OTM 3: How to find food industry employment opportunities


There are many different places to look for a job or continue your career in the food industry. Welcome to Episode 3 of Off the Menu. In this episode we cover how to find food industry employment opportunities today. We've nutted out six places to focus on in this episode.

Episode 3 Highlights

Links and Resources

1. Here are some links to different employment websites from around the world

Adapted Podcast Transcription

Amanda:  Welcome back everybody, we're onto episode three of Off The Menu. And I'm here with Peter Holtmann.

Peter:  Hello.

Amanda:  My name's Amanda Evans-Lara from HACCP Mentor. In this episode we are continuing on with our professional development series for the food industry and looking at career paths. Our focus is on how to achieve what you need to achieve and get to the next level or even decide if you want to come into the industry. Today we're going to start looking at how do we actually find the opportunities in the market in this day and age.

As a general rule, there's heaps of different places we can look for a job. We've nutted out around about six places that we're going to focus on in this episode. Let's kick off with the first area to go and find your job or the start of your career or change or whatever it is you want to do. And that's going to be actually picking up the phone or door knocking.

Hit the streets and go direct

Peter:  It's that whole cold calling activity, isn't it?

Amanda:  I don't think I really like that.

Peter:  No?

Amanda:  That whole thought of that.

Peter:  I think that's really what it is though. I mean, you don't know the person at the other end of the line. You've got to get past some sort of receptionist or you've got to get past the front door. So, beating the streets, walk up, knock on a door, go in and say, "I want a job." I don't think it quite works like that though, does it?

Amanda:  Well, that kind of worked for me. Back when I went into public health, but that might be an exception to the rule. But it's still a viable option, definitely.

Peter:  Look, I think it is. I think once you've identified the organisation and the industry you want to work for then this is about directly approaching those organisations. So, let's call it that. It's about the direct approach to these places – and there could be a few ways to do that.

You could literally walk up and knock on the door and ask to see the right person. You will already have identified that person before you get there. It could be the QA manager; it could be the production manager. It could be the lab manager. You might ask to speak to the person in HR about potential work.

Identifying the gatekeeper

Amanda:  I think one of the things that I've found over the years, especially if you have to do that cold calling, is there's always going to be a gatekeeper, and that will be the receptionist.

Peter:  Absolutely.

Amanda:  One little trick you can do is if you know the person's name, ask for them by name because that's going to increase your chances of getting through to them. And if the gatekeeper says, "Why are you ringing?" Just say you're returning that person's call.

Peter: Yes, that would be an interesting approach, wouldn't it? The determined approach, no matter what it is. So, I think, how do you get into these organisations? It's the walk up off the street and see somebody. It's the phone call, which you were just talking about there. It could be an email.

Amanda:  Well, in saying that, every week I would get maybe four or five people approaching me sending me through their resumes asking me for a job. And this is something that I probably find I really, really dislike because they've made no effort to actually find out what I do in my business.  I got one this morning actually, some mob wanting to do some work for me. They were another training mob, but thinking I was a food business.

Peter: So, were these coming in on email?

Why your job emails are being deleted

Amanda:  Yes, this was email. They clearly had not done their research. And my reaction? Just delete. I quickly read it and just went, "You didn't even bother to find out that I'm actually one of your competitors," so, delete.

Peter:  It's a bulk email that people send out hoping to hit somebody. The shotgun approach, right?

Amanda:  That's it.

Peter:  I guess what we're trying to deliver here is to be a bit more targeted in your approach and to tailor the messages, particularly on email. You want to tailor the message to the organisation that you're approaching, and definitely to the role of the individual that you're approaching as well.

Amanda:  And personalise it. Don't write, "Dear HR Manager."

Peter:  Yes, don't do that. Yes, "Dear Sir and/or Madam."

Amanda:  That's another one I got yesterday, "Dear Sir/Madam." Could you not even look at my name and find out that I'm female?

Peter:  That's it. So, definitely if you're going to go for this approach of directing your approach to a new organisation, make sure you know who it is you want to approach and why you're approaching them. If you're putting an email together, please do not write ‘War and Peace’ in the actual email. In other words, a 15 paragraph, 2000-word email to these people. No one's reading it. No one reads that.

Keep it short and punchy. Let your resume do the talking for you. Leave the email more as a cover letter, which is, "I'm seeking work. I want to work for your organisation because of the following three reasons."

