Culinary Arts Career Change Tips

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What kind of cooking classes can I take through part-time studies?

Cooking Classes Through Continuing Education

Just because you're interested in taking cooking classes doesn't mean you're interested in an entire career change. People are complex beings capable of mixing and matching work and play. In fact, keeping your recreational activities well-rounded is a great way to keep the mind sharp. Maybe you're a real estate agent by day, a weekend tennis guru, and a gardener when the sun shines. Now, you're interested in taking cooking classes. If you happen to live in New York City, you get the benefit of registering for cooking classes at The French Culinary Institute. They have some of the best amateur cooking classes you can find. The best part is the choice. Baking breads, wine appreciation, and pastry-making, are all part-time cooking class options.

For seasoned students who've already participated in several cooking classes, there are advanced continuing education options. Learn the science behind food preparation. Understand and use compounds that actually change the texture and flavor of your culinary creations. Maybe you're sick and tired of not being able to figure out which wines go with which foods. These are all options you can take advantage of through part-time cooking classes.

Should I give information sessions to people thinking about becoming chefs?

A Spotlight on Career Options

Once you've gained a professional career as a chef, don't forget what it's like to be a student! Remember what it was like when you were deciding on whether to take those first cooking classes or not? Whether you're young and fresh out of high school or thinking about a career change, people are now going to be looking to you for guidance. In some cases, you might not even realize it. Everything you do and say might be quietly evaluated by your customers. And you thought they were there for your famous food.

In your mind, you probably still feel like the same person you've always been, but to a newbie looking in, you could be the most intimidating person in the world. Remember to make yourself accessible in any way you can. That could mean offering to give information sessions at local high schools. Students think they know what they want to do when they graduate from high school, but many haven't given serious thought to taking cooking classes.

Sell this career option the right way and you may soon find yourself mentoring some of these students as apprentice chefs. The students will be surprised to discover all of the options and opportunities that come with a career as a professional chef.

What do I do if I'm in college and realize that I really don't like the program I'm in?

Changing College Career Plans

People make mistakes. Wrong decisions are made. You can be part-way through a program and realize that the sick-to-your-stomach feeling you've been having has nothing to do with cafeteria food. Something's been trying to tell you that this program isn't for you. Don't ignore your gut instincts. Instead, head down to career services and get some advice on changing program plans. Don't feel badly either. Sometimes you have an idea of what a program is going to be like, but when you're actually sitting in the class, you realize it's not for you.

If you're switching from one program into a similar college program, you might be able to transfer certain credits. On the other hand, a drastic shift from something like carpentry to cooking classes may require you to do some catch-up. If too much time has passed, it may even be necessary to withdraw from the program and reapply when the new school year starts.

If that happens, chalk it up to experience. You haven't failed at anything; you've made a discovery about yourself. That creativity and energy you thought you could put into carpentry (for example) might be much better served in cooking classes. Don't think of it as time or money wasted. Remember, a big part of your education comes from real-world experience.

Why do some people seem so actively disengaged from their jobs?

Career Change Conversations

Employees are sometimes let go from their positions because they appear to be apathetic. Maybe (even after repeated discussions with management) they fail to perform according to the company's expectations. It's important to realize that it doesn't mean the person is a failure. They're probably actively disengaged from their jobs because they're not working to their strengths.

If someone would rather be taking cooking classes than escorting tourists through historic properties, that person isn't going to make a very good guide. The problem is, these people don't often recognize what the problem is. All they know is they feel unhappy and discontented. It sometimes takes a real eye-opener, like being fired, to come to terms with the career change they so desperately need.

If you recognize those qualities in someone close to you, don't be afraid to suggest a career change. Sometimes, pursuing career alternatives takes a gentle push from someone who has our best interests at heart. Having a heart-to-heart with that person might be the thing that saves his or her confidence. Don't wait until the person is fired before speaking up. They may not jump all over the idea of a career change at first, but it will at least open the door to possibility.

Is it okay to make a career change?

It's Okay to Make a Career Change

When you've got something on your mind, everything you see and hear takes on new meaning. For example, why is it that the knots in the pine wood cupboards of your kitchen suddenly look like bagels and baguettes? When lofty clouds float by your office window, do you see soups and stocks; filleted fish and marinated steaks? If so, it's either your stomach making you crazy with hunger, or your soul telling you it's time for a career change.

There's no crime in doing a 360 career change. There was a time when people got a job out of high school, stayed in that job until they turned 65, and retired. Those days are long gone. Now, it's pretty much expected that people will shift and change careers over their lifetime. The person you are at 20, isn't the person you are at fifty, so it's important to recognize these changes to our needs and desires. Maybe at 20, becoming a bank manager was your thing. Over the years, you're philosophies and personality molded into something completely different. That's okay! If you're thinking about making a career change, the first thing to do is make sure you've given yourself permission. Once you've given yourself the go-ahead, that career change will be waiting for you.

Where's the best place to seek career advice?

Looking For Career Advice

There are many ways to find out information on career choices. If you're a high school student just opening your eyes to career possibilities, don't overlook the following career advice avenues:

  • Parents. Believe it or not, your parents are an invaluable source of information on career choices. They know you better than you know yourself, so let them help you. Ask them what they think your strengths are and where they see you working five years from now. Once the cheap jokes are out of the way, the conversation should settle into something meaningful and worthwhile.
  • Career Counselors. Let's say you've always wanted to be a chef and you're 95% positive that's what you want to do. See a career counselor anyway. That person will be able to ask the kinds of probing questions to help you finalize your college decision. The counselor may suggest you take a few continuing education cooking classes in order to gain that other 5% to help you make your career choice.
  • Take a look at job trends on national job banks to see what kinds of career opportunities there are. Chef jobs are on the rise, and you might be surprised to discover an interest in certain culinary specialties.
  • Cooking classes are a great way to meet new people, ask lots of questions, and talk to the industry professionals. If you're thinking of becoming a chef, take a few cooking classes to test the waters.
There are many career services for young students about to embark on the next phase of their education. Keep an open mind and seek input from a variety of people and places to help form your decision.

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Patricia Walters-Fischer