How to Stay Relevant in the Work Place


In an increasingly aggressive job market, staying relevant is no longer a choice but a necessity. It’s important to do everything you can to stay competitive.  Employers have increasingly higher expectations of their employees and it is important to stay one step ahead.

There are many pieces to this puzzle.  Here are a few tips for getting and staying relevant that will help you prove your value to your current or future employer.These strategies are beneficial for current employees, job seekers, college grads, or individuals re-entering the workforce.

Read and Attend Meetings

Read trade journals, articles and anything you can get your hands on related to your career and industry you work in. Try to take 30-60 minutes a week to read the latest industry or career news.   Along with staying current via the news, attend classes, industry relevant meetings and conferences.

Stay in the Loop                                     

Set up Google Alerts. One option is to subscribe to key words within your specialty area (“CPG recruiters,” “food science,” “food industry”). In addition to setting up an alert for your own company, you can also set up an alert for your competitors’ companies.

Continuing Education

A key piece to staying relevant in the work place is education and ongoing professional development. Many professions require continuing education to maintain licensure and credentials. It is something that a great workplace values and certainly benefits from as employees return to the workplace with new experiences and insights.


The key to successful networking is to be able to tap into sources of expertise, recommendations, and advice from those with different or greater experience than you have. But don’t forget, these relationships are about give and take; it shouldn’t be just about your needs.

Social Media

Social media, a rapidly evolving structure, is a powerful tool to inform, motivate and influence.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram are a great way to network and express your authenticity.  That being said, professional behavior is a must, all the time, on every platform.

Update your Successes

At year end, just after your performance review update your resume and LinkedIn page with successes from the year before.  This is a great way to keep your LinkedIn account and resume up to date and relevant without having to think back to what you did 5 years ago.

Investing time each week in your own professional development will increase your satisfaction with your current position and will keep you relevant and growing for future opportunities.  Set goals and hold yourself accountable with this process, trust me it will be well worth your time.

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Six Things to Consider About Job References


We are all familiar with the famous tagline that is often used at the bottom of resumes “references provided upon request.”  But, what happens when they are actually requested?  Often times, we find ourselves scrambling to put a list of people together and send it off as quickly as possible to the interested employer.  It’s just a formality right?  That’s not often the case says Julie Curtis, Owner and Executive Recruiter at Curtis Food Recruiters.  According to Julie, “a great reference can provide a significant amount of insight into a person’s background that the candidate is not always able to articulate.”  Often, references are considered as one more way to evaluate a candidate, and a great reference can be the deciding factor between two otherwise equal candidates.  As a regular reference checker, in my experience, the candidates that are the most prepared with their references, also tend to be some of our best hires.  Here are six tips on how to be one of those people:

Ensure the person knows that you are using them as a reference.  When an employer asks you to provide your references, let them know that they may be getting a phone call.  I can tell when I have called a reference that is caught off-guard either because they weren’t expecting my call, or they may not have been aware that the person was using them as a reference.  The person may have given you permission to use their name in the past, but it is important to always keep them updated on your job search, so they are prepared.  If they are expecting the call, they will be more able to provide clear and concise answers, which will reflect more favorably on you.

Make sure that you are being equally represented.  Highlight your skills and strengths from all angles, by having various references and keeping ties with them.  According to Julie, “We typically ask candidates to provide a reference from a former boss, a peer and a direct report.  Each year, make sure that you can identify one person from these groups that will be able to give specific examples of your contributions, strengths, and leadership style.”   If you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask your estranged boss from five years ago for a reference, it will be more difficult.  Stay connected to your references on LinkedIn, so even though you may not have regular contact, that person will be aware of your activity and you will be in the fore-front of their mind.  Send a quick email, or have a cup of coffee periodically, just to stay in touch.

Properly prep your reference.  Keep your references updated on your current work situation.  Make sure they have a current copy of your resume or ensure your Linked In profile is up to date.  Provide information about the job you are interviewing for and let them know why you’re looking to make a change.  It addition, it is important to give them an idea of some of the questions they will be asked.  To make the reference interview go smoothly, make sure they can talk to your overall performance and impact on the company.  Also share with them how you have improved your performance, leadership, education or skills since you two worked together.  Areas for professional development are often much harder to articulate.


Know that your reference will say good things about you.  Make sure that your reference knows you well enough to be able to make you shine.  If you did not have a good working relationship with your former boss and you don’t think they will be able to provide a good reference, consider other senior people you may have worked with in the organization.  It’s ok to ask the person what they will say about you.  If the person seems reluctant, they may not be your best choice.

Make sure you have correct contact information and provide reference details.  Your role at this point, is to do what you can to make the reference process go as smoothly and quickly as possible.  Provide your title and the reference’s title at the time when you were working together, your working relationship and the company you were both working for.  Include your reference’s current title and company as well.  Provide current and accurate work and personal emails, work phone, cell phone and home number, if possible.  I once spent several days trying to track down someone at a job they no longer worked at, but their voicemail was still connected.  This definitely slowed the hiring process.  Also, to help speed up the process, let the potential employer or executive recruiter know the best way to contact your reference.

