By Marisa LoBianco, Department of Career Services

Do you love cooking and being around food? Spend hours watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks? Daydream about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen? Then make 2014 the year you pursue a fulfilling, creative future in food.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to take a step back and reevaluate your professional goals. While choosing a creative path or changing careers may seem daunting, it can also lead to a deeper level of satisfaction in your professional life. A career in food means that you never stop learning, from troubleshooting new techniques to experimenting with exotic ingredients. In addition, it offers the opportunity to enjoy the tangible results of your hard work and to share the fruit of that labor with others.

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Whether you’re just getting out of school or have spent significant time in another career, you have already developed transferable skills that will help you succeed in the food world. What’s important is to assess your interests, skills, likes, dislikes—and whether your present job is meeting your needs. Reflect on which working styles, environments and activities leave you feeling fulfilled or frustrated, empowered or exhausted—and use this as a guide for your future decisions.

That doesn’t mean the decision is easy. Like any career path, committing to a culinary career involves some sacrifices. You may have to start at the bottom and work your way up, at times committing evenings, weekends and holidays to your job. Remain reasonable and acknowledge that making small sacrifices now will pay off in the future. For those who are truly passionate and determined, there are endless employment opportunities in the culinary industry to fit your personal interests and working style.

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Volunteering with experienced chefs and externing are great ways to build on the foundations of your culinary training and to learn about the industry. These are experiences we facilitate at ICE, so that you can enter the job market with valuable references and industry contacts. In 2013 alone, we placed 498 externs in 292 establishments across the country. But the most important thing you bring to the table is your attitude and willingness to learn—the top characteristics employers say they look for in our graduates.

From sous chefs to cake artists, food writers to restaurant owners, our students have found success in every corner of the food industry. You too can have an invigorating new lifestyle and share your passion, skills, and creations with the world. It’s possible to say “I love my job!” and mean it.

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