Feb 072013
 

I just got off the phone with the third order for a San Francisco Chef this month. “There are a lot of strange people out there,” I ventured. Good chefs are in short supply right now. I knew my new client would agree, as that is why she called.

“We’ve seen a lot of them these past few weeks,” she replied. I added, “..and I’ve experienced quite a few who don’t turn up for their interviews.”

So has she. We pondered the possibility of a web site listing no-shows, so other restaurants would not waste their time, but we rejected the idea as attorney fodder. It’s not necessary, anyway. The word gets out. We (the people who hire people and those who deal with them) are a very small and tight community, and there is no law on earth which prevents us from sharing no shows. You wouldn’t know we did, anyway.

Interview stand-ups show us all a lack of respect which engenders not a little anger. Imagine the owner waiting for you, when he would rather be picking up the replacement fuse for the hood or slipping in a meeting with his accountant. Imagine her seething because this was her only half day off this week, and she spent waiting on a troglodyte sous chef with the manners of a wart hog.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am trying to tell you something here. It’s short, sweet and easy to  understand:

IF YOU MAKE AN INTERVIEW, KEEP IT.

How easy is that, I ask you?

Realized with horror it was already Wednesday, and you thought it was Tuesday all day? Call and apologize, They might not want to hire you anyway if you can’t keep your dates straight, but they won’t be talking about  you at the next gathering of the tribes.

Let me make this clear: We talk. People call me and ask (which they should not, but they do), Do you know anything about this guy Bob Jones?  Generally I can’t tell them, but if he missed an interview I set up, I will. I won’t say “don’t hire him”. It probably goes something like, I was dealing with him and he gave all the right answers and looked good on the phone, but he was a no show. “ It may not stop them from hiring him, but it won’t help.

So what’s a guy/woman to do, if you have two things going on at once and one seems more important?

Well, first have the decency and courage to tell the second interview that you have a commitment, but would love to talk to them. If they want someone who doesn’t keep his commitments, then they really aren’t people you should be working for. Really? Yes, Really. Decency is something you look for in management staff, and not showing up for an engagement is indecent. People who expect you to be indecent to someone else will in all probability be indecent to you.  Fact.

“It’s not important because a recruiter arranged it, and I don’t feel responsible to them.” But you expect them to work for you for free, so you just hang them out. You have just insulted two people, not one, and we will talk about it loudly, preferably at the next restaurant owners’ gathering. You are not to be saved. Go jump off something high.

What about getting called to work or waking up with a hangover or the husband/wife can’t take the tot to pre school? Easy: Get a number where you can reach them is something really,  really unexpected happens  and call as far in advance as you can and leave a message. Don’t wait until you are over the flu, because that is a clear message that you will not be showing up for work without an alert. (We assume no shows have no compunctions to fulfill their commitments once they are hired. Not a great leap of logic, that).

You decided you really shouldn’t have made to appointment, because you didn’t want the job in the first place? Have mercy, what kind of self serving, beer brained, fool savage are you?  You have two options: 1) Call ahead and explain that you have changed your mind or lie about something.  It’s an exercise in social courage. It will do you good. Or: 2) Go anyway, hear what they have to say, then decline politely. The advantage of plan B is that you meet someone you may  want to work with in the future (It happens a lot) and you may just find out that there are truly exciting aspects to the job.

And what about forgetting the appointment all together? What are you , a space cadet? Have you not heard of online calendars? Ones you can put on your cell phone and your computer? The year is 2013 and we  have ways to deal with things like that. We also have Post-it  notes you can put on  your refrigerator, in case you lose your phone (how often  have I heard that one.)

And really, if you do space the meeting,  you will do a lot better to call and apologize.

There is no excuse – Really ZERO – for skipping an interview or missing one and not apologizing. It wastes people’s time, it makes you look like the jerk you probably really are, and it gets the word out to other people.

In the triage of your busy life appointments for interviews should be at the top, prioritized right after rushing to the hospital for the birth of the baby but before your salmon order. You are a grown up now. Act like one.

Oct 092012
 

(So does everyone else.)

