Searching for a new job can be a daunting and unpleasant process. Staring into the abyss of online applications, confronting rejection, doubt, and anxiety about the future all the while. Within the food industry, Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle, co-founders of Good Food Jobs, are hoping to turn this process on its head.
“The job-searching process can be incredibly isolating, stress-inducing, fraught with judgment, difficulty and overall toxic in many ways,” said Cocalis. “We want to create a cultural shift for the whole process to become something different – for it to be seen as a time that’s full of opportunity and a chance to make meaningful change. It’s a time for meeting new people and creating a foundation of relationships that can cause incredible things to happen in life.”
Searching With Intention
Good Food Jobs describes itself as a “gastro-job search tool, designed to link people looking for meaningful food work with the businesses that need their energy, enthusiasm, and intellect.” The site posts opportunities with farmers, food artisans, policy makers, restaurateurs, economists, and more.
Good Food Jobs has enjoyed steady growth since its inception in 2010. At any given time, the site boasts over 1,000 active job listings. They’ve posted more than 25,000 listings so far, and the company’s weekly newsletter currently reaches more than 48,000 subscribers.
While other job-search platforms focus on posting as many jobs as possible, Cocalis and Neagle place a stronger emphasis on the caliber of each listing. They review every post before it is published on the site to ensure that each one complies with their editorial policy, and if questions arise, they personally reach out to employers to get answers.
“We’re not selling a product, but providing a service, and our goal is to curate an incredible selection of jobs that will attract a great community of people,” said Cocalis.
Good Food Jobs has built its community of users largely through word of mouth. Everything they do, Neagle says, is based on establishing strong relationships. So, while people might discover the site when looking for a job, they end coming back for other reasons.
“We’re always surprised to hear how people use the site,” said Cocalis. “Some aren’t even looking for jobs. They use our site as a way to keep a finger on the pulse of the food industry or feel inspired by our weekly newsletters.”
A Business Built on Friendship
The Good Food Jobs co-founders have been close friends since their college days at Cornell University, and in conversation, they sound like two voices speaking from one mind, stopping just short of completing each other’s sentences. After graduation, Cocalis spent time studying food culture in Italy, while Neagle pursued a career in interior design. When Cocalis returned to the United States, she landed “a dream job of sorts,” running the education department at Murray’s Cheese, an artisanal and specialty foods store in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Cocalis and Neagle had remained close over the years, but starting a business was a way to spend more time together.
“We felt going into business together was the next best step for our friendship. It would seal our fates,” said Neagle.
But they did not take the plunge immediately. The idea for Good Food Jobs was conceived on a road trip in June 2009, and through determination and “many conversations over ice cream,” Good Food Jobs launched in May 2010 as a newsletter to 100 of their personal contacts.
“I’d love to say we knew what we were doing from the start, but the truth is, it has evolved so much over the course of the past five years,” said Cocalis. “It’s become so much more than a job-search engine. It’s about creating a greater sense of connectedness, restoring balance, appreciating nature, and understanding that jobs are about so much more than work.”
Both co-founders say the partnership is critical to their success – in fact, Neagle said she never would have gone into business on her own.
“I used to think starting a business required a certain gene or skill set, that entrepreneurs just knew things I didn’t even have access to,” she said. “It was so empowering to learn about the process together. Ultimately it’s just about asking questions and being determined.”
On the Horizon for Good Food Jobs
Cocalis and Neagle hope to continue to highlight the value and meaning of food-related work. “All too often, food jobs are disparaged,” said Cocalis. “In the case of service positions, they may not be considered a ‘real career’, or in the case of celebrity chefs, they are romanticized. We want to provide a space where people can learn about and share the realities of good food jobs – with all of the barriers and benefits that come along with the work.”
In addition, they are continuing to grow the Good Food Jobs community, both online and in-person. Last spring, they took a stance on unpaid internships, banning postings that did not include any form of payment.
For Cocalis and Neagle, it all comes down to doing something you love with people you feel connected to, which is exactly what they have done with Good Food Jobs. Both were college tour guides and they see many parallels between their college jobs and what they do today, guiding people to make decisions about their futures. Neagle summed it up with these guiding questions: “How do you want work to interact with the life that you want? Do you want your work to represent who you are and how you see the world? How can you spend more time doing a job you truly love?”
The co-founders don’t just pay lip service to the notion of service and dignity – it’s a core principle of their business. Both noted how newsletter subscribers often express their surprise when they receive a personal response from one of them to an emailed question or comment.
“Every Tuesday we send out a newsletter to 48,000 strangers wondering who these people are, if anything we’re saying resonates,” said Cocalis. “We love every chance we have to meet people who are a part of this community.”
This is part of an ongoing series designed to feature people who are changing the world. Our Modern Day Pioneers are impacting everything from culture to social issues to the environment, and they’re challenging the status quo in a unique way. We hope these stories will inspire you and empower you to live your life to its fullest in Levi’s.
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Feature photo credit: Lise Metzger