Most people spend about a third of their waking hours at work. Some of you are probably smacking your forehead in disbelief as your read this and saying ‘What?! Only a third?!” Whatever the tally of hours, the quality of the time we spend at work is often neglected, we’re all in a rush to just get out the door and back to our ‘real lives’. But work is life and in true Goodlifer fashion we believe in making the best of it. Good Work is a column devoted to exploring the things that make the experience of finding, doing and being at work better. Move over lifestyle — make room for workstyle!
It’s a familiar story — two people who are itching for meaningful work team up to create their dream jobs. It’s the kind of story that seems designed to make the rest of us insanely jealous. But this story has a twist. In the case of Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle their dream job makes it easier for a whole group of people — those in the food industry — to find meaningful work of their own, and to help fix the food system along the way. The forum they created to take on these ambitious tasks is called Good Food Jobs, and though the site’s focus is the food industry, their ethos about what it takes to find the right job has universal implications.
The impetus to create the site came from a shared passion for food and a realization that the food industry was lacking an effective meeting point for job seekers and potential employers. Like most good ideas it didn’t happen overnight — for a long time Cocalis kept saying “someone needs to build this website”, periodically broadcasting her desire to her extensive food industry network. Finally, on a serendipitous road trip up to Cornell, the founders’ alma mater where they met as campus tour guides, Cocalis was once again expressing her wish when she finally turned to Neagle and said “we need to build this website”. So they did.
On its surface, Good Food Jobs is an online job search engine catering to the food community (pun intended). On a deeper level, the site functions as a gateway to a set of resources and a network of food industry professionals. If you follow the GFJ newsletter you will become familiar with Cocalis and Neagle’s seemingly endless ability to turn challenges into teachable moments; musings on living well appear as often as discussions of career development and particularly juicy job listings. Additional inspiration flows from the Gastrognomes blog where weekly installments highlight food industry innovators. Combined, these different aspects of GFJ aim to help users redefine what work is, what wealth is and how to create value for themselves. Cocalis and Neagle hope to humanize the job search experience; to make it easier and less emotional by injecting some compassion into both sides of the hiring and application process.
The personalized touch, evident in the warm and welcoming aesthetic of the site, is no accident. As GFJ matured, Cocalis and Neagle began to recognize parallels between the broken food system and the stagnating job search industry. They focused their efforts on reintroducing substance, meaning and complexity into the job search culture. What started out as a project about food and jobs has evolved to include increasing amounts of community and relationship building. Cocalis says: “The same way that we want everyone to enjoy the pleasure of a perfectly ripe peach and to support food organizations that they believe in… we want job seekers to find meaningful work with businesses that are doing work they are proud of.” The way they see it, the job search tool provides a valuable service and generates revenue that helps fund GFJ’s other activities to promote positive food culture and positive job culture. Cocalis explains: “We intentionally built a democratic system. We don’t fund the site via banner and sidebar advertising. Instead, each organization pays $60 per job listing. This allows us to spend our time and energy building the community, rather than chasing down advertisers.” The pair asserts that these other activities — speaking, teaching, writing, providing technical and community support — are what make GFJ worthwhile for everyone.
Neagle and Cocalis are enthusiastic advocates for getting out into the community and getting your hands dirty. They maintain that it is through meeting people, learning new things and getting exposure in your chosen field that opportunities reveal themselves. They credit this very approach for helping them come up with the idea for GFJ — their combined experience of meeting and talking to a wide array of people helped them launch the site and continues to inform their efforts to propose ideas and provide inspiration for the community.
“When people write to us they don’t say ‘thanks for helping me to get that job’, they say ‘thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling’, or ‘thank you for proving that there are things that you can do with food beyond working in a restaurant kitchen’,” Neagle says. GFJ’s creative approach enriches the food community. Underlying the entire enterprise is Neagle and Cocalis’ strong conviction that even the most humble job can make a difference and that pursuing your passion will pay off in social, economic and gastronomic ways. They are taking the long view that building a stronger food community will benefit everyone — from job seekers, to business owners, to eaters. A great example from Good Food Jobs!