A student’s experience of trying to break into the career she loves

Gather 2019 kicked off on Sept. 25, 2019, at the JW Marriott Venice, Italy. Both a showcase and celebration of upscale food and beverage, the festival welcomed hundreds of guests, including top professionals, social media influencers, celebrity chefs, and renowned pioneers of the industry. Lauren Krupczak, senior public relations major and photography minor at The University of Georgia, attended as a guest and photographer as well as an aspiring Food and Beverage leader trying to get her foot in the door.

“I didn’t always appreciate his career, but for the last four years I’ve begun to look up to my stepfather, Jason Sanders, as a pioneer of the field and a mentor,” she said. “He was one of the leads in charge of the conference, and he gave me and my mother tickets. As a thank you, and as a career move, I decided to take pictures as a form of ‘payment’ for my ticket.”

Krupczak discussed that she has been wanting to learn more about the field of food and beverage and has been looking for an opportunity to demonstrate not only her passion but the food and beverage experience she has gotten from her various entry-level jobs in the industry.

“It really became apparent to me at my sophomore year of college that I could turn my love for events and people into a career,” Krupczak said. “I knew I had a lot to learn about what food and beverage actually are, but I’ve been studying the craft as much as possible in preparation.”

Krupczak has spent the last two years reading various books and articles concerning the culinary arts and mixology such as The Cocktail Bible. Her core belief is if she wants to succeed in the world of food and beverage, she needs to truly understand every aspect of it before reaching her goal of becoming an industry leader. Attending the conference was her first behind the scenes glimpse of her possible future career, but it was not all glamorous and dream fulfilling.

“I learned that it’s a hard and sometimes lonely world,” Krupczak recounted. “It can be difficult to find your fit and get your foot in the door. There’s the obvious fact that the hours are unusually long, with weekends and holidays being work focused rather than leisure, but it goes deeper than that.”

Krupczak went on to discuss feeling as if she was an outsider. “I struggled to find the boundaries between communicating what I’ve learned or excitement I had for the challenging career and staying quiet and purely listening to avoid seeming arrogant or unteachable,” Krupczak said.

While Krupczak may have the basics down, she felt that she was nowhere near the level of expertise of those attending, which was obviously expected. She stated a feeling of “treading the line” between trying to show off her knowledge to gain respect and garner connections to help her advance into this industry and expressing humble adoration for those who have been in the industry longer than she has been alive. Krupczak felt out of her depth yet she felt like she was exactly where she was supposed to be. At times, however, it was almost suffocating.

“I feel like a lot of students experience this while entering their first year in the workforce post-graduation or while working at their summer internship. It’s a weird feeling to have to walk the tightrope of proving yourself every single day and showcasing your awareness of your naivety to not resemble an arrogant child. I’ve experienced this at summer jobs, internships, and even in the classroom,” Krupczak said.

Krupczak adds that there is hope for fellow students battling the same feelings. “Sometimes you just have to hold your tongue to not dominate a conversation,” she said.

“When you stand on the peripheral instead of the spotlight, you can see and hear things you might not have noticed previously. Not just conversations, but advice; I heard the same piece of advice for the millionth time, but something about letting my intellect go gave it a new meaning.”

Krupczak has one main piece of advice for any students attending conferences, or working in entry-level jobs or internships: let go of your ego and experience every moment with fresh eyes.

“There is too much pressure on college students to be both the perfectly moldable clay for employers and better than any other person applying for the same position,” she stated.

“Once you let go of the fears of your future and immediate achievement of your dreams, you can focus more on the simplicity of what you are doing in that moment,” Krupczak said.

Krupczak described the event as being more than just eye-opening. It allowed her to better see and appreciate the opportunities present. She described a history with being overwhelmed with career anxiety, so this alternate perspective helped her let go and just enjoy “this once in a lifetime” experience.

Krupczak hopes that people can hear her story and feel understood. She also wants students to know that they are not alone in the battle between being who they are and who they want to be while being socially accepted.

“Again, I cannot stress enough how incredible this experience was,” Krupczak went on. “I learned about wine I had only read about by actually trying it. I was able to watch and listen to mixologists demonstrate the techniques I had attempted while working behind a bar this past summer. I saw the realities in a different way than I had previously seen from my work experiences. Realites that were exhaustive, chaotic, and beautiful. As a bonus, I captured moments of the event that before, I hadn’t had the means or exposure necessary to construct. Who knows, I may even get a job out of it.”

Krupczak hopes to continue her studies but with a new perspective, one she hopes to communicate with her peers. She wants to keep this education mindset focusing on the work rather than herself, the creator of the product.

“You can learn a lot by just listening, which is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s ok to take a step back and show that you can learn; once you gain that respect then you can demonstrate why you’ve earned your position. Opportunities like this don’t come around all that often, so it’s important not to waste them on petty showcases of your own worth; they really aren’t needed,” she concluded.

Photographs and further testaments about Krupczak’s experience can be found online at her website https://lurlur98.wixsite.com/mysite

Photos provided by Lauren Krupczak