Have you noticed the sudden uptick in baking recently? Considering the current situation, it’s not entirely surprising. I’ve scoured through endless images on Pinterest myself, and my YouTube video feed is now a veritable buffet of “How to cook…” options.

There are so many similarities between crafting healthy, delicious, and exciting meals and crafting healthy, satisfying, and exciting careers. You may or may not be one of the many people facing career uncertainty at the moment. Either way, I think now is the ideal time to figure out what your career menu is going to look like in the future.

What would be good to add to your repertoire?

Nothing more perfectly sums up this cooking-up-a-future idea than this clip of Meryl Streep as Julia Child, learning how to chop onions.

Let’s break the thinking down.

  1. She understands what she can do now and what she still needs to learn to become her aspirational self. Does she need to improve her skills at cooking? Totally. But she’s ambitious, and she has much higher aspirations than merely acquiring skills. So rather than just learning to “boil an egg,” she surrounds herself with professionals. Now it’s your turn to envision your future self. Who is that person, and what skills will they already need to know by then?

  2. When the master teaches, she listens and validates. Julia could’ve avoided the embarrassment and figured out how to hold a knife for herself. But instead, when the teacher shows her how she takes in the lesson. Yes, with a big dash of humor—which is her way—but listen, she does.

  3. She practices. Motivated by embarrassment and humiliation, Julia takes extra time to practice the skill. You, too, have to practice. A study published in Psychological Science proves that when we watch someone doing a skill, it makes us think we’ll be better at the new skill. The fact is that you won’t get better until you actually do it. So what skill in your repertoire could be made stronger with some individual practice?

Everything Julia did lead to her mastery. And her mastery lead to an appearance of effortlessness and what looks like magic. The same goes for you. I have no doubt there’s already something you do that looks like magic to others. How can you build on that?

MISE EN PLACE

Mise en place is a French term for “setting in place, positioning” when it comes to cooking. It’s a simple idea that goes like this. Have all the ingredients chopped, organized, and easy to reach—then, when you start cooking, you’ll be fast, efficient, and accurate. And the preparation shows in the final dish you deliver.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had far too many experiences when I’ve forgotten to add a key ingredient when I’m cooking. The result? Usually a disgusting disaster.

As a professional, we all need a mise en place—essential ingredients at our fingertips or the tip of our tongues—to ensure good results. (And no, I’m not talking about having your resume up to date. That’s boring, and you know me better than that.)

You can figure out what you need in your career “mise en place” by starting with a simple question: “What do you want to be doing in the next two years?”

If you answered, “I want to be X title,” that’s a start. But I want you to dig deeper.

Who is that person?
What are they doing?
What skills have they mastered in preparation?
What problems is this person known for solving? (FYI, strategic is not the right answer. Again, don’t be boring.)

If you don’t know the answers, it’s worth taking some time to figure them out. Ultimately, the answer to your “mise en place” list is uniquely yours. So like a chef, take a step back and look at your ingredients, figure out your menu, and then start figuring out what to prepare.

YOUR SIGNATURE DISH

Every master chef is known for their signature style and signature dish. Binge-watch one season of Chef’s Table, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Each and every artist combines food in unique, delicious and honestly, beautiful ways. It’s their signature style that causes people to flock to their restaurants and get on waitlists for elusive, months-ahead reservations.

As you listen to them talk, there’s a theme that emerges. Each chef—through an epic amount of tenacious hard work, and also with the support of someone else who saw their potential—experimented with their craft. And what manifests in that experimentation perfectly sums up who they are as an artist.

So how can you experiment with your ingredients to make something that’s uniquely you?

Here’s what I know about you. You are an artist. Your medium isn’t limited to edible goods and heat. Maybe it’s numbers, maybe it’s words, or perhaps it’s empathy. I can’t tell you what your medium is without getting to know you a little better. But I know you have people around you, people who know you professionally, who do know.

Why don’t you ask them where they’d like to see you experiment with your skills? Who knows, doing something different might create a professional signature dish. One that is uniquely you.

So, are you game for figuring out how to be a better “cook” in your profession? Since it’s so much more fun to do things together—and couldn’t we all benefit from realizing we aren’t alone right about now?—I’m inviting you to try this:

Share a photo of whatever you’ve cooked recently. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Tag us on Instagram or Twitter so we can see and applaud you for your efforts.

Until next time. I’m excited about meeting the future you!

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