Google a little and find a list of “What Headhunters want in their candidates” .  or: “How to get your resume to the top of the pile”, or: “Resumes that will get you in with headhunters.” Aside from the fact that I would not want to be considered a “headhunter” (too cannibalistic for a business that needs to be aware of the welfare of both sides of an employment equation, don’t you think) as a recruiter I can tell you that all of this is a heap of gerbil dung.

It’s  nonsense, unless you prefer working for fools. Wise people hire based on your track record. If your track record does not hold up to any company’s laundry list of requirements, you will not be considered. It’s that simple.  (Fools go for the glitzy bits in resumes, but more about that in some other entry).

I am in a slightly different position than the usual restaurant owner, as any resume I receive may not be sufficient for the position I seek, but might be just the background some later client desires. I keep good records. For this the suitability of the applicant’s background to just one job is not the only thing I consider. There are a few elements on a resume and in a candidate’s nature which are enchanting. I have a system of checks in my data base. When I discover these characteristics, the boxes get checks,  so I can find that person faster.  Here they are:

1)       Care to career. A chef who  has carefully chosen his positions and guided his actions to keep them. This is not a matter of talent but of character and focus. A logical career trajectory is a delight. Someone who began as a cook in a local restaurant, continued to work for a few years in a better location,  then took a couple more positions in good quality kitchens to secure  his place and profile.  The quality of  his kitchens either stayed the same or rose.

2)      Stability. I do not care how many great restaurants you work at, if you only work at each one for a few months or less than a year, you do not promise the quality of any of them.  I know it is not easy to work for great chefs, and it frequently pays poorly, and it is just that application that tells me this candidate has more than talent. He has character and drive.

3)      Commitment.  Some people call this “passion”. Committed cooks and chefs are not likely to take any sharp turns in their careers to accommodate convenience. They bring with them several levels of integrity, culinary only being one of them. They are not ideologues but people whose history is testimony to their love of their chosen profession.

4)      A sense of community. We are a community and every restaurant is a community. The chef who understands himself as part of the whole will always achieve better results than the lone genius. Consider it a basketball game. It’s hard to find community sense on resumes, but it’s easy to see where it is lacking. Interviews usually reveal it quickly, as the community spirited chef will always talk about  his people and what they were able to do, rather than counting down what he presents as his sole achievements.

5)      Common sense. Every so often I will offer a young chef a job I think he can do, and he will say “No thank  you. I need to learn more first.” A chef who realizes that he is being flattered (not by me) to accept a questionable situation. They will succeed.

6)      Niceness, gratitude. Again it’s hard to see niceness, but the opposite is often very visible. Anytime someone says something like “I was so lucky to be working with her. She was fabulous” you know you have a nice person. Make that gratitude, if you will.  A while back when people were saying the French are mean (they are not), I responded that   Hubert Keller was a terribly nice guy. “Oh, said someone, “that’s just their schtick.” I like that schtick. Look where it got him. Nice guys frequently finish first.

7)      Honesty: Really. Don’t mess with me. I very much dislike it. Everyone does.

8)      Self-assessment and acceptance of one’s own humanity. Nobody’s perfect so anyone trying to appear so just looks silly. Someone who can say that their strength lies in X and they are still working on Y, anyone who realizes that their own behavior contributed to whatever caused their last job issue, is a candidate worth keeping close. Applicants who  know what needs improvement are in a position to effect it and usually do.

9)      The opposite of arrogance. I am  not sure what this is, but it is neither  humility (humility is creepy) nor modesty. It is the understanding that your own great efforts to move ahead would not have been enough without fortune and some help along the way.

10)   Straight shooting. (but with tact)  As in no name dropping. No posturing. Just what you did. Just be you.

Of course that this is what floats my boat need be of no consequence to  you cookies and cheffies out there, except that it is what floats everyone’s yacht.

May 172012
 

Sometimes my clients contact me with openings whose description is cut to one or two candidates as neatly as a Seville Row suit. These are usually candidates with narrow but very valuable skill sets, so ideal jobs for them are hard to come by, as are ideal candidates for those positions.  In nearly every case I have said to the candidate, “I don’t have anything suitable for you at the moment, but I will contact you the moment I do.” Because I consider their skills valuable, I only contact them with jobs that will not waste their or the employer’s time, which means not a barrage of weekly, “Please try it”, which would at least show clients I was looking.