"My resume is attached. Please have someone contact me." And definitely thank them for their time and consideration, no matter how short or fleeting it might be.

Amanda:  Yes, absolutely.

Peter:  At least be respectful and thank them for their time.

Amanda:  And even if you say, "I understand you may not have any positions at the moment, but if you could let me know where's the best place to find positions in your business that I could apply for?"

Peter:  That's right. So, all good sales pitches, and you're really pitching yourself for a job, usually end with what we call a call to action, which is they have to do something. You don't just leave it open-ended, "Here's my resume. Thank you very much." Okay, what do you want me to do with your resume? Do you want me to bin it?

Amanda:  Delete.

Peter:  Do you want me to file it? Do you want me to read it? So, make sure there's a call to action in there, which is, as Amanda was saying, "Please advise if there's any roles going that I could be qualified to complete. If you're not currently employing or if I'm not qualified for the role, could you point me in the direction of someone that is?" So, at least there's some follow-on action.

Amanda:  They'll choose then whether they want to reply or not. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. It might be just out of the blue that they just happen to look at your resume and go, "This person has actually got the skillset that we're after and we haven't been able to find anyone." Or maybe as a business, they don't want to go to the expense of advertising and all of that type of stuff. So, it could be well worth it.

The art of the follow up

Peter:  Therein lies the art of the follow-up call or the follow up email.

Amanda:  Yes.

Peter:  How many of these should you actually do? I've had people do five, six, seven follow ups to an email that I'd neither read nor had interest in reading. "I'm just checking again. I'm just checking again."

You don't need to do that. Maybe a follow up is good. And if you're not getting a response at the other end or the timing's not right, then perhaps ask them about when is the right time to follow up?

Amanda:  It maybe because they're a seasonal business. They only operate from September to February, so they do all their recruitment in July or something like that.

Peter:  Do not follow up on a weekly, monthly basis if you haven't been asked to do such a thing. I think the best way is follow up once. If you don't get a positive response to that, then walk away.

Trade shows and conferences

Amanda:  Another area if you want to go direct too is - if you go to trade shows or conferences or things like that, you might start your connection process during those events.

Peter:  Absolutely, an introduction as well. If you know somebody that works at that place, the organisation or the place of work, perhaps they can get you an introduction to the person that you're looking for as well.

Amanda:  A lot of businesses will do that. They might put something up on their notice board to say, "Look, we've got some jobs going. If you've got any family or friends." Not that it's good to get all family working together. But if you've got friends or something who are looking for some casual work or whatever, you know? Let them know. And a lot of my clients do exactly that.

Peter:  So, there's multiple leads into an organisation. Try to explore as many as you possibly can. And that shows motivation, it shows commitment, and it shows perseverance.

These are very strong attributes when employers are looking for employees is to have these qualities. Doesn't mean you become a stalker. It doesn't mean you become a serial caller, in which case, they're calling again, everyone knows your name or they start giving you nicknames, you know? This is Tuesday Charlie that's calling up for another job interview. We're not looking for those sorts of people. But there's a certain amount of commitment and tenacity to getting a role that's admirable.

Amanda: Okay, so that's our first line in is that whole show up. So, let's call it direct call or direct. Our second one that we'll look at is maybe having a look on job sites. There's plenty of employment sites out there that list all these jobs on the internet.

Employment Job Sites

Peter:  I think this speaks for itself. Most people are familiar that there are job seeker sites. Every country has basically got a job seek, and more than one.

Amanda: There's SEEK, Monster, Indeed. What else have we got?

Peter:  Well, it depends on the country where you're at.

Amanda:  REED, Job Site. Fish4.

Peter:  Some of the UK ones are Fish4, Eluta, I think it's called, E-L-U-T-A in Canada. Workopolis is another one. These are just examples for the listeners.

Amanda:  You can Google any of this wherever you're located. Just Google ‘job employment site’.

Peter:  There's government employment sites. So, often you go to a government agency, and they'll have on their own website positions vacant or opportunities.

Amanda:  That's the same with company sites as well. So, that's if you want to work for Coca Cola, for example, you will jump onto their website and maybe they have ads hiring or not hiring. A lot of the big multinationals will do that, same with the major retailers will actually have it on their website.

Peter: Some employers even keep waiting lists of people. I was working for an organisation briefly, doing some consulting work. They held a waiting list of something like 16,000 people.

