Here are the remaining five of 10 critical things you must teach your students if you want them to earn meaningful jobs, plus some sound advice on how to interact with potential employers.
By Adam Weiner, CFSE
Last issue I explained that it is critical to not only teach your students technical skills, but also the soft skills needed to get a job, keep a job and prosper in life. I suggested that you spend the summer revising and updating your curriculum to add job-searching skills. I published the first five things to teach, and now here are the remaining five:
6. Teach your students how to work around background checks. Sometimes you can get your students in the back door when they wouldn’t be hired directly. Find a local staffing agency that specializes in restaurants, caterers, corporate dining, hospitals, etc. These agencies can sometimes place students in temporary positions at the same places that would not hire them directly because of background issues. Many of my students who have done this have then been hired by the company directly. After watching their performance, the background-check requirement seems to get waived.
By the way, these staffing agencies are great places for any of your students to get a start. They get a wide variety of experiences, work under a panoply of chefs and kitchen managers, and get their foot in the door.
7. Teach your students the value of externships. Not only do externships provide great experience, but they are great on the résumé. If the student works hard, it will be another great reference. Many students get hired at the end of their externships if they have demonstrated exemplary attitudes.
8. Teach your students the value of a stagiaire. Many students object to the idea of working for free. I explain to them that this is standard in the industry and that stagiaires can be real assets for the student. Besides being a good learning experience, I tell my students that they should request a stage right off the bat in an interview. I teach them to say, “My résumé may not seem all that strong, but I would like to stage with you for a week. If you like me at the end of the week, please hire me. If you don’t like me at the end of the week, let’s sit down over a cup of coffee, so you can tell me what I can do to improve myself.” I explain to my students that many places no longer accept stages because of worker’s-compensation-insurance issues, but that anyone will be impressed with that attitude of wanting to show his or her skills and willingness to accept criticism.
9. Teach your students to network. Even just beginning in the workforce, students of all ages need to learn how to network. They don’t need to go to dinners or meetings (although it isn’t bad to start that), but they do need to know how to meet people and ask for help. Ask your students if they have any relatives in the field, or go to a restaurant often. Tell them not to ask that person for a job (unless they know he/she has an opening), because this makes for an awkward situation. Tell your students to say something like: “I was wondering if you could give me some advice on the best way to search for a job in the field” or “I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know if you hear about any openings around town. Here is a copy of my résumé just in case.” People are usually happy to give advice or help.
Speaking of networking, there are a number of websites from which you can order 50 or so business cards for nominal shipping and handling fees. Have your students order these with the title “Culinary Student.”
Dr. Fred Mayo wrote a very good article in the May 2012 “Gold Medal Classroom” on teaching students how to network. I recommend you look at http://www.cafemeetingplace.com/gmc/mayos-clinics/item/678-mayo’s-clinic-helping-student-make-connections.html.
10. Teach your students that they are their best salesman. Students need to try to get a job again and again and again. They can’t wait for you to figuratively hold their hand. They need to be proactive in looking. They also need to move fast. If they hear about something, you must stress to them that they need to move on it immediately. In today’s world, jobs won’t be open very long.
Remind your students to talk up your program. When they go out into the working world they will hear about openings, and they need to refer potential employers to you. Hopefully, in a few years they will be in a position to hire people, themselves, and stress that their first thoughts should be about you and your students at that time. This is the best way they can “pay it forward.”
An Addendum to 10 Tips
Recently I have had a few problems where students lost jobs because of basic mistakes about things that you and I take for granted. Believe it or not, in the last few weeks I learned that you have to tell your students to:
1. Apply in the manner specified. If the posting says apply online, they shouldn’t show up at the door, or call the manager on her cell.
2. Don’t use text language, even if applying with your phone. I had a student send out an e-mail via phone that said: “i wuz hapy 2 her u had job 4 me.” Teach your students that all job communications must be formal, from inquiry to applying to interviewing to accepting.
3. Use proper capitalization when filling out online forms. It won’t cut it if the student enters “john smith, 123 main st., ca, 94403.”
4. Take all of the job information with you. A student had a 10:00 interview today. He came to class at 11:00. I asked him how it went. “I left the paper here on Friday,” he said. “I thought I knew where it was, but after walking around for 30 minutes my knees got sore so I just came to class.” I asked the student if he had called the chef, and he said, “Nope, I wiped the number off my cell phone over the weekend.”
5. Leave a proper phone message. A kitchen manager told me that the student called him six times (he knew because of the caller ID) from my office, but the student never left a message. Another chef said the person called, stumbled and mumbled on the phone and never left a call-back number.
6. Do not call or go in during peak hours. Even if the posting says apply in person or by phone, teach your students about professional courtesy. If it is a high-volume lunch spot, the student shouldn’t call at 12:30 p.m.
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Photo: Adam Weiner delivered a very popular breakout session on “Recruiting, Teaching, Inspiring and Placing the Bottom 50%” to attendees of the 2012 CAFÉ Leadership Conference at The Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio in June. Courtesy of Brent T. Frei.