Generally as soon as I have identified a match I reach out and wait for a return call. And wait. And wait. After about a week I will get a message and will try to call back. If I am foolish enough to hold traffic for the candidate, I will probably lose the job, so I move on. The next time she calls, I will simply tell her that I had something ideal but she didn’t have the courtesy to reach me (usually not in those words) so I may give her a call next time, but that depends.

I would feel bad about this, except it is what I hear from my clients constantly. “We keep calling people, and they don’t return our calls.” What’s going on? Should they start texting? Are job seekers really that lackadaisical about the opportunities out there. Or should I say full of themselves?

Apparently yes. And they are too stupid to breathe. I can’t get cell phone connection in the kitchen, says one chef. So? You can pick up your message, or no? I had another appointment, said a candidate I knew had not turned up for an arranged interview.  Neither of them is gen X or Y. What’s up?

I’d bring it down to priorities, and I’d like to say that their priorities are screwed up, so let me give you a few rules and facts:

1)      Anyone providing you a possible advance in your career, whether it pans out or not, is doing you a favor. The least you can do is acknowledge it promptly.

2)      Despite the number of creeps out there in all areas of the hiring industry, employers, recruiters, wing nut entrepreneurs, there are a lot of decent people, who deserve the same respect they try to give you (in my case by not calling with inappropriate jobs).

3)      This is a small industry. If you burn one bridge, the chance of others going with it is great.

4)      Nobody is afraid to hear “no thank you.” If a call suggests a job you are not interested in, just say so. Don’t just pass the call. Life is not Twitter. All communication brings with it an obligation.  If you don’t need the job and just let the call slip, then you will have at least one less ally when  you do need one.

5)      If you have actively asked someone to keep you informed of upcoming jobs you need to be accessible. I have written about this many times. It means checking your cell phone, You don’t need to answer when a call comes in, but call back as soon as it convenient..or inconvenient for that matter.  Don’t let your possible job calls go to a home phone answered by teenagers..they get lost. Be prepared to step out and talk in the alley way, if you don’t have a place where you work. But DO call. If you can’t communicate, let the person know.

The market is looking up at the moment, but that is no license to get sloppy or cocky about opportunities, and, frankly, manners never harmed any relationship.

Mar 132012
 

Imagine you are at a party—-

Or at a bar and trying to make time with the person next to you. Or, for that matter one the beach. It doesn’t matter, but you are communicating and trying to impress him/her/them with your personality, your savoir affair, your knowledge and just your great you-ness.  Or better  yet, imagine them trying to impress you. Here’s what they say:

“Hello. My focus is and inspiring people to become better.”

“Hi, there. Employing a  Transformational Leadership  approach by enhancing motivation, morale and performance is my method.”

“Hi. My name is Jake. I provide the framework for unparalleled service. Instilling this kind of dedication in others is my expertise.”

How likely are you to take this dude home, to invite this woman out to dinner, to want to wake up next to this full of him/herself , messianic, inflated  popinjay?

I don’t know about you, but if we were at the beach, I’d probably whack him upside the head with my sand bucket and run like crazy. These are NOT great pickup lines. And yet, people try to engage me with these and similar jewels of maladroit self-promotion all the time.

It’s a pretty stupid way to try to start a relationship. Perhaps if we back up a bit and view the potential employment introduction process from another angle, namely that mentioned above – a first approach to an interesting person you are attempting to impress, we can make more sense of a good way to get there.

First, then, the people who read our resume are  just that – people – the kind who sit on beaches and go to parties and talk to people at bars or PTA meetings – and they have the same kind of reactions to what others say  in their work as they would in real life – in the above situation their reaction would be a wincing gag reflex with a thought bubble saying, “Gee, what a pompous, bs’ing jackass.”  Fortunately for them/me, in the hiring process there is no need for a pail of sand upside the head. “Click, Delete” is quick and effective.

Of course we know why you are doing this: 1) You are trying to impress us, and 2) you are in your deepest essence  a pompous bs’ing jackass. (In real life we use a slightly different term.)

The latter quality is something you might want to suppress,  but how would you do that?

For one thing stop telling people you are God. No matter how secure you are in the knowledge. It creeps them out. For another, don’t talk about you-the-oh-too-fabulous-person, talk about the thing you did or the place you did it. Where you worked, the people you worked with.

