rewards.”  That kind of thinking is counterproductive.  Whether you are negotiating a salary (or benefits), or simply informing a potential client of your fees, not asking for what you’re worth pretty much guarantees that you will not get it.

As a communications coach to dietitians, I always emphasize that a strong foundation in communication skills can help you get much more out of your career than just media interviews and better presentations.  It can help you be a better writer, networker, and even negotiator.  While negotiating can sometimes be challenging or uncomfortable, the good news is that speaking up can bring you far more than just financial gains.  It can help you create more balance in your life, accomplish your goals and earn the respect of others.

Effective communication is clear, concise and compelling.  Let’s use this approach to help us ask for what we’re worth:
1.    Be clear.  Take the time to consider exactly what you want.  If you are unclear about this, you will not be able to communicate it clearly.  Fear of being too forward or pushy can sometimes cause us to ‘soften’ our request which can then backfire because it’s too vague.  Don’t leave them guessing.
2.    Be concise.  By organizing your thoughts into 3 main points and weeding out the extraneous information, you will be more straightforward and confident.  For example, your three main points might be: what you want, why you want it, and what you’ll deliver in return.  This also helps you keep the conversation focused and productive, instead of veering off into other topics that are not as important.
3.    Be compelling.    Emphasize what’s in it for them so they understand the value you bring to the table. Put yourself in their shoes and focus on the needs you’re fulfilling or the problems you’re solving.

The best case scenario is that you simply ask for what you want and then you receive it.  You may not actually need to delve into a deeper conversation.  However the mere act of preparing for this conversation will give you the clarity, confidence and chutzpah necessary for a successful outcome.
At the end of the day, when you ask for what you’re worth and then you receive it, your self-worth gets an incredible boost and it becomes easier to ask the next time around!

For more information and inspiration – please join the Nutrition Entrepreneurs DPG today (if you haven’t already)! This group has some of the most dynamic dietitians and leaders in our field, and they are a wealth of knowledge and support just waiting to help you.
I also want to share this helpful article by dietitian and friend Sarah Koszyk: “Competitively Price Your Services”. She shares 3 simple tips you can start implementing today. You can also read more about Sarah in her Sound Bites interview here.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Please comment below or contact me at Melissa@SoundBitesRD.com.

Check out my Lean In Book Discussion here for more insight into women, work and will to lead!

Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!

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