Let your references know that you appreciate them.  Even though the person may be happy to speak on your behalf, it does take time out of their busy day.  It’s important to let them know that you appreciate them.  A card, a little gift or even a quick email to say thank you and update them on the outcome can go a long way.  This person may have been the reason why you got the job, and it is important to keep them in you corner!


-Marianne Lenz

Curtis Food Recruiters



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Thank you notes

Thank youWhen I receive a  thank you note, whether it is in the mail or electronic it truly one of my favorite things. Not so long ago almost anyone knew how to write a thank you note, so how did we lose this skill?  When I ask my kids about this they respond with ” well I said thank you, isn’t that enough?” Somewhere between rushing to sporting events, concerts and life in general,  I have failed them.  Admitting it is the first step right? My girls are applying for their first jobs this summer and I have created a guideline for them to follow for thank you notes after their interviews, it doesn’t matter if it is your first job at a fast food restaurant or if you are interviewing for a Vice President role the rules are the same.

Following an interview, promptly write the interviewer a letter expressing appreciation and thanks for the interview.  The purpose of this letter is to:

  1. Show appreciation for their interest in you and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
  2. Let them know that you are interested in the position.
  3. Remind the employer about your qualifications for the position. If you thought of something you forgot to mention in the interview, mention it in the thank-you note.
  4. Show that you have good manners and are thoughtful.
  5. Follow up with any information the employer may have asked you to provide after the interview.

Hand written or electronic?

  1. Thank-you letters can be typed, handwritten or e-mailed.
  2. A well crafted email is perfect for following up on a conversation. Be mindful to send different emails to anyone you send them to.
  3. Handwritten are more personal, and would be appropriate for a hiring manager after you have been offered a position.
  4. E-mail is appropriate, when that has been how you have had contact with the person you want to thank, or if you want to get it to them expeditiously.

You don’t have to write a novel, just three sentences,  a greeting, and a close, are all you need to get this job done. It will get you noticed and I’m sure they will appreciate you taking your time to thank them and if anything you have spread a little kindness into the world!

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The Curtis Food Recruiters Philosophy

Our search firm’s unique philosophy has two key benefits not seen in most large search firms.

First, we accept only a limited number of engagements from outstanding companies. This allows each client to receive the personalized attention of one of our partners on every assignment.

Large search firms continuously struggle with issues centered on which recruiter owns each candidate and client. This leads to the second key benefit you will receive with Curtis Food Recruiters; we have no internal reserve on candidates. Candidate and client information can be accessed by each recruiter for every search.

By limiting our searches and keeping the candidate base open, we ensure maximum attention to our clients and full market access for faster placement.

To learn more about our company, and to get started today, we invite you to fill out our contact form.

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Creating a Community through Food

1 canned

Harvest time is one of the best times of year, especially at the farmers market.  This is also a time when my neighbors and I get together to celebrate one of my favorite traditions; Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day.  I loved the idea of canning tomatoes, but found the whole process to be a little overwhelming and a little bit scary.  A few of my neighbors were old pros at it, so I trusted doing it with them.  So, on a Saturday in September, we went down to the Farmer’s Market as a group to purchase our tomatoes, and then canned them at one of my neighbor’s homes.  And with that one day, an annual tradition was born.  As with many traditions, we have developed a typical way of going about things for our annual event.

When we get to the market, there is usually a chill in the air, so our first stop is always a cup of coffee.  Once we have coffee in hand, we start making the rounds to the various vendors; searching for our tomatoes.  They have to be Roma or San Marzano, they must be the right size and not too green.  We never purchase from the first vendor we see, because we need to check out all of our options first.  Once we make our tomato purchase, we take some time to enjoy the market and all the colors and smells it has to offer; brightly colored peppers, dark purple eggplants, an abundance of apples,  pumpkins and squash in multiple shades and hues.  Taking it all in, visiting the market is truly one of my favorite parts of Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day.

After we get back to my neighbor’s house, we get to the business at hand.  The guys gather in the garage where they monitor several jars of tomatoes bathing in the tubs of boiling water.  They are usually joined by random neighbors that have stopped by to help supervise and watch the football game.  We always have a great lunch, a few of our favorite beverages, fun stories and lots of laughs.  Before we know it, the tomatoes are all out of the water bath, the kitchen is clean and one more Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day has come to an end.  Yes, it has been pointed out to me, it would be a lot cheaper and easier to go to the grocery store and purchase canned tomatoes.  But, for me that doesn’t compare to the sense of community that has been developed and strengthened over the years through this special celebration of food.

For information on canning tomatoes, Ball offers step-by-step instructions at  You can usually find all of the canning supplies you will need at your local grocery or hardware store.  There are also some helpful tools for handling the lids and jars and removing air bubbles that can be found in this section as well.

