An Interview with Susan Laramee, MS RD FADA LDN
By NUTRITIONJOBS on SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
NutritionJobs: You are currently the Clinical Recruitment Manager for Sodexo, USA, and you have also held the honored title of President of the American Dietetic Association, 2004-2005. But you started out in the pediatric intensive care unit. How did you make the transition from pediatric dietetics to recruiting?
Ms Laramee: A lot of advances in nutrition science were happening when I first started out as a dietitian. Tube feeding and TPN were becoming more available. The RD role in the hospital was becoming clearer. In the NICU, I had the opportunity to be part of a team of MD’s and RN where we learned from each other. But eventually I burned out on the intensity of the job. It also became routine. I later discovered that there were more career opportunities supporting our profession and in the business end of dietetics.
What is the best part of your job in recruiting?
Everyday is different. I have a virtual job that offers the opportunity to work with a variety of people. Also, I work for a great company whose core principles and culture I support. They want their employees to excel.
Early in your career you seemed to have rubbed shoulders with many impressive and successful dietitians.
One of my first mentors was Former ADA president, Annie Galbraith, MPH, RD. We worked together at Mass General. I found her to be insightful and supportive of my career. Because of my relationship with her, I was invited to attend events and asked to sit on committees. There have been many leaders in dietetics that I have admired. When I saw that they were not that different than me I realized that I too could become a leader. It gave me confidence. We have a very supportive profession that allows for growth and new leaders.
Your career has been on an continuous uphill trajectory. Did you always know what you wanted to achieve?
I actually changed my major 6 times in college. I found it hard to focus on a single choice. I did make some mistakes along the way, such as staying with an employer too long. I need a job that is vibrant and always stimulating.
How did networking help advance your career?
Through a network of fellow dietitians I have been able to find each of my jobs. I also started an outpatient RD networking group in my community as a reason to meet new people. Networking is making yourself visible to the circle of people and professionals around you. Also, look outside of work, nationally and even internationally, to form those relationships.
Public speaking has always played an important role in your career. Any advice for those who want to become more proficient at public speaking?
Public speaking can be painful. It is difficult for everyone! I took a public speaking course in graduate school. Preparing for a talk can be a lot of work but your skills will only develop from preparation and practice. Keep in mind that your job probably won’t help you develop your speaking skills but it will give you the opportunity to practice.
- When you attend a continuing education lecture, observe the speaker. Take note of what was or wasn’t effective in their delivery or message.
- Take a continuing education course on public speaking or media training. Professional and personal advice can be valuable.
- After you have given a talk, request that the audience complete a feedback survey. The information they provide can be both rewarding and helpful in your growth.
- When giving a lecture, avoid the temptation to cling to the podium. Try to assume a more natural stance where the audience can see you.
- PowerPoint is a wonderful slide presentation tool but be careful that you use it appropriately. Don’t pack it with too much information. Let it help you tell your story rather than just reading from it.
- When giving a talk, try not to communicate too much information. Rather, focus on 2-3 points you want your audience to take home
- When you first start out, give small informal talks at your hospital or other community venue.
- Try not to use notes. You want your talk to seem natural. It’s important that you know your material. Don’t speak about something you don’t know much about.
What job search tips can you offer?
- Be polished and prepared before you start the interview process. Too many times I have seen mistakes made during the actual interview or on the resume. Be good at marketing yourself.
- In most cases, the hiring manager wants to fill the position immediately. They may not have time to wait for you to update your resume. Have a website to showcase your professional portfolio.
- Find out whether the hiring manager wants to see your resume or your CV. There is a big difference between the two for some employers.
- A seasoned manager should have a working knowledge of basic business programs, such as Excel. Take a course to update your computer skills, if necessary.
How have you incorporated volunteering into your career?
I have a supportive family and an employer that also supports my time volunteering. But I also think that it is OK to bow out of volunteering during certain phases in life, when you have other obligations.
What advice do you have for others hoping to pave a new career path?
Get to know your leaders in ADA. Ask yourself how you can help them. Volunteer with ADA practice groups, professional associations and activities. These groups can be a great resource for networking, finding a mentor, enhancing your public speaking skills and your writing skills.