How I Moved from Hostess to Hiring Leader
August 7, 2017
I took my first job out of high school because of tiramisu. Yes—the dessert.
It all started with those decadent layers of vanilla cream, espresso soaked cake and rich chocolate shavings. Let me explain. When I was in school and determining where to apply for a job while in college, I knew I wanted to work for a company that I truly believed in. One whose products I actually enjoyed for myself, and whose people I felt would support me. And the product I loved more than almost anything else? California Pizza Kitchen's tiramisu. If you've tried it, you understand.
I started as a hostess, learning the ropes of how a restaurant works, testing products (lucky me) and working with a team of motivated individuals. Fast forward 13 years, and I was a recruiting leader for CPK restaurants and headquarters, responsible for building the same teams that I joined when I started. When did I take the 90-degree turn toward hiring? And how did I move from hostess to leading this important team, all at the same company? It was all thanks to a wealth of growth opportunities, the desire to keep learning and a whole lot of passion for the company purpose.
My Journey, Fueled by Tiramisu
When I entered CPK as a 17 year old, I wanted a job I liked. Plain and simple. As a college student in Southern California, I was looking for energy, friends and a steady income to support my life outside of class. Starting as a hostess, I figured the job would be pretty simple: greeting and seating guests; managing reservations; collecting menus. But right off the bat, I learned everything one could ever need to know about being a hostess. I tested menu items to make sure I could describe our cuisine; I learned the order of service so I could project wait times, help fill in when I needed. and juggle many people and many tasks all at once.
Eventually, I saw an opening for a serving position, and I took it. I began training new servers and hosts that came in, moved locations (more than once) and was encouraged to apply for a restaurant management position by leadership. With training in place to bridge the gap between running a section of tables to running a shift and overseeing a restaurant, I was able to make the transition to restaurant management. It was a major responsibility that I enjoyed and was grateful for—but ultimately, I had to choose whether I was going to continue in restaurant management or try my hand at something new.
A favorite manager of mine told me about a position in recruiting that had opened up at the company—and all of a sudden, it just clicked. The importance of creating a company environment that people wanted to be a part of was not lost on me—in fact, I lived it. And building the kinds of opportunities that I had at CPK for others would be perhaps the most meaningful way I could spend my days. So I interviewed, got the job, and worked my way up from there.
The Value of Potential
I could sit here and chalk up my ladder-climbing to personal tenacity, hard work or a headstrong desire to always keep moving. And sure, maybe some of it was that.
But really, it was the internal mobility that CPK offered me and the rest of its employees—the fact that they not only trusted, but invested, in my potential. According to a Gallup study from 2016, 87 percent of the working millennial population says that professional development is crucial in a job. As the number of workers who stay at a job for more than four years decreases, companies have to work with employees to build careers on their terms—or else they'll just leave. And contrary to popular belief, most employees don't want to jump ship: In fact, a Cornerstone report found that 66 percent of people look internally for a new position first. The problem? Only 32 percent of employers encourage people to work in other departments.
I was lucky to work at a company among that 32 percent for my first job, and it's something I've continued to value in an employer at every step in my career. Companies like CPK—then Oakley, and now Cornerstone OnDemand—trained me for what I could be in the future and gave me the skills I needed to take the next steps, whether that was a server, a manager or even a recruiter. For CPK, they held onto an employee that was passionate, engaged and skilled—and in today's constant hunt for quality candidates, those employees can be hard to find.
As a Director of Talent Acquisition now, I understand why this approach worked so well. My employer showed me my value, when they could've just shown me the door. In a market that feels scary, huge and impersonal, a company that treats employees as individuals and invests resources in helping them find their place (continuously) is one that breeds happy workers—and always has a full pipeline.
And pro tip: free tiramisu doesn't hurt either.