When you decide (and are given the opportunity) to be a team leader, you will eventually have to decide how to build your team. As tempting as it is to want to feed everything to a formula or algorithm, scan resume after resume and call in anyone that fits the metrics you need, we all know that doesn’t always pan out.
Life is messy and squishy. The people you hire may have the technical skills you need, but lack the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that would make them effective. It’s hard to set hard numbers on “soft skills”– and even harder to gauge how a person will interact with and impact the performance of others.
Hiring for a kitchen is a masterclass in these factors. It’s hard to imagine a more brutal crucible than a busy restaurant or bakery. The work is rough, the atmosphere can be tense, and the nature of the business is working closely with others. Tempers and passions flare, motivations clash, and successful teams are the ones where everyone can pull together.
What do I look for in a would-be piemonger? A lot of what you’d expect, but maybe not how you expect it.
I spend way too much time on social media. If it wasn’t the best engine for reaching out to my readers and sharing what I do with a global audience, I would have wiped my accounts ages ago for the sheer amount of half-assed “hot takes” people are encouraged to belch out about everything from Sudanese economics to Dr. Seuss. It really is the dark side of the democratization of knowledge that anyone with a keyboard thinks “I have an opinion and a way to express it, therefore it is just as valid and important as any expert.”
Yes, so says the pastry chef and food writer with a blog who is about to expound on the psychology and philosophy of labor, but stick with me for a minute.
As a guy who works for a living, is trying to create a work environment that his employees can thrive in, and is having difficulty finding qualified help, I think I have some insight into the whole “no one wants to work anymore,” “quiet-quitting/working to contract” kerfufflefiasco mass whining “discussion” that has been making the rounds lately.
In my case, I missed last week because I literally had no energy to do anything after a 60-hour week in the bakery. I wanted to write, I had ideas of what to write about… but the tank was on “E” and I was running on fumes for the downtime I had.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to get out of a field that is effectively lying in the bed of intransigence it made and now dealing with its legendary well of desperate labor suddenly running dry. A lot of my older friends and colleagues are staring down this situation and realizing that “the free market,” capitalism, and truthfully any economic structure looks great until you find yourself on the underside of it.
So why am I not part of this grand exodus? With my skills and experience, I could march into nearly any job fair run by one of those hospitality giants, lay down my resume, and conduct a bidding war for my services. More money, more benefits, fewer responsibilities (at least to start), and a clear career trajectory for rising in their company. Sounds like a no-brainer, so why not go for it?
Because I refuse to waste time working toward what I don’t want.
I apologize for the lack of a blog post this past week, but last Sunday I left the French bakery behind and started a new job at a pie company. Despite the fact that pie is, some would say, very much my wheelhouse, that’s not the part that will make this job uniquely interesting or what consumed so much of my time and energy. What will make this particular gig a real challenge started right at the interview. As I sat down with the owner, she flipped through my resume and said,
“Listen, I’m hiring a baker, but you’ve got training experience, right? You can train, schedule, and lead a team? Good- because I am stretched way too thin. Here’s the plan: I hire you, make you my kitchen manager, and turn the production, scheduling, and menu of our sweet pies over to you. That will free me up to run the rest of business. Deal?”
For the first time in my career, I’m scheduling production, training up the team, and choosing the menu. In other words, actually functioning as a chef (at least as it’s popularly defined in America.)
For the first week while I learned methods, recipes, and the rhythm of the kitchen, I stuck to some classics on the menu… but next week I’ll really have to come up with some ideas and prove that I can hack it. Not so much to my co-workers or boss- they have an almost unbelievable faith in my ability to deliver and perform.
No, I’ve got to prove it to me that I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.
Job hunting is exactly that- job hunting. When you are seeking a job, you are looking for one that’s the right fit for you as much as employers are looking for the right fit for their business.
Interviews are a two-way process. If you’ve been job hunting for a while, it’s easy to start letting desperation and panic creep into your search. Take a breath, and try to keep calm- desperation to find any job can land you somewhere miserable, and missing out on opportunities you might enjoy (and that might pay) better.
I’ve already written a list of the “red flags” to look for at bad jobs, so this post is a few of the “green” flags that earn a job a more considered look from job-seekers.
Remember, this list is not comprehensive and you should always go with your gut. Your goals and priorities are your own- makethe moves that get you closer to them!