The hospitality industry allows us to travel, work abroad and venture across the nation easily; in the process meeting interesting and famous personalities. We receive fairly substantial wages and benefits for a job well done. Many of us started in the business at a fairly young age and have been promoted through the ranks. But, our trade does not provide protection or security therefore you need to look after “number 1”. In this particular article I am referring to “Job Loss.” Very few chefs, for instance, become owners of establishments, the majority of them depending upon a paycheck. By the same token, chefs de cuisine nowadays tend to be high-profile personalities who rely on the media to generate additional income and prestige in order to boost their reputation. So what happens when you lose your job and your entire castle crumbles?

I do not pretend to have all the answers. I can only offer what I believe to be the most sensible way to deal with the situation.

Face your feelings

When you’ve been fired, it’s normal to feel depression, anxiety, fear and distress, combined with anger, resentment and dismay.

Reasons for dismissal aside, the consequences of this ordeal may result in destroying your professional career and bring your personal finances to the brink of bankruptcy. Unfortunately, no one in our business is ever protected against what we nowadays call “involuntary de-hiring”.

This particular article does not just apply to the members of the culinary profession, it can equally be applied to anyone who has dealt with dismissal. The new millennium has also brought us the worst time for job security.

A few points to remember:

  • Never dissimulate the facts. I know that it hurts. You may be mad but it’s over and it’s too late to worry about it.
  • No one is ever indispensable and your department will run without you.
  • Take a rest, relax for a few days and clear your mind of all those nasty thoughts and frustrations so you can start your job search on a positive note.

Looking for a new position takes preparation. You have to take stock of yourself and perhaps for the first time in your life, you will see a new “you” in the mirror. The truth is that, in many instances getting fired from a job can be liberating. It can open new doors and/or careers for many employees who were bored, unhappy and felt that their career was not progressing. However, that realization doesn’t happen until much later.

While getting fired is not necessarily your fault, as you might have been the victim of unfortunate circumstances such as internal company politics gone sour, departmental restructuring, poor decision-making from head office or a new overzealous board of directors. No one is protected from declining sales. Beware that as soon as the revenues drop, managers and supervisors are the first to go.

Rather than dwelling on the past, focus your energy on regaining command of your destiny, explore new ventures and plan new career goals. Ask yourself, where do you want to be in three years?

Start fresh

You must be in perfect condition (body and mind) before starting to look for a new job. Jog, swim, box or ride your bike, but it’s imperative to take your frustrations and hang ups out of your system at once. Look at your options — do you want to go back to school? Then do it, because higher education and professiona-training programs are now the essential tools needed to get promoted in any field.

You might want to take time to prospect and contemplate new endeavours. Many people have, for instance, turned their favourite hobbies into lucrative businesses following a job loss. These success stories do not come easy; they demand courage, willpower and an organized approach to the crisis.

Bouncing back

The sooner you get back on your feet and on with your life, the sooner you will be able to recoup your losses — both personal and financial. Realize that rarely will you find the same type of position that you were holding right away. Titles and levels of responsibilities will be different, the wages will often be lower and benefits might be waived altogether but, if you are offered a job, take it. Jobs are scarce and these days, age is not on our side. It’s always easier to look for a new job while you are working as it can be more difficult to explain to a prospective employer why you were inactive for the past 12 or 16 months.

You will be told that you have too much experience. You might even be ‘too high profile’ for most of your potential employers. Did you win too many competitions? Too many medals? Is your resume too impressive?

In some instances you will be told your background does not fit the requirements of the company that you would like to join. Let’s be realistic, with the way our industry has changed, chefs are more often managers, administrators, pencil pushers, computer experts and even food and beverage managers. Some are not cooking much anymore and, in very large organizations, some do not cook at all.

Did you know that hotel managers are now being recruited from diverse backgrounds and most of them have emerged without any hotel training whatsoever? They call themselves “Business people or generalists” who have become hoteliers. They focus solely on the bottom line and spend entire days in meetings. Keeping this in mind, how do you think that you will rebound in the industry if you ever lose your job? It’s essential to prepare yourself now by seeking out training to bridge your skills gap. Accounting, costing, administration, computer literacy, motivation and others are prerequisites to manage any department and/or small business.

The age factor
In the U.S. and Europe youth is almost a prerequisite to obtaining a challenging managerial position, with some major corporations passing over any candidates over the age of 35.

When placing their orders with professional head hunters, some high-tech industries insist that their executives be in their twenties as they consider candidates aged 30 and older untrainable. In the foodservice industry, there are approximately 40 chefs looking for work at any given time in Toronto alone with some of them having been inactive for more than two years. Gone are the days of plenty, sense of security and job-hopping.

Show me the money

When you suddenly find yourself unemployed, money is your primary concern. Savings will only last for so long. Since you obviously spend more money when you do not work and can no longer rely on your fringe benefits, crucial decisions must be made at once. From day one, prioritize by making unyielding decisions which will save you and your family money. Your daily routines, standard of living, the family vacations and those special treats will suffer and may even disappear for a while; the situation will get better if you remain level-headed.

A positive attitude is key

How you will handle and get through this nightmare will depend upon your ardent spirit. We work in demanding, complex and competitive field, but as chefs, managers, kitchen supervisors or restaurant owners, we know how to handle difficult and unexpected situations. What guides us day in and day out through the intricacies of life and work is our positive spirit. Therefore, there is no reason why this inner force should abandon us when we need it the most.

A positive attitude is key through the various steps of your recovery. Dark thoughts, anxieties, burden and high-stress levels will not succeed in bringing you down if you stay positive. Don’t let a bad situation defeat your confidence. Being overwhelmed and feeling helpless makes it easy to develop hatred and bitterness. Don’t let a bad situation define you.

Ask for help

Remember, you can’t get through this alone. Your innate determination to overcome your afflictions must work in parallel with your personal contacts, colleagues, family members and any professional services available to you.

Analyze where the help is going to come from and evaluate its benefits. Family members and friends, professional associations or former colleagues, head hunters, business contacts and one-time bosses are all good choices who can give you the resources and provide the boost you need to get back on track. However, the above leading connections may not always come together when needed so patience and understanding are paramount. Cajoling and/or convincing your prospects will also be required.

Becoming unemployed might be the most traumatic experience of your life, but with a combination of courage, tenacity and professional pride, you can be back on your feet quickly. Focus on your actions and your new goals.

Written By: Gerard Breisan


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