Amanda:  Imagine being on that list.

Peter:  I know. And there's places that I've read, I think at the time it was Virgin Industries, where you would pay to get onto the waiting list. And you would pay for a job interview. And I guess rightly or wrongly, people were looking at that as motivation. How motivated are you to work for them? And these are, I guess, icon employers, icon industries.

Recruitment agencies

Amanda:  So, in that one where you're saying that people are paying to get on these lists. That kind of very closely aligns to actually having a recruiter or someone like that. You let them know your skills and you let them find you the job or a head-hunting firm.

Peter: That's definitely another challenge.  If someone is acting as a middleman for you, so it's a job placement agency, a recruiting firm, it's a head-hunting agency, it's whatever you wish to call it, these people will keep lists of jobs.

Amanda:  But you've gone to them.

Peter:  Yes. You've directly sought them out. And they will do anything from just put your resume on file, to develop your resume, to give you interviewing skills.

So, what would you do at an interview? They might do psychological profiling. Most people know about Meyer Briggs and some of these sorts of tests out there because the employer is looking for a particular profile.

Amanda:  So, they're really the middleman between the employer and the potential employee.

Peter: Absolutely. And so, you could call up any number or contact any number of these recruiting agencies and firms and say, "I'm looking to work for this specific company. Please keep me in mind."

Amanda:  Yes, and these are my skills and attributes and knowledge.

Peter: They might say, "That one's not available, but here's a ‘like’ company that you could start working in." So, that's another foot in the door for you.

Internal Promotion

Amanda:  Okay, so, another one from that is maybe certain companies, maybe you're already working at a food company and they might have some type of internal promotion system or a job comes up in another department or even another site if you work for a multinational.

Peter:  This is not just for the first timers, this is you're currently employed in an organisation, you're trying to develop your career track with that employer. So, congratulations, you've made it in the door. You've found the employer of choice. Now you're trying to move ahead, either diversify your career or your experiences along the way.

Amanda: I want to work up the chain, go up the ladder.

Peter: Absolutely, move into a supervisory or management role or even an executive role and eventually maybe a C-suite role as well, or work overseas.

Amanda: Can you just explain what's a C-suite role?

Peter: C-suite means chief of something. So, chief executive officer, chief information officer, chief financial officer, chief anything. And I've worked for organisations who've said, "Hey, we're opening up a new office in Latin America. Is there anyone internally that wants to go and work within that office? Or even does anyone want to head up that office in Latin America?" And why would they do that? Because you've got transferable skills, which means they hit the ground running over there. And maybe if you've got the language skills, that's a definitely bonus.

Amanda:  That helps as well.

Peter: You've definitely got the organisational IP to move you across.

Put your hand up

Amanda:  So, your person you would approach there, maybe they have that internal advertising on notice boards or things like that. But even just approaching your own HR manager and asking, "Look, is there any potential jobs that are going? I heard that Larry's left. He's not going to be the shift supervisor anymore. And I'd like to throw my hat in the ring to see." Or maybe you actually end up in an acting position, which then leads to that.

Peter:  It's that level of proactivity that people are looking for. That you don't have to wait to be tapped on the shoulder, that you're actually being proactive and being assertive and being very clear on where you think your career path is going.

Social Media Forums

Amanda: So now, another one that I see all the time, especially around social media, not so much on Facebook.  I do see that Facebook is trying to drag some work aspects into that platform, which I really don't understand why. But if we stick with our main professional platform, social platform, that being LinkedIn, often I get emails from recruiters saying, "We've got this job. Are you interested?"

Peter: That's true, yes, and LinkedIn has its own universe, its own ecosystem of employment. They've got the jobs section in there.

Amanda: Those recruiters are paying to be there and paying to direct or target people with certain skills and it's very easy to get in. If you're not sure how LinkedIn search works, they actually pay to be able to advertise or direct market to particular groups of people. They might say, okay, food safety consultants or auditors food processing supervisors.

Peter: It's working on the back of the extensive networks that it has. So, it looks for ways of adding value to networks. So, there'll be a quality manager food safety network in linked in somewhere. Something to that effect.

Amanda:  That's another way though, working in social, is to get involved in those different groups.

Peter: Absolutely.

Amanda: Then, somebody might say, "Look, we're after someone to manage the weekend shift. Do you know anyone?"