Back to the beach: How would, “Wow! That water is so warm and calm. Don’t you just love it here?  Oh, by the way, I am Jake/Sally (extend hand). The Bar:  Did you just hear that thunder? Or was that a garbage truck tipping over?”  Point: It’s not about you.

The same applies to the initial written contact with people you want to work for. You are courting them, not selling them a used Edsel. You are angling for a first date, AKA interview, and possibly a walk down the aisle, or at least an extended fling. A basic rule of the approach either professionally or personally is: Don’t be repulsive. The “I am the best person I know” type of introduction generally repels. Let’s try a slightly formalized wording on the cover letter.

“I’ve been fortunate in spending seven years at various restaurants of the Food Ville Corporation in which I have learned their policies of responsibility sharing and staff respect. Food Ville’s operations are highly staff and guest centered with a focus on guest satisfaction and smooth front / back functioning which permits frictionless operations in high quality locations of up to 400 seats. I am seeking an opportunity to move forward with the skills and philosophies learned in their employ.”

See? Not about you. I’d read that one without wincing. That’s progress.

Do, however, remember, that the job of a cover letter is to explain things the reader NEEDS TO KNOW, and that more is always less in writing them.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 072011
 

Depending on the job coming up, you will be asked to do a tasting.  The tasting may be Market Basket, a creative tasting which you can partially prepare, or simply a run through of some of the property’s signature dishes.

Generally tastings show a few but not all important aspects of a chef’s abilities: Sense of flavor, work habits, quality of food and timing, and to some extent how the candidate deals with people. As snapshots rather than extensive exposes of a chef’s talent, they are limited.

We have seen a lot of candidates who are very well suited for positions fail to get them on the basis of the tasting. The following rules should help you to do well in yours:

1)      Determine what the employer is looking for. This is the most important rule.  Be sure you know what the company wants and expects. Listen very carefully. If they stress local ingredients, or French style or comfort food, they mean it.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Take notes. If you have a question before the tasting, write an email.

2)      You should never miss a tasting. Rescheduling is permitted only in the case of death or influenza. Plan an entire day for local tastings. If you need to travel to it, expect to get there the night before. Never stand a business up for a tasting, especially if they have already secured ingredients. There are too few bridges in the restaurant community to burn them with extreme rudeness. (Not showing up for a tasting is unforgivable.)

3)      Know the parameters of the exercise: Are you to create the menu, will it be their menu, what should you prepare or bring? For how many will you be preparing? How many items do they want? What is the timing?

4)      Stay within your comfort zone. Prepare items you know.  A tasting is no time to challenge yourself.  Choose items you can create easily and have often prepared.  Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, never do anything new in a tasting. Avoid last minute changes.

5)      Be painfully aware not only of taste but of presentation.

6)      If possible, do a run through of the tasting at home.

7)      It is policy to take your own coat and knives.  Avoid items which require special utensils or hard to find ingredients. Be sure that the kitchen has those basic utensils you will need.

8)      Be respectful to everyone in the kitchen. You are being watched. It is not unusual for employers to ask employees what they thought of a try out chef. You are a guest in their kitchen.

9)      Stay calm and stay neat.  Work cleanly and professionally. Do not expect anyone to follow you with a rag.

10)   If possible, check out the space in advance. Arrive early to set up correctly.

11)   Relax.

12)   Go into the dining room when the tasting is finished, unless they come to you or you are asked not to.  Treat the employers as guests. Ask what they thought of the meal. If there were any issues, tell them.  Explain and discuss the dishes you created and prepared.

13)   Clean up after yourself. Thank the staff you worked with. Thank the potential employers. Even if you think things went poorly, smile. Shake hands if hands are offered.

14)   If you are offered an alcoholic drink at any time during the process, decline it politely. Do not have a drink at the bar afterwards.

15)   It never hurts to send a  “Thank you” email.

Oct 012011
 

I just got off the phone with a potential client, who provided an extremely insightful  view of the value of background checks. That is, the on-line or professional services which provide information on DUI’s, criminal records, credit checks and the like.

