Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Founder and CEO of The French Culinary Institute and author of "Love What You Do," has some things she needs to talk to about. She doesn’t want to act like your mom or anything, but she’d like to know (and so would we), just what exactly you’re planning on doing with your life. Dorothy decided 25 years ago what to do with her life, and she has been doing the hell out of it ever since. She’s learned a lot about running a business, personal growth, and, of course, the culinary arts. But what you need to know is how to do what she did, even if you’re not into cooking. So, with that, here’s how to find your dream job:
MM: Many are being forced to be less selective in this economy when it comes to jobs. I guess the first question is this: Is it really reasonable to assume you can have a dream career of your own when so many Americans have no career at all?
DH: There still are plenty of Americans who have jobs in professions they enjoy. It’s about one’s perspective. You have to ask yourself: What is my dream job? And is it within reach? You have to take the personal probing steps to find out what you need to do in order to achieve that dream job and then you need to do it.
MM: What’s the starting point? Say I wanted to start my dream career next month. What should I do today?
DH: Be realistic. What is it that you want to achieve? And is that attainable? If you’re a 50 year old and want to be a dancer, it ain’t gonna happen. Is your dream job within your reach? What does the job entail? You have to do your homework.
MM: Where are some good places to look for jobs that you think people aren’t utilizing already?
DH: I don’t think people talk enough to other people. Talk to your cousins, parents, friends, neighbors et al and see what kinds of interesting careers and jobs are available. Email your whole list of contacts. Remember there are six degrees of separation. I recently received an email through my brother from a long lost cousin whose son had served in Iraq and who was now interested in attending culinary school. My cousin had vaguely remembered that I was involved in culinary education so through a long chain of emails, he found me. His son is now enrolling at FCI.
MM: What specifically excites you about culinary arts, how did you get into it, and what can people learn from your experience starting the French Culinary Institute?
DH: The deliciousness of the culinary arts appeals to me. I love the end result of cooking!
I returned to NYC during the recession of 1974. I was an English major in college and had just served in the Peace Corp in Thailand. I had no job skills or opportunities so I took the only job available to me—a job at my father’s trade school in NYC. I loved it. I loved working with the students. From there, I followed my passion for cooking and food after I visited culinary schools in Europe. I convinced my dad to create a culinary trade school in NYC and the FCI was born.
The lesson learned from my experience is that anyone can do it. I was a middle-class average high school student from Brooklyn.
MM: Let’s say I’m lucky enough to have a choice between three positions. What criteria would you suggest I use to choose the best fit that I might not otherwise have considered?
DH: Instinct. Go with your gut. Also, you want to work in an environment where you like the people. You want to enjoy your work. And your colleagues are a big component of this enjoyment. Even if you’re working in separate cubicles, you’re still a team and it has to be fun.
MM: If you had to restart and begin a new career right now that wasn’t in the culinary arts, what would you do and how would you do it?
DH: I’d be a yoga instructor. Since I’m an entrepreneur, of course, I’d make a business of it. I’d learn from the best teachers at the best yoga school. I’d take different classes at different yoga studios to learn about the type of yoga practice I wanted to teach. I’d have the patience to practice and to learn. It’s about investing in yourself.
MM: How do your criteria for finding a job shift when in a more favorable economy?
DH: If you had to boil down finding your dream career to a single sentence, what would that sentence be?
You know what your dream career is– you have to find the courage to take a serious step in that direction.