Peter:  Yes, there's chat that happens in these places. Or, "Hey, we're offering a research opportunity for somebody." Or, "We're seeking graduates," for instance, to work in this area. Or we've got summer jobs or whatever it may be.


Amanda: That's kind of going into our sixth one which we were talking about - networking. But that's probably more from an online networking, where you're in a group. You may not have met the person face to face, but you're starting to build a relationship around that person and that group and what they actually do day to day, as opposed to going out and doing a face to face networking.

Peter: That's right. Never write off a person and their value to you later on. Okay, there might be ... You're looking for a microbiological role in a lab somewhere, but you're talking to someone down the street that's a landscape gardener. Doesn't mean that they don't have any future value as a connection or as a person within your network because they might know somebody.

Amanda:  That's right. They could be married to a microbiologist.

Peter:  Yes, it's this whole six degrees of separation, right? Someone knows someone who knows somebody who's got something that you really need. So, this is what I call the black art or the knitting of social networks. And networking together is always keep those connections going and connect them when you need them because it might even be that you're going for a role and they're saying, "We really need someone to do something that's not the role you're going for. But you might know someone that's looking for that.

Amanda:  Yes, who knows this other one.

Peter:  It shows that you've got problem solving skills, you've got networking and you've got a level of proactivity. So, networks are extremely important. One, it keeps us connected to our industry. It keeps us connected to others and ways of learning new things and new information. And it definitely works as a valuable resource.

Amanda:  You could end up being that connector. So, if just say by chance, a recruiter approached you on LinkedIn and you reply back to him and say, "Look, I'm not the right person for the job because I'm quite happy where I am." But you know, here's someone who you might want to give their details after you've asked that person is it okay that they could connect to. The recruiter's going to love you then.

Peter: Yeah, there's all these roles now of social influencers, right? They don't actually do anything apart from influence product, service, and outcomes because they've got a large network. So, I mean, that's the perfect example of someone that has a very large network that can put it to good use for somebody out there. So, just being an influencer is a way of getting work as well. You might have a really popular Facebook page or Instagram following or whatever it might be.

Amanda:  Yes, or Twitter, because that's another.  If you're constantly engaging. And you know, it takes time to build up that trust with people. So, Twitter's a good way to do that. See the people that you want to work for, the company that you want to work for, and that's quite an easy way to engage.

Peter: I think this is where job getting is morphing to these days. A lot of the traditional channels of where someone might advertise in a newspaper for a role is being replaced more steadily with the social media, which is really about these maybe distant connections or synaptic connections out there that 1,000 people spark a response on something that works for you and next thing you know, you're working in that space.

Even though you might not be working in that space, you might have an opinion or be passionate about that space. And you could become a thought leader on a particular topic. So, I think this is what it's about is you can have an opinion and be passionate about the industry and people can seek you out this way. This is all in this networking. So, be a good networker, be a good influencer or have positive impact on the industry you want to work in.

Food industry employment opportunities

Amanda:  Yes, okay. So, wrapping up this episode on seeking out opportunities, let's just quickly run through those six again, where we're going to find these opportunities, Pete. First up, direct. Knock on the door, pick up the phone, send an email.

Peter: The next one is being introduced in there or having connections. There's networking that's in there.

Amanda: The second one was actually job ads online. Our third one was going through and seeing is there any in-house promotions going on? Or maybe that was the fourth one.

Peter: Working your way up the chain.

Amanda:  The other one was going and doing your networking, whether it be on social or face to face. And our other one was actually going straight to a recruiter and asking, or a headhunter.

Peter: Using a recruitment agency. That's right.

Amanda: And asking them to find you a job based on your CV. But the most important thing obviously at this point is that when you're seeking out these opportunities, you do have your CV and your resume put together. You have listed and you've done some self-discovery around what your skillset is and your attributes.

Peter: What your skillsets are and how they would work within the organisation. And know who you want to speak to about your skillsets and your capability of working in that organisation.

Amanda: Absolutely. Okay, so that wraps up this episode of Off The Menu. Now, in our next episode, we're going to touch on actually going for that interview and getting your foot in the door. And hopefully winning the job and then progressing through. So, join us next time on Off The Menu.

About Off the Menu

In the first season of Off the Menu, Amanda Evans-Lara and Peter Holtmann dive into career development for newbies and professionals working in the food industry. Listen in to learn about the skills, knowledge, personal attributes and work experience needed to map your food industry career path.

Off the Menu Podcast

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