“The background check,” she stated, “is essentially an integrity check. If someone has a single DUI or has defaulted on a loan, which can happen in these times and this industry, and he tells me, I can be fairly comfortable with him as a candidate. If he hides it, that’s a different matter.”

In other words, it is more important to this company that their employees be honest than that they be perfect.

Honesty is a highly effective job search strategy.

Job seekers with flies in their professional ointment generally try to cover them up, leading interview conversation away from unfortunate incidents and stretching dates to cover periods of unemployment, or inventing stories and excuses.

This is a mistake because:

  • Most people who hire often can recognize cover ups
  • Incidents covered up in the interview process which surface later can be grounds for immediate termination.
  • Not all employers see incidents as an impediment to hiring.

In my opinion and experience the best way to deal with the flies in job history ointment is to bring them up as early in the process as possible, so that the positives which follow receive more attention and remain in the memory of the interviewers. People tend to weigh what they hear at the end of an interview more heavily than what they hear at the beginning.

At the very least, it is wise to be open if you are asked at the end of an interview if there is anything else you need to share.  You want employers to hear these things from you rather than from anyone else.

Avoid excuses.  You can explain facts surrounding employment impediments, but you should never try to blame  someone else for your situation.

The same logic applies to your professional weaknesses. Nobody can do everything perfectly. The last candidate I would want to hire is someone who thinks he can. Good self assessment is high on my list of interview positives.  It allows me as a recruiter to direct candidates towards positions where they have a high probability of success, and it allows employers to know what to expect in a new hire and to determine what additional training or support to offer.

Employers, once they have identified a candidate with a work history they like, are quite likely to forgive weaknesses, or even welcome them. To quote one, “Great, then she hasn’t learned any bad habits. We can teach her our way.”

Aug 162011
 

One of the most distressing events in my business world is the failure of what I am sure is a perfect chef/restaurant pairing because of a misunderstanding between the parties. In theory it is my duty to navigate the choppy waters between resume submission and hire, but as the saying goes, “There is no foolproof system, as fools are so ingenious.”

Dougie just called and sent an email about the great candidate I had proudly sent his way. “He’s really angry,” says Dougie. “Who else do you know.”  The young  chef is cut to order for the restaurant: On the cusp of success as a chef, seven years as sous chef in some very fine properties where he was highly regarded, followed by a couple of years in two appropriate locations, where he got his “chops”.  Talented, knowledgeable and hardworking but still flexible. And mad as Hell. Unfortunately he seems to have taken it out on Dougie. No match.  DRAT!!

YoungChef has a right to be angry. His last position essentially abused him through lack of honesty (that never happens in this industry, does it?) and lack of professionalism, and his current location promising to be the next French Laundry decided it wanted to be a cafeteria within a month of hiring him. You can’t blame the guy, but he’s doing himself no favors.

So what’s the problem?  “Mad as Hell” comes through in an interview.

 I understand resentment, I really do, being a minor principessa of the  Kingdom of Grudge at times. Nothing is as hard to deal with as betrayal, and if you are cursed with the heart-on-your-sleeve gene,  keeping it to yourself is a daunting challenge, but it’s also a necessary skill. Being furious – justifiably or not – can deep six a job and a career.  An interview is a professional exchange in which emotions can be extremely damaging. You need to deal with your emotions before you go into a phone conversation with your next possible employer. How?

 You can tackle your resentment by  gaining some perspective on what you have experienced.

No matter how evil or sleazy or just unpleasant your past employers have been,  and how exasperating failure to achieve the success your expected in a job setting, there are always ways to see it in a mature and rational light, and you need to find them. A couple of suggestions:

1)      Realize that there is a difference between guilt and cause. Sometimes things don’t work out, and even if it feels better to blame personalities, it’s counterproductive.  Look for reasons instead.

2)      Understand that you may have contributed to the lack of success. There are lots of ways – expectations too high, not listening clearly to what the employer said in the interview, a little arrogance, etc etc etc. Taking responsibility for these things is not the same as blaming yourself.

3)      Accept the unfortunate truth that there is as much sleaze factor in this and in any other industry and console yourself with the fact that you can leave the bad actors (if that is the case),  they are not family or in-laws, and you don’t have to see them every Thanksgiving.

