The following post was prompted by yesterdays Facebook update by Ros Grundy when she detailed the travails of her son who is seeking work. I wish him all the best.
My first ‘real’ job post-school, was organized by my father.
Several parent teacher meetings throughout year ten failed to alert my 15 YO self to the scholastic icebergs looming on my horizon.
My old man seized the moment and my professional tiller by arranging a summer job for me washing dishes that eventually led to an apprenticeship in cookery.
Lord Curzon’s in North Melbourne was just around the corner from the printing college my father taught at and on the goat track from the college to the Black Prince hotel, a favourite for the instructors’ lunchtime parmi’s and bevs.
It was a spectacularly inauspicious start to my career and remains steadfastly at the opposing end of the broad spectrum of great food and inspiring people I have worked with.
Perhaps out of respect for the efforts of my Da securing me the job I stayed for a full year until the environment became so intolerable after arriving home from work limping after a particularly nasty bit of workplace violence to which my parents had been made finally aware. Not that they were ignorant, its just that I hid the reality from them, thinking that maybe this was just ‘how work was’.
Driving to work with dad the next morning, I remember becoming anxious as his steely silence and percolating tension that would bloom into the mushroom cloud of rage to be visited on the restaurants owner when he answered the door.
The sight of my newly-baptized old boss cowering under the clenched fists of my old man relinquished me of any debt I might’ve imagined I owed both of them and from this point on, I applied for subsequent jobs myself.
Now the convention of the day was to scour the papers for the job adverts, circle the appropriate ones, write an introduction, attach your CV and mail it off and wait for a reply. I was discouraged from ringing possible employers for a follow up call to see if they had received my application, as it wasn’t the done thing.
Several job applications later and no replies, I decided to break with established protocols and just randomly ring the restaurants. This actually yielded a positive result and I got a job that made me re-evaluate the whole business of typical job applications.
Now, two years into an apprenticeship and through Trade School, I had become aware of the strange Caste-System of the restaurant pecking order. All of a sudden I realized that I worked in a super-daggy place and I needed to move up the rungs and apply for a gig in a pedigreed establishment. I came to understand that working in respected places would help my career in the long run so I began scouring the Age good food guide and applied for jobs in hatted restaurants.
In one such place I was dispensed a valuable lesson in the prejudices of a prospective employer. A two-hatted restaurant, long gone, in South Melbourne, whose two principles icily chastised me for not completing year 12.
I squirmed in my shirt and tie and squeaked with an increasingly dry mouth that it wasn’t a requirement to commence an apprenticeship and I was dutifully admonished for not showing any tenacity. The sweat gathered around my hot blushing collar to be momentarily cooled by the ‘whoosh’ of air as my humble CV was tossed toward me dismissively with a wave of a hand.
Come back with your HSC, I was told.
A footnote to this story is that years later I answered an ad for this very place, no longer hatted and its glory days since past. I was welcomed enthusiastically having worked in Michelin starred restaurants abroad and the interview progressed quickly to the point of offering me the position, to which I respectfully declined. Perhaps not completing year twelve was no longer the hindrance I was made to believe it once was?
On another occasion, this time sharply focused on obtaining a job with a celebrated matriarch of South Australian country cooking, I hassled her repeatedly until she relented and hired me. This was to become the modus operandi I would adopt for all future job applications and it nearly always worked.
These days when people rock up to the café looking for work I am always impressed that they have the gumption to put themselves out there.
It takes guts to open oneself up to scrutiny, critique and the real possibility of rejection. Anyone can have an intro letter written for them, a CV compiled and referees enrolled but it’s a brave person to do it all in person.
My advice though to those seeking this path: arrive pre-or post service, look neat, show some knowledge about the establishment you are applying to and be prepared to do a trial at a moments notice. Remember, you want the job right? So sell yourselves, impress your potential employer and make it easy for them to consider you.
Above all, don’t take conceivable rejection personally as it will occur no matter how positive or prepared you might be. The trick is, to get over this quickly and move onward and upward.
Hey good luck out there!