Last year I sort of stalled on my progress towards becoming a “working” nutritional coach. I used lots of excuses. I work six days a week just to pay the bills. The radio show. Stuff like that. Bottom line, they were just that – excuses.
One thing that was not an excuse is that I feel I do need more training. Not that I ever will (or want to) get to the point where I won’t continue to learn, but when it comes to starting my own business doing this… I was still lacking.
I had heard about the Institute of Integrated Nutrition here and there and at first I pretty much dismissed it. Quick summary, it’s online learning using various online tools including pre-recorded talks by various “experts”. A year ago at this time, I didn’t know anything about any of those experts. Now I know more, and it has, in my eyes, lent a fair amount of credibility to this program. As another bonus, they don’t just do the “health coaching” aspect, they also get in to the business aspects. So last October I decided this was the route I was going to go. I would still like to maybe get some sort of degree at some point, but this seemed like a good “next step”.
Here’s the thing though… Did you catch that part in the first paragraph where I said I work six days a week just to pay the bills. Well, I over-exaggerated a bit. My full-time doesn’t actually cover my bills. I’ve continually had to do other things once in awhile to earn another hundred bucks here and there just to keep .. Well, almost current on my bills. So if I’m going to tackle on a year long program that is gonna cost about six grand, I needed to figure out where the money was going to come from. In other words, a second job.
I’ve always said if it came down to it, I’d do just about any job to get what I needed. Good in theory, but sometimes in practice you need to be a bit more practical. I wanted to get something I felt I could enjoy doing, because I’m likely going to be doing it for at least the next 1-2 years. Early on I focused on Panera Bread. I spend a lot (too much?) time in their stores.
Thursdays at the one in Hopkins between my day-job and my weekly meeting for the radio show. Every other Tuesday at the Blaine location after hitting the gym in order to grab some food before my speaking deal at my surgeon’s classes. Every other Wednesday in Roseville before my support group meeting. And way too many other evenings at the Maplewood one over the summer when it was too hot to sit in my non-air-conditioned home.
For a gastric bypass patient like myself, Panera may seem like an odd choice. Many folks who have had bariatric surgery avoid breads as they can tend to get stuck. For better or worse, depending on your point of view, I don’t have the problem. And overall, the menu at Panera has a lot of healthy choices. A cup of Broccoli Cheddar soup is only 200 Calories. The Chicken Noodle is a mere 80 Calories. They have four Cafe Sandwiches that are under 300 Calories for a half-sandwich. There’s three Cafe Salads all under 200 Calories. If you avoid the baguette as the side (which I admit, I am not always able to do), you can get the pick two and have a HUGE meal for someone like me that’s under 500 calories. Even if you go for a Signature Salad (the ones with meat on them), all six are under 300 Calories. Go Protein!
I know all this because Panera Bread is one of the few companies that is voluntarily posting their calorie counts on their menu boards. A very handy thing I tell ya. And their website, it’s interactive letting you put together your own combos and it cranking out the nutritional information based on that. Considering the education I’m pursuing, it’s a company I think I can feel good about working for.
So between stuff like that, the level of customer service I’ve seen while here, what I’ve learned about the company in general, when I decided I needed a job I targeted Panera for getting one.
One problem. It was already late October. I started about a month too late I think. Everyone had pretty much done their “holiday hiring” by this time. And the other thing I didn’t like – online applications. Yea, it meant I could apply to multiple locations at once. But I knew my application wasn’t going to give the whole storey. I needed to get in front of the manager. So over the next few weeks I did that as best I could. Dropping by the stores hoping to “casually” ask the manager if they were hiring. I pretty much struck out at the Roseville and Maplewood stores. They were my first choices because of location in relation to the day job and home. So I expanded my search to the one on the other side of town I’m in almost every Thursday (including being here as I type this right now). Chatted with a manager for a few minutes, but they just weren’t hiring right now.
I expanded the reach a bit more to include Vadnais Heights. It’s close enough to home for me, but the opposite direction for the day job so getting there would be tough sometimes if there’s bad weather or traffic. I also checked in at Blaine. Much more out of my ways, but I needed to keep trying. This was mid-December. I actually connected with the manager there. They weren’t hiring there, but just after Christmas he was going to be moving to the newest one opening up in Saint Paul. He said they were also full up, but we had a good chat and he said to get in touch with him come January. He figured after the first month or so they’d likely have some turn-over or need more people depending on how things went. I gave him one of my cards and told him a bit about the radio show before I left that day.
A couple weeks later, I was in there again and he was working… And he remembered me. Even coming over to say hi and ask how the radio show was. This was one of his last days in Blaine as his new store was opening the next week. And this is why I wanted the face time. To make an impression.
I know it’s been 15+ years since I’ve worked in a restaurant, but I know this work. I’m good at it. I know customer service. I’m good at it. I knew if I could get in front of these managers, I could make sure they knew I would be an asset.
The next day I get a call from one of the managers at the Vadnais Heights location asking if I could come in for an interview. I did so the following day, and before I left she had me schedule a time to come back to interview with the General Manager. I knew right then I was in. Unfortunately it was almost a week before there was an opportunity for the next interview… Then that got bumped to Monday the 2nd. Oh well. Poop occurs, right? Well, Monday came around and I went in for the interview… Half hour later, I was hired. And about three hours after that I was back in the store for the quarterly “Bread Bash” where they get the employees together to learn about and sample the menu items that are new for that coming quarter. Now I got back tomorrow for orientation, and then unfortunately I don’t have my official training till a week from Saturday. The radio show this week conflicts – I’m hosting, so I kind of have to be there.
Now, this didn’t happen on the time-table I was hoping. Oh well. The coursework I want to take starts in a bit over a week, and I won’t have the money for it yet. Next start date is March 27. So I will have some time to save up some money and be ready for taking on the payments. So while things haven’t worked exactly the way I wanted, by being persistent, confident, and flexible… they are working out. And I will continue to MAKE things work out. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, what’s a couple of months?