Also, Food Republic has some great recipes for cooking with canned tomatoes at!slide=1.


Marianne Lenz


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The Local food movement

Farm-Fresh-to-You-produce-1The local food  movement has been growing in popularity for the last several years.  The term locavore was coined in 2005 to describe someone who prefers that their food come from places closer to home.  In addition to farmer’s markets, there are many ways to support the local food movement.  For those of us in the colder climates, one great idea is the concept of preserving local food for the winter months.  This is a creative way to work around seasonal constraints.  Even though I love to can tomatoes, I never thought of it as a way to continue supporting local food. The article “Nine Ways to Support your Local Food Community” by Food Tank’s Bonnie Averbuch, gives this and other great tips on how you can be part of movement to keep things local.  Even incorporating one or two tips is a great start to becoming a locavore. We had the most delicious lunch at Local Foods in Chicago.  They are a 17,000-square-foot space the houses a public market, meat mecca The Butcher & Larder, seasonal staple Stock cafe and a lineup of cooking classes and workshops. If you are in the area we highly recommend checking them out!

What ideas do you have for keeping things local?

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Organic Food and Beverages


organicThe Organic Food and Beverage Market is growing by leaps and bounds and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Now is the time to get on board with one of the fantastic manufacturers who are making not only good, sustainable products, but supporting our environment in the process.

Delicious Recipes

brownies2Food can be therapy, comfort, an expression of art or love, a hobby or a necessity.  In our house there are recipes for all of these.  I think with our fast paced lives and need for convenience, we have lost a little of the reverence and true fulfillment of a good home cooked meal.  I  like food that is uncomplicated with few ingredients.  Here are a couple recipes that we are looking forward to having this summer.

Here is a recipe I like for roasted beets, root vegetables or other grilled veggies.  I have used it on for zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus.  It makes a great addition to any grilled meat or fish.   I found it in the local paper, taken from “Jane Brody’s Good Food Book.”

Mustardy Dressing

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp cider or other vinegar

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 2 tsp dried dill weed

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients and pour over veggies before or after cooking / grilling.


I first used this recipe after buying a bottle of “Tastefully Simple” BBQ sauce, it came with suggestions for use and recipe cards.  I have tried different peppers and different BBQ sauces.   The recipe stands as a good one.


BBQ chicken summer salad

4-diced, cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts

In a pinch I use a supermarket rotisserie chicken.   

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 chopped Anaheim or red bell pepper

1/2 diced red onion

1-7oz can sweet corn, drained or left over corn cut off the cob

1/2 cup BBQ  sauce-sweeter the better

1/2 cup mayonnaise


in a large bowl combine first 5 ingredients, toss.  In a small bowl combine BBQ and mayonnaise, add to salad.  Chill until served.


And a simple dessert from the classic “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” my husband inherited from his grandmother.  If you make cookies, you have most of the ingredients already.  I like to add chocolate chips,  I mean there is never enough chocolate right?

Classic Homemade Brownies-fudge style

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped nuts(optional)


In a medium saucepan melt margarine or butter and chocolate over low heat.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sugar, eggs,  and vanilla.  Beat lightly by hand just till combined.  Stir in flour and nuts (if using).  Spread into a greased 8x8x2 pan.  This is where I sprinkle milk chocolate or semi sweet chocolate chips on top.  I just put on what looks good to me, trying for a chip for every bite.  They tend to sink in a little so no need to stir.  Bake at 350 for 30 min.


I hope you can enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

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Pointers when facing a layoff

ResumeRIF, Downsize, Restructure, Layoff: Words that can make you question the when, what, where and how’s of all aspects of your life. However, going through this does not have to be the end to your career as you know it. Three simple tips to keep in mind, and you’ll begin your new adventure before you know it!


1) Follow Your Gut-Your gut instinct is most likely whispering to you that something may be going on. Things feel different, projects may have been cancelled, your workload has changed or the industry as a whole has suffered a setback. Chances are, your role could be changing as well. When you know that this could be an option, rather than waiting to see what comes, this is a great time to begin networking. Reach out to your old colleagues and supervisors, attend industry events, reach out to those great recruiters that you have become acquainted with over the years.

2) Write and Re-Write- If it has been one week or ten years since you revamped your resume, take time to tailor it to the opportunity that you desire next. One massive executive summary won’t do it; highlight the key accomplishments with each employer and take the time to match your skill set to the opportunity you are seeking.

3) Take a Breath – If severance is part of you package, make sure that you have enough to cover your expenses until the next opportunity begins, BUT, if you can take a little time for yourself. There are very few times in life when you can take a moment to evaluate your next move. Allow yourself a little down time in between interviewing and networking, maybe even see a movie in the middle of the day or take a mid-week trip.

Keep calm, focus on your strengths and your next adventure will begin before you know it!

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