February 21, 2018

Networking is important in every field, but in the culinary world it’s especially vital. Skills can earn you a place in a professional kitchen, but you need to build connections with fellow chefs and even front-of-house staff to give your career the best chance to grow. For students taking an online cooking certificate course, understanding how to network should be a high priority. Let’s look at some networking tips to help you develop professionally.

Use the social aspect of the industry

While many chefs will work at a single restaurant for many years, there are plenty of others who regularly look for new opportunities and challenges. The connections you build working shoulder to shoulder in your first kitchen jobs can pay off as time goes on. Try to maintain bonds with colleagues with whom you had positive relationships – whether on a purely professional level or as friends – as you move on to different roles. Eventually, you may have someone who can provide a strong reference or even bring you in to stage or trial in a hot new restaurant.

Networking is one of the most useful career strategies chefs can use.

Networking is one of the most useful career strategies chefs can use.

Even if you can’t remain in close personal contact, leverage social media to maintain your connections as well as see where people you enjoyed working with in the past are working currently. If you’re looking for a simple change of scenery or a major step up in your career, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask them for a little help. With that in mind, it’s also important to maintain your own social media presence. Post photos and videos of new, exciting dishes you’ve cooked, engage in discussions with other chefs and otherwise maintain relationships with past coworkers and culinary friends.

Look for opportunities

Culinary conventions and similar events are opportunities to bring together many chefs, bakers and similar professionals, who rarely come together in large numbers under one roof. If you know of a gathering that’s approaching in your area, consider attending as a way to meet new people. Key advice for getting the most out of a convention includes:

  • Making a schedule, but leaving enough time to have full conversations and not rush between every meeting or appointment. Have a card or even resume on hand to hand out when appropriate.
  • Find less-trafficked areas during the convention and visit them instead of trying to get noticed at the busiest booths inside the facility.

No matter what convention you choose to attend or its size, these tips will help you stay focused and achieve your goals.

Identify the superconnectors

Once you start building a network, you may realize certain people helped you meet far more personal and professional connections than average. These people, called superconnectors, are critical for expanding your horizons and finding new opportunities both within and beyond your local community. Identifying them makes it easier to look at their friends on social media and determine if there’s anyone you want to meet, as well as generally interacting with them on an ongoing basis. Because they have greater talent in helping others begin professional relationships and enjoy doing so, you shouldn’t be afraid to respectfully ask them for some help – as long as you don’t overdo it.

Ultimately, your network is what you make of it. Use this guidance to develop and expand your current connections to make the most of all potential opportunities. And don’t forget to continue building your culinary skills throughout your career – that kind of sustained professional growth is one of the best possible influences for your career path.