4)      Consider the possibility, if you feel your employer lied to you, that he or she probably believed every word said – the best restaurant, absolute support from the staff, etc – and is as horrified as you are that their own dream is foundering.

5)      Be a realist. The recent recession has torpedoed many  high aspirations.  A lot of well meaning attempts had to be rerouted for some businesses to be able to survive at all.

6)      Get over yourself. Look forward, not backward. You are getting out of the bad situation. Don’t project your frustration on the stranger interviewing you.

7)      You learned a lot working in a negative environment – you now know better questions to ask about your next job.   You have had the opportunity to compare methods and discard those you found impossible. That’s called growth.

8)      Remember that for all the anger and pain a poor job relationship or even deceit may have caused, the job paid your rent and groceries for a time. You had an exchange – labor and knowledge for money.  It worked. It was, in the end, just a job and not a good one, but you had a roof over your head and a kitchen or dining room to play in.  You don’t always hit the sweet spot, but you had a job.

 The other component of getting your anger out of your job search is working on your  presentation.  You need to speak to the person you want to work for calmly and positively, to avoid any manner of projecting your pain and your anger on someone who will otherwise not employ you.

 Preparing what you will say helps. I am not a fan of rehearsed interviews, but where emotion is part of the mix, it is important t work out a “schpiel” and get it down pat. Run it by your roommate or your cockatoo a few times to be sure you don’t falter or turn red and purple with rage as you do.

If you are asked why you left your last jobs, don’t vent.  Most of the time something like “It simply did not work out,” or, “It was a poor fit,” is enough. If  pressed for details, revert to the cause- before-blame strategy  and provide the reduced version, as in:

“In the end we discovered that our philosophies are fairly incompatible,”  covers a lot of ground. If asked, go into dry detail: The restaurant was financially challenged from the beginning and I was extremely uncomfortable in compromising the quality of the food we served past a certain point. He simply needed a chef with a different attitude.

“There was an issue with the existing staff, which I was unable to resolve, as I was given no authority to discipline them.”

 And take a piece of the old southern “bless her heart” trick.  “Georgia is a slattern, slime sucking bottom dweller of a man eater and family breaker with the soul of a Tasmanian devil and the mind of a newt, bless her heart,” seems to pass for polite conversation and sincere concern in some parts of the country.  “ They were unable to finance the level of competent staff for their aspirations. It’s such a pity with a restaurant of such great potential,” (= “bless her heart”)  should function  on about the same level. “Too bad. They have a terrific idea,” should do equally well.  “They mean so well,”…is often enough.

This is not hypocrisy; it’s maturity.  The truth doesn’t require complete revelation, but providing appropriate information rationally and honestly.  There are some things your future employer doesn’t need to know. An interview or pre-interview is not anger therapy. Keep your ire to yourself, smile to make your voice sound friendly, and remember that “Discretion is the better part of Valor.”

Your comments, criticism, tips and shared experiences as well as your tips are welcomed.

Apr 202011
 

And they are fun. They can be very useful in your job search process.

Photos are rarely the final reason that a chef is hired, although in truth, I hired at least one chef based on his pictures. It was when I was young and stupid, but it worked. He ran one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco and eventually became the Executive Chef of the Palace Hotel.

I was fortunate with that placement,  since what he didn’t have in experience he possessed in intelligence and knowledge.  That approach to hiring rarely worked two decades ago, and it doesn’t work at all now.

You probably already have a collection. If you don’t, you probably should. You can take excellent pictures with any digital pocket camera  these days. You don’t need a food photographer, and you don’t need a $540 Nikon.  The question, however, is what do you do with them?

First, here’s what you don’t do: Send about three gigabytes of pictures with your resume. Have mercy. Everyone’s mailbox has some limits, as does everyone’s time. As a matter of fact, don’t send any pictures at all when you apply to a job.  An employer wants to see where you have been and what you did there before he dedicates time to photos.

So what then?

There are numerous possibilities. The most obvious is taking them with you on an interview and offering them if a moment arises. It probably will, and the person you are speaking with will probably be interested. (If not, it’s a good thing you didn’t send them in advance.)  In addition to the time honored scrap book approach, smart phones and Ipads provide easy transportation and viewing. Netbooks are less elegant due to the fuss of opening the program and pulling up the pictures.

