Greetings friends and culinarians, remember me? I'm crawling out of my externship hole and making a come back to the blogosphere. First up—a little bit about what to expect from a stage experience, and a few things to do to hopefully make it a positive one. The winter career fair is right around the corner (seriously, next week!) and hopefully you'll emerge with interviews and stages scheduled. Staging is going to an externship or job site and working for a day or two to show them your skills and see if it's a good fit for both of you. Staging is a great way to get jobs or just to see how a restaurant you're really interested in works.
I recently completed my externship at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia where we were lucky to have a few students come down from the CIA to stage for both externship positions and a full-time hire while I was there. They were all really awesome and it got me thinking of a few things I wished I had known when I was staging for my extern, and some more to keep in mind as I move on to the hunt for a big job.
|photo cred: ciachef.edu|
1. Get directions: Even if your GPS will bring you to the restaurant, it can't always point you to the office or building where you need to go first. Make sure you ask ahead of time for directions from the HR director or whoever you've been in closest contact with. Maybe you did a phone interview and the head chef invited you to come down for a stage. At the end of your conversation, they will surely ask if you have any questions...I wished I had asked this one!
2. Reach out to CIA students: It's the network we pay pretty good money for, is it not?? If it's an approved externship site then that means a student from the CIA has been there before. Career Services can put you into contact with any current student or alumnus who has recently externed there very easily. I have also never met a CIA student—former or current—who doesn't enjoy helping out a fellow student. What can we say, hospitality is just in our nature. So go ahead, ask everything you've been wondering from the kitchen atmosphere to their deepest cronut secret. I asked our very own blogger Leah a bajillion questions because we externed at the same site, and it put me so at ease to move to Virginia.
3. Wear business casual: In the kitchen they will either provide you with a full uniform or allow you to wear your school uniform. If they are providing you with a uniform, you're going to arrive on the property wearing something else—make it count. It might be the first impression that you make in person to your future employer, plus a lot of restaurants on our list have dining room dress codes. You'll feel out of place in jeans and a t-shirt. Definitely make a point to ask your on-site contact what you should wear to the stage and they will solve the mystery.
4. Bring a Pen: Along the same lines, if the property is providing you with a uniform you won't have everything you usually have ready to go in your CIA jacket. Make sure you bring it! It is so funny the things that employers notice that you may not pay attention to, but preparedness is definitely one. You are showing up to work so bring your pen/sharpie/thermometer/notebook/etc. Take lots of notes and learn everything you can. Psssst: if they let you write recipes down, why not? Also be sure to ask if you should bring your tools, or if they will provide them for you. Don't assume.
5. Ask questions: Lots! Don't be shy, they know you have 'em. Above all I know that what my site looked for in an extern or hire was interest. All employers want to hire employees who want to work for them, so make sure you do your research and show up with lots of questions. Everywhere you go is going to do something differently from the CIA so even if you just ask over and over, "Why this?" or "What's your reasoning for that?" you can learn a lot from any experience.