When students share success stories, like how they landed their dream job, they often credit the Career Development team for helping make it happen. Getting hired takes more than cooking skills; it takes connecting with the right people, communicating effectively, and exuding professionalism. To gain a better understanding of what professionalism means in the kitchen and what students gain in the Career Development portion of the program, we sat down with instructor Susan Yurish. With an impressive and varied career – including a degree in communications, graduating from the Culinary Arts program, hotel management experience, director of catering for major hotels, leader of a hospitality training program to world-class customer service standards, and owning her own specialty foods business – Yurish provides confident, real world guidance to students commencing their careers.
Escoffier: Your various roles seem like they’ve been grooming you to coach Career Development…
Yurish: I’ve trained a lot of people, developed a lot of people. When Hanna’s (Yurish’s specialty foods business) had a storefront in Lafayette, I had a lot of young chefs. It was a great training ground for them. The management experience helped groom them for what is okay and not okay in terms of professional behavior. You teach people how to be – and grow – as a professional.
Escoffier: Can you share a few actionable tips you give to students about being a professional?
Yurish: Put your head down and learn, absorb every bit of information. Everyone has different ways of doing things; pick up the little tips. Find another word for the f-word for when you are frustrated. On time means you are in your station at your scheduled time, not walking in the door. Clean up your Facebook page or take it down and create a professional one. If there is anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your mother to see, take it down. I’m trying to get my students to stand head and shoulders above the others.
Escoffier: At the end of the Career Development week, what do you hope that students walk away with?
Yurish: After five days I hope that they have the tools and skills to not only find their first job, but to start their career. We ask them to define their five-year career goal or at least start thinking about it. After their externship, what’s next? We help them acquire the skills and tools to get there. I also tell them that it’s okay if your career goal is to have a career goal; it is okay for that goal to be learning.
Escoffier: You mentioned “skills and tools,” can you elaborate on that?
Yurish: We refine their résumés and cover letters. They also walk away with job search trackers (literal tools to track their job search in an organized fashion) and interviewing skills. [We conduct] role play scenarios for when certain things happen in our industry; how are they going to get through it? We discuss do or don’t questions, like what do you do when the product you ordered doesn’t come in for dinner service? They learn about relationship building and conflict management. Working in a kitchen is a small space, so we also talk about best practices and teamwork.
(Editor’s Note: While speaking with Yurish in her classroom, a student came in for assistance finding a job. Extra Career Development assistance is available outside of classroom hours for all students past and present.)