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General Advice on Externships Needed


alexistristin
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As I have done many egullet searches regarding this topic I have not found some answers I have been looking for so I thought I would stop being a lurker and actually start posting.

My "externship start date" is in April 2007 so I have already started my research and began writing cover letters. My resume is decent so I am not worried so much about that. My questions to the forum are the following:

What is the best way to send the cover letter and resume out especially if I live out of state (otherwise I feel dropping off in person would be better) fax or email? Some of the places I am looking into do not have their email listed, furthermore I would be afraid it would land in the spam bin.

Should the cover letter be similar to that of wanting to be hired for a job? What should be included in the in the letter besides "Hi I really want to work with you." ?

And lastly my school recommends I follow up with in two days of sending this material out via phone. Is this a standard procedure? Should I mention on my letter that I will be contacting them in 48 hours?

Thank you!

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My own experience with restaurants dictates that nobody is likely to see a blind faxed or emailed resume. Instead, I'd call at an off-time (3:30pm is optimal in my experience) and ask to talk to the chef. Then tell them who you are and ask how to send the resume if they say they take externs. Then call to follow up a couple days later.

I am a master of the cover letter because I worked as a writer and editor before I went to culinary school--but in this field, nobody will really read it closely. Most of the chefs I've known want you to get to the point, and quickly--whether verbally or when writing a letter.

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What school, alexistristin? I ask because sometimes the externship office can help on ways to approach various sites.

Here's what I did: I picked the places I was interested in, and emailed the chef or the chef de cuisine and just said, "I'm a CIA student looking for externship from __ to __, anything available?" Some of the places don't take externs during certain times, or only have one or two slots available, etc. etc. If you give the subject line, "Student Seeking Externship," it'll get their attention. In almost all cases,I got an immediate reply and instructions on what to do next (usually, email my resume and specifics to the sous).

Good Luck -- and smart of you to start looking now!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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...Most of the chefs I've known want you to get to the point, and quickly--whether verbally or when writing a letter.

Yes, so true. Cannot be stressed enough. In fact take it one step farther and make it as chef-friendly as possible. Chef-boy, my son formerly known as chef-wanna-be, was sending resumes ping-ing and pong-ing with the people who do the hiring and he could not get the recruiter to call him back with the requested info.

We got together and we re-wrote his questions with a one two three scenario. Even though originally he had written a great letter, he got a reply instantly to the re-write.

Delete all non-essential mumbo jumbo. Like Malawry said, get right to the point and make it easy for Chef to say yes. You don't want to sound like fast food though, in this case just low-fat, low-carb real good food, fast. 86 the sauce.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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What school, alexistristin?  I ask because sometimes the externship office can help on ways to approach various sites. 

Here's what I did: I picked the places I was interested in, and emailed the chef or the chef de cuisine and just said, "I'm a CIA student looking for externship from __ to __, anything available?"  Some of the places don't take externs during certain times, or only have one or two slots available, etc. etc.  If you give the subject line, "Student Seeking Externship," it'll get their attention.  In almost all cases,I got an immediate reply and instructions on what to do next (usually, email my resume and specifics to the sous).

Good Luck -- and smart of you to start looking now!

I go to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. The places in San Francisco that I would like to do an externship at I will go in person to introduce myself, but there are a few places in New York City I am extremely interested in. Our externship database is pretty large but outdated so it would probably be beneficial if I called each place and asked who I should write to regarding externships if the chef is not available to talk. I will start with emailing the ones I can email with what you said it seems to help weed sites out. Thanks!

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...Most of the chefs I've known want you to get to the point, and quickly--whether verbally or when writing a letter.

You don't want to sound like fast food though, in this case just low-fat, low-carb real good food, fast. 86 the sauce.

That was a great line! At first I was writing my life story and why I am so interested in food. Then I deleted all of it because I figured people don't have time for this even if it was only one page, so I am back to re-writing. Thanks for this advice, I wasn't sure if "fluff" was needed or just straight and to the point writing.

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  • 2 months later...

If you send an email - do a catch phrase to get the attention. I did one at the start of December just looking to do some prep for someone and did - are you short handed, need help for the holidays - it worked. I sent out blind emails all ofthe time when looking. Make a short - very direct - this is me - I can do--- - and my resume attached - call anytime.

Research is the key. Email addresses are out there sometimes you just have to dig. The corp HR application crap - I never evergot a response from any of them. They are time consuming and ask for a ton of info - stop by if you have a chance - I ate at a couple of places and asked the server questions. I went to one interview - ate lunch before to get the feel - asked the server questions and got lots of scarey answers - like - they did 2100 people last Saturday and the Sous is a tough guy that pissed off two line cooks and the dishwasher and they walked out. They can't keep anybody because of the guy and they gave the current guy that does not care .50 more an hour to deal witht he sous....then I went into the interview with the Exec Chef and then the Sous - I did some questions that they looked at each other and wondered how I knew.

As far as not finding direct emails - look at the company web - dig. Look for newsletters, special events that may name the chefs, write the chefs name down look for another email of the place - if it is the first letter and last name of the GM - the same is goingto be for the chef - worth the risk - beside all it can do is come back saying undeliverable....

EXTERNS - ask questions - I had to do however many hours at the CIA and ended up doubling that and I could not do anything about it because they have your grade in the booklet they have to fill out. I went to FL and worked throught the holidays at a club that used to have 5-10 externs and they only had 2. I was doing 70-90 hours a week - the first week i could not feel my legs at the end of the day and 2 days crawled out of my car. Those guys will say anything to get help especially during the holidays. I only had 1 - no 2 sit down 5 minute conversations with him - learned a lot - would not trade the experience - but could have learned more if I could have only felt my legs!

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The places in San Francisco that I would like to do an externship at I will go in person to introduce myself, but there are a few places in New York City I am extremely interested in. Our externship database is pretty large but outdated so it would probably be beneficial if I called each place and asked who I should write to regarding externships

What would happen if you put together your own externship, updating the Db?

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Realize that externships are viewed differently from the employee/employer perspective. as the extern you are cheap, hopefully reliable , temporary help, nothing more. as the extern you want/need the experience and have a designated bailout at said time. After you comes another, then another...... sad but realistic picture. Pic a few places you want to work at, send letters, and see who bites. fter you enter the work force for real, your externship probably wont really matter .

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Don't be discouraged either if it takes some persistance. Don't pester the chefs incessantly, but a little fire never hurt. Have a few things going at once, and if possible, do a stage before hand to see if the place will be a fit. A place can be great on paper, but you may not get along well with the sous, the other cooks, etc. Just check it out. Odds are that you will know quickly wheter you want to work there a long time or not.

Make sure you know what you will be doing. Being at a name restaurant is great and all, but what will you be doing? Peeling potatoes and carrots 10 hours a day? Hardly beneficial to your education. Maybe it will be better for you to get some line skills at a really good place, well regarded, with a great chef who is present and able to answer questions.

Just some thoughts.

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  • 2 weeks later...

you will be treated like slave labor - but pest away to get in there if that is where you want to be. The tell yourslef you are going to be the sorry assed bastard on the low ladder - so get ready to do some grunt work - it will et better - kind of a right of passage. - some places don't have all of that and you can find out from people that have come back from extern - they are the best source of info not the guy in the nice clean white coat who you may or may not ever see again...

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