You can carry your photos on a thumb drive, although if the interviewer is not sitting in front of a computer, you may  no’t be able to show them.  In fact, you should also carry a copy of your resume and anything else you think would be helpful on a keychain thumb drive when  you interview.

There is also “the cloud” – online storage space which can be accessed from any WiFi or hard wired Internet connection. At some point you will be using this daily, but for now connectivity fails often enough to make it a less attractive choice for interview show and tell.  It’s a good way, however, to make material available to interested employers during the course of a job discussion process after or before the interview.   A note on a cover letter that images of the food are available if the reader is interested is preferable to instructions to “see my pictures here”, by the way.

A few of cautions:

1)      Videos are iffy. They take more time to view. They carry subliminal message about the character of the person who films herself, which may not be appreciated.  They demand time from someone who may not have it.

2)      Your pictures should be good ones. I have received images of food I would not eat. They should also be of YOUR food.

3)      The art of presentation is in the selection. Fewer pictures is better.  Don’t overwhelm the interviewer. You want no more than fifteen or so.  Choose a good selection of the best.

4)      The pictures should  be pertinent to you and your skills and not your private life. Celebrity shots with Donald Trump or President Clinton don’t tell anyone anything about you except that you had a moment for a photo shot.

5)      Offer them, don’t force them on potential employers. “Would you like to see some of the food we served?” is nearly irresistible. Please look at my pictures” isn’t.

6)       Pictures in a scrap book should be protected and not dog eared and dirty.

Feb 182011
 

(even if you aren’t – you  may get the hang of it.)

During a recent Advisory Board meeting for a local food and beverage program a number of  Human Resource executives all expressed the need for the school to teach the students the importance of maintaining a professional appearance and reputation even before they began their careers.

They were speaking, of course, about Facebook and Myspace pages and comments, but as the conversation continued it became obvious that younger job seekers are remarkably naïve regarding the necessity of a professional image.  They don’t yet understand the consequences of an unprofessional image on their chances of working with the best companies, which in turn influence their entire careers.

The initial focus of the conversation were sites like Facebook, Twitter,  YELP!, FourSquare, etc, where posters still believe that comments, pages liked, videos and pictures are private.

Unfortunately, opportunities to shoot your career in the foot do not stop at social networking. They abound.  Every way in which you present yourself tells potential employers what you are about. One agent related the story of a candidate who drove up with a bumper sticker saying, “One mean b**ch”.  The interview lasted five minutes, thank you very much for coming. “She may have been a perfectly nice person,” she stated, “but we couldn’t take the risk.”

A candidate who reports in from a series of bars or a different bar every night opens questions of substance abuse.  Employees who gripe on line about their employers or staff dare new employers to wonder about their team abilities.

Stumbling on a video of a chef berating a female cook took him off my list of candidates.

Another HR Director noted that she is shocked, as I also wrote a while back, at how many applications she receives with suggestive or just plain offensive e-mail addresses.

I have dinged people for their comments on public forums – “Why do I know that it’s the best place in town? Because I’m the Chef!” thanking my stars that this ego maniac was kind enough to provide me with insights into her personality before I wasted time picking up the phone for an interview.

If someone is already on the phone and gets a voicemail message with a drunken scream or something equally disturbing, there is a good chance they will hang up.

By the time you reach sous chef status, your high school indiscretions are generally forgotten, but after that your record is your record and it is visible. Anyone hiring these days does a few quick key strokes to get an idea of you and the places you’ve worked  and in the process they will come across your comments and public presence. This is, by the way, not a privacy issue. The Internet is the most public of places.  Even those spaces with privacy filters may be seen and reported in casual conversation.

Despite the common belief to the contrary, the Food and Beverage Industry – restaurants, hotels, clubs et all- is an adult business which seeks professionals.  Where professional skills do not yet exist, employers look for professional attitudes.  For the best career, you need the best jobs early, and mindless public behavior or appearance rarely leads to them.

So what to do?  Erase the compromising pictures and the sophomoric posts. Google yourself and erase any damaging traces you can.  Change the voicemail message to a simple request, leave your T-Shirt stating that  cooks do it with whatever in the drawer in favor of a pressed shirt when you go on an interview, scratch the offensive bumper stickers off the back of your car and control your visible environment for  any and all inappropriate messages. The world does not need to know everything you do and everything you think. Keep anything you would not say in your boss’s office to yourself or share it face to face.  In other words, grow up or at least act in public (which is also the internet) as if you were.. In other words, be professional.

