Cody Middleton, one of the pastry chefs of the Polo Club of Boca Raton, believes colleagues should be more than just networking stepping stones. They can also be valuable sources of new and unique knowledge.
Many times I have heard people say, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” The assumption is that the people you know are more powerful of an influence than the information you know when pursuing a new job opportunity. People are more comfortable with hiring someone or trying a new experience, in general, if they have a shared acquaintance who is familiar with the person or situation. Our peers are valuable resources that we underutilize. Instead of just reaching out to them whenever we have a potential candidate for a job, we should be staying in touch with them on a daily and weekly basis. Tapping into these resources regularly is a synonymous relationship that helps each individual evolve and grow.
Your coworkers have a great impact on shaping the person you become, both professionally and, to a degree, personally. In our industry, it is likely that we see the people we work with more than family members, and in many cases become as close as family. Each person you come in contact and work with brings their own unique background with an array of different information, leadership styles, life experiences, mantras, and connections.
It is beneficial to all of us to learn as much as we can from each other. Whether we realize it or not, by working with an individual we start to take from their past experiences and mold the way we operate. It’s not necessarily that you have to copy or do everything exactly like the person does. It is more that you understand the reasoning behind why they do something a certain way and then apply that.
Throughout the week, I find myself noting something that one of my fellow coworkers says or does. There are countless ways to complete the same task or produce a certain recipe. I constantly find myself changing and adapting. At first, I thought it might be a bad to be changing on a regular basis, notwithstanding, progression and change is the only way to build and grow. I watch those around me, take certain elements from the way they work or how they complete a task, and use this to work more efficiently or with a better outcome.
Connecting with people and learning should not be limited to our colleagues that we physically see each day. The culinary and pastry fields have a million different channels and paths that a chef may take, and therefore, learn from. I have friends that I can reach out to, pitch ideas, ask questions, or simple just chat about a multitude of niches in our industry. From those excelling in wine, bread baking, chocolate sculpting, confections, opening restaurants, working in other country clubs/resorts, competitors in culinary events, authors, bloggers, instructors, business owners, this list is long and ever growing.
In our industry, it is so easy to be “too proud” to ask for help or seek additional information. It is equally easy to pick up the phone and send a text, make a call, or send an email/message to a friend or former colleague who may more experienced or provide new or different knowledge on the project you are working on. Social media both helps and hinders these connections by making information easy to access.
With that said, nothing is as beneficial as being hands-on with someone who has mastered his/her craft. Upfront, the people we meet and the connections we gain may seem solely physical through daily interaction, however, they also run deeper through the personal growth, information, bonds, and experiences we gain through these connections.