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By: Dr. John T. Self

What's your Career Path?

Isn't it funny how you can't get through a day in this industry without careful planning, and yet many managers never take the time to plan out their career?

Think of your food service career as a road trip. First you have to have a destination. Regional manager? Part-owner? How does CEO sound to you? Once you've planned your destination, you need to figure out what steps you'll need to take to get there.

Let's say do you want to be CEO someday. To get there, you probably go from manager-in-training, to assistant, to general manager, to supervisor, to regional, to Vice president, and then finally to CEO.

What about the time that you think it will take? If you don't know, look around at your superiors. How long have they been in their jobs? Don't be afraid to ask around.

The next obvious question is: What skills and experience will you need to complete each step? More specifically, how will you get to the next step in your journey?

This is where your current boss can help. You need to communicate regularly with your boss to determine what you should be doing and learning that would help you. Are you perceived as weak in the kitchen? Should you be more organized? Are you too close to your employees? Too out-of-touch?

Find out now. Don't wait for your performance evaluations: By then, its' too late! Even if you are given regular performance evaluations, ask for a meeting to discuss what your boss' perception is of you so that you can work on them. Make SURE that you communicate that your goal is to be promoted and that is the standard that you want to be measured by, even if you are a brand new manager-in-training.

Remember that it is not how you are doing in your current job that is key to your promotion. It is whether your boss thinks that you can handle the next level that is important.

For example, just because a cook is efficient and fast does not mean he would be a good manager. For the cook to be promotable, he would have to demonstrate that he is reliable, able to handle different situations, cool, not temperamental, respected, etc. The cook would have to be seen as someone who could be a manager.

Without knowing how your boss perceives you, it is impossible to get to the next level of management. And if you can't get to the next level, your journey is over before it began.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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