Notes from What’s Next?: Life After MLA Gastronomy

If you couldn’t make it to our fantastic workshop several weeks ago, What’s Next?: Life After MLA Gastronomy, you’re in luck – we’ve got overviews and notes from each session, as well as links to several presentations to help you out. This workshop was designed to give students a bit of reassurance – there are a number of potential career paths available after graduation, and our alumni panel, career coach, and e-portfolio experts helped attendees learn more about how to market themselves, expand job searches, and even develop a stronger online presence.

The first section of our workshop featured three alumni members: Julia Grimaldi, Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Dairy Promotion Board, Peter Kelly, culinary instructor at Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, and Kimberly Kuborn, Director of Graduate Operations at the Metropolitan College, Boston University. Each of them told their personal stories, which varied greatly both in terms of how they found the MLA Gastronomy program as well as where they’ve traveled since then, and also answered student questions regarding career choices, opportunities, and advice on how to get started with the job hunt. Some of the best advice we heard:
-Whenever possible, don’t say no! Seek out and take as many opportunities as you can, because you never know when a volunteer position, one-day event, or contact could turn into your next career move.
Stay open to new options. Consider all possibilities, combinations of your skills, and potential positions when searching for jobs – don’t limit yourself to only a few possible careers. Check every job site you can find, and stay in touch with old employers, professors, fellow students, and contacts within the industry.
Find a mentor. Chat with them about your options and your dreams, get them to look at your resume (and take a look at theirs!), and make as many connections as possible through them.

Our middle session was a presentation by career coach Matt Casey, going through resumes, CVs, and cover letters. We only had an hour, and Matt was incredibly patient with our group, answering questions and showing us a number of examples. One of the biggest things he stressed was that everything you’ve done is marketable – most people drastically underestimate what they’ve done, so take time to write down all of your experience and ideas before applying for jobs and going for interviews. Matt had a ton of great information, but here are the highlights:
Identify key points for yourself: what do you want to do every day? What are you good at? What do you want to accomplish? What holes can you fill? What are your skills? And, perhaps most importantly, what does your perfect, regular day look like? How much control do you want over time and money? What kind of work/life balance do you want? Do you want to lead, manage, advise, or champion?
Ignore the one-page resume model. This is a product of past generations – now we have more jobs, change careers more often, and submit resumes online, so they can be as long as they need to be.
Redo your resume to tell your personal story. Doesn’t need to be chronological – try organizing it by skill. Include the title you want at the top – only 20% of resumes include this, and it’s a great way to catch a potential employer’s eye. Make it creative and express your personal style – make it bold and memorable. Avoid photos.
Build a network. Contact people in the industries you’re interested in – have meetings and ask questions without an agenda, just to learn more about them and their job. Hold informational interviews to learn more about potential positions. Find networking events and hand out your business card. Volunteer. Listen – a lot. And stay in touch with the connections you make – you never know when they’ll come in handy.
Find someone you admire and read their resume, ask questions about their career history, and find a niche for yourself. Figure out how you can make yourself indispensable in your industry.
Keep cover letters short. Be bold and persuasive, and use strong phrases – “I am,” “I can,” “I will,” “I have.”

Click here to download a copy of Matt’s Powerpoint presentation: Resume Planning and Development – November 5, 2011 (v2)

The third and final session was with Colby Young, a digital portfolio scholar and research assistant. All Boston University students are able to create free, online e-portfolios through Digication, though there are plenty of other services available if you’d prefer to go through someone else. These portfolios are a snap to set up – in an hour, Colby set up most of a portfolio and talked us through creating our own. And best of all, these won’t disappear after you graduate, so you can put the link on your business cards, resume, and LinkedIn page. Make it public or private, depending on its use. Include your education, experience, thesis projects, internships, awards, videos, photographs, and whatever else you want. This program keeps things very organized, and is easy to make even if you have no programming skills whatsoever.
-Use your BU Kerberos login and password to create a new account on Digication.
-Create different sections and module to organize the portfolio however you like – experiment with different looks. Include as much or as little information as you like to enhance your online presence.

Click here to download a detailed how-to PDF guide for setting up your e-portfolio: DigicationQuickstart.pdf

From all of us in the Gastronomy program, I’d love to give another big thank you to all of our participants! The workshop was fun and incredibly helpful, and the information we received was invaluable. Thanks to everyone who was able to come, and good luck with your end-of-semester papers and projects!

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