Jan 262011
 

I need to know the kind of chef I am working with in order to make a good job match.  So do you.

Your career is best served by job selectivity: You look for and choose jobs that suit you best.  In order for this to work, you need to know what you are looking for. If I work closely with a chef, I take some time to get to know who I am working with. It’s always surprising to me, how little those people have thought about themselves.  True, some people just follow their star and end up in a fabulous situation they never dreamed of, but most successful culinary professionals took time to figure how they worked and who they are and what they needed to get where they wanted to be. You  need to get to know yourself.

First you determine what these might be by defining your interests and motivation. Among others those might be:

  • Naked ambition – desire to be “big”
  • Acquisition of skill and knowledge (technique, product, volume management, communication).
  • Money
  • Life style
  • Security and stability
  • An exciting and interesting environment
  • Resume equity – names to pave your path.
  • Professionalism
  • Location
  • An opportunity to work with a specific style
  • Visibility
  • Title
  • Training and advancement.
  • Exciting cuisine
  • Structured, highly systematized environment / possibility of creative input or autonomy
  • A learning opportunity
  • Culinary values such as seasonal cuisine or integrity of style

There are many more. Some are contradictory. You cannot, for instance, decide as a starting cook you want money and resume equity. The highest pay goes to the jobs with the least visibility, and some limit other choices.  You need to be realistic.

You need to give yourself a review. You are, in the end, the boss of you, and this is the time to use your supervisory  power over yourself. What do you do well? What aptitudes do you lack?  What skills do you need to build? If you have had jobs you didn’t like or have not worked out in a job try to determine how you, your current skill set and your general nature contributed to the situation. Forget fault. Look for reasons.

Where do your natural aptitudes lie? Some people are naturally highly organized and analytical. Others are spontaneous and intuitive.  Some are detail oriented and thrive with small, individual projects, while others have inborn oversight of large spaces and the ability to create sense of chaos. Some  have golden palates, while others can keep a kitchen running like a clock. What are your strong and weak points? Beware of categorizing yourself as what you want to be instead of what you are.

What you are not is even more important than what you are. The things you lack can either be learned (organization and communication are absolutely acquirable skill sets, and an analytic mind can create as impressive a menu as an inspired talent) or avoided.

Half of the art is to determine if and where your desires and your skills meet and to keep an open mind, so you can choose from as many appropriate paths as possible.  The other half is to figure out what will not work for you, so you don’t put your energy into a job that will give nothing in return.

When you are looking for career steps, look for something to provide a challenge you are sure you can meet, not what you want to be able to meet. At the same time seek out locations which will use and appreciate your combination of skills. A gifted saucier may be able to manage a sandwich arcade, but the title of Executive Manager will not keep him happy for long. A manager without strong financial skills may be able to coast along for a while as a GM for a location requiring them, but she would probably be happier and more successful in a position with growth and learning potential, where she does not have to reinvent the wheel and scramble to keep up .

An old bridge adage says, “Play from your longest and strongest suit”. It works in careers, but with a caveat. A position which does not add to what you know will not be satisfying for long. While you select restaurants for your probability of success, you want them to give you a future as well. Like a driver looking five cars ahead, your career choices should point to the job after next.  Always ask  yourself, “What do I get out of this besides rent and groceries?”

What does all this mean pratically for you?

  • You don’t broadcast your resume to anyone who is looking for someone. You are worth more than that.
  • You don’t interview as if you were in an oral exam. You take time to find how much of a match the spot is for you.
  • You research the operations you want to approach and take time to seek out businesses that can meet your specifications.
  • You work with  your recruiter to determine what is a good match, but always thinking critically.
  • You target your resume to the level of position and type of operation that will push you forward.
  • You put as much focus on your career as you do in buying  a new car.
  • You think beyond the paycheck and the title as you make decisions.
  • You analyze every job offer not only in respect to how much you want it but how well it fits  you.

A well built career is a work of Art. It takes thought and time and a stubborn streak. You have a right to one.

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