Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tips for Externship-Searching Success!



It's the most talked-about topic of prospective and current CIA students alike. 

Today, I am going to talk a little about how to prepare for this undertaking that each Culinary Institute student must go through in order to obtain their degree. For prospective students, it will give them the opportunity to see what they should be thinking about before they reach campus. For current students that are currently searching for their externship sites, I will give you some resources and tips on how to ensure success. 

So what's the purpose of externship?
Most students go into extern thinking "Wait, WHAT? I have to work somewhere smack dab in the middle of my schooling for 18 weeks? How does that make any sense?"

Trust me though, the CIA is right.

Besides providing students the opportunity to hone their skills in a real-life professional kitchen, bakeshop, hotel, or catering facility, gives one the opportunity to see if they really do have passion for the industry, and allows students to earn valuable career contacts and resume boosting experience

Some things you should know before you start:
- Each student receives 21 weeks in which to complete their externship. 18 weeks are required, but they have anywhere within that 21 weeks to start and end their time at their site.

All Externship sites are CIA-approved. You can't do your 18 weeks just anywhere.

Each Spring, Summer, Winter, & Fall, the CIA hosts a huge career fair, where approved externship sites come looking for students. It gives them the chance to make a good impression without stepping off campus!

Have no fear. You are not alone when planning your journey into extern-land. We have a fully-staffed Career Services center, with drop-in counselors that can help you with your every need.

I'm going to break down the search process for you step by step.

*Prospective students, you can only go as far as making a wish-list and becoming familiar with sites in/around the area in which you want to extern. Once you get to campus, you'll be miles ahead of everyone else!

1. Make an Externship Wish List.
Where would you be comfortable living? Is housing manditory or are you willing to find an apartment? What type of establishment do you want to work in? Do you want it to be corporate or privately owned? How will you get to work? Just remember, don't limit yourself. Externship is not a binding contract, and it goes by quickly. If you've always wanted to go to California, extern is the time to do it!

2. Do your research.
This step is very important. Make sure your site is approved (see step 3), read restaurant reviews, check out Chef Bios, look at their menu, become very familiar with the company. This will help you out later on.

3.  Check out the E-Documents website.
If you are using campus internet, this site gives you all of the available approved externship sites and lets you search them by name or geographic location. My favorite part about E Documents is that it lets you read essays and surveys on each site that were written by students who completed their externship there. This is probably the most valuable and honest information you will get about the establishment, so BE SURE to check it out.

4. Spruce up your resume, and design a cover letter. 
You will send these to all of your prospective sites. The cover letter can have a generic second and third paragraph, detailing your strengths and experience, but the first paragraph can be changed according to the site you are applying to. I think that I sent out at least twenty cover letters during my search, and each one had a different first paragraph that described what I liked about that particular establishment. Have everything proofread by someone you trust!

5. Cross your fingers and hit Send. 
When you are ready to send out your resume and cover letter, do it either by mail or e-mail. Believe me, the majority of Chefs are ok with an e-mail, and will actually respond faster this way. Be sure to send them a small snippet of an e-mail letting them know your externship dates, and directing them to the resume and cover letter that you have attached to the e-mail. Give them correct phone #, e-mail address, dates and times that you are available if they want to contact you.

6. Career Fair, yes please!
If there is a career fair at school, for sure you should go. Even if it is to get more experience interviewing or improve your social skills with employers. It never hurts; plus you might walk away with a potential externship offer!

7. Be patient!
If you haven't heard from the Chef within a week of sending the e-mail, call the site and politely ask to speak with them. The life of a Chef is very busy, and chances are they did not mean to ignore your e-mail, it's probably just on their list of to-do's.

8. Stage.
If a Chef asks you to set up a time to stage (or work for a day at the restaurant), take the opportunity. Be sure to show up on time and dressed professionally. Be prepared to ask questions about salary, housing, meals, transportation, ect. In the end, work hard and pay attention. If you do not like the stage, I promise that you will not like spending 18 weeks externing there.

9. Lather, rinse, and repeat :)
...until you have a site! Trust me, it is frustrating and time-consuming, but if you put the work into it, you will have a great outcome. In the end, NEVER settle for less than the site you feel comfortable working in for 18 weeks. You want to have a meaningful experience that will increase your skills!


I hope that this breakdown helped just a little. In the future I will be sharing my externship story with you all so you can see how the process worked for me! Also, feel free to comment with your questions!

Stay hungry and curious,

Blayre :)

No comments:

Post a Comment