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Mind Your Business: Baking Up a New Job

Mind Your Business: Baking Up a New Job
Credit: Photo Credit: Karl Tate

Last week, I did an interview with Ben Hershberger. Unless you're a foodie or a restaurant aficionado, you probably don't know his name. His work, however, is renowned. Until recently, he was the head baker at Per Se, Thomas Keller's gourmet restaurant in New York City, which is ranked among the top 10 restaurants in the world.

Hershberger recently left his job, where he also headed up baking for the also-famous Bouchon Bakery, to work as head baker at a very different kind of organization called Hot Bread Kitchen. It's a nonprofit organization that helps train immigrants and low-income men and women to work in bakeries and restaurants. "Food manufacturing" is what its founder Jessamyn Rodriguez calls it.

I asked Hershberger why he made such a drastic career switch. After all, he left a restaurant that can safely claim the "1 percent" among its most devoted clientele to teach low-income folks who probably could never afford to eat even a first course at his former restaurant.

He was surprised to hear me describe it that way. To him, it doesn't seem like that big of a change. The way he sees it, he's still working in a kitchen, he's still teaching and he's still focused on turning out the best bread he can.

Hershberger's take on his job switch reminded me of something I've thought many times before, but have, apparently, forgotten. Ultimately, finding the right job is about with whom you work and how you work, not about the name of the company or the perception of the job.

It's an important lesson for all of us, especially recent grads considering which first career step to take. We often fantasize about how great it would be to say, "I work for…" (insert the famous, well-known glamorous company of your choice). However, once you get there, you might just find out that working at a big name, well-known company isn't for you.

Another career trap we fall into is the desire to focus on what we're creating instead of how we're creating it. I like to call this the "cupcake myth." Who doesn't love cupcakes? Who wouldn't love to own a business selling those adorable, perfectly packaged pastel bundles of joy?

Well, actually, me. Just because you're selling cupcakes doesn't mean the job is fun and easy. In fact, it's difficult. It requires working early hours, finding employees who know how to bake, managing food inventories that can spoil and making sure you don't make anyone sick. It sounds like a lot more pressure than you might bargain for when you first decide you want to open a cupcake shop.

Whether you're choosing a career path or trying to hatch a business idea, it's more important to consider how you like to work (what hours, from where, with whom) and what tasks you enjoy and skills you possess rather than what the final outcome of your work would be.

When deciding on a new job or a career, think more like a matchmaker and less like a shopper. If you love cupcakes, buy some. But, unless you love getting up early and working really, really hard in hot kitchen, you may want to consider doing something else for a living. Instead, think about what you're good at and what you enjoy doing and then match those skills to a job that requires them, even if the final product isn't something you are particularly passionate about.

Take a lesson from Ben Hershberger and do what you love, rather than getting caught up in the glamour of where you do it or how it sounds when you describe it to someone else.

Jeanette Mulvey has been the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily since its debut in 2010. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at jmulvey@techmedianetwork.com.

Jeanette Mulvey
Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.