The Cost of Stress Baking

by Laura Chanoux

Whenever I have to update my resume, send out cover letters, or look for new jobs, I find other productive activities to distract me from the stress. By far, baking is my favorite way to procrastinate. At the end, I have proof of my efforts that I can then devour, which is much more satisfying than sending applications out into a void only to receive auto-generated confirmations that someone might read them someday. This might not be the smartest stress management method, especially during periods of unemployment, but it has been a consistent part of my career.

June 2011
Career move: Paid work to go with my unpaid internship
Results: Two loaves of banana bread, one with chocolate chips ($20); multiple batches of chocolate chip cookies ($25), one job as a line cook

Immediately after graduating from college, I moved in with my boyfriend in Philadelphia to take an unpaid internship at a publishing company. I worked there two days a week and in the meantime needed to find a paying part-time job. For the first few weeks I frequently home alone while my boyfriend went to work. Between filling out job applications, I had a lot of time on my hands to watch the Food Network and bake. I found a job at a coffee shop a few blocks away, but before I could learn how to properly froth milk, one of the line cooks quit. The job lasted the length of the internship and taught me how to make excellent egg sandwiches.

September 2011
Career move: A full-time job post-internship
Results: Two batches of apple muffins ($20 in apples, $7 in other ingredients), one batch of applesauce ($10) one s’mores pie ($15) and a temp position at an insurance company

With my internship wrapping up and no leads on a permanent role at the company, I began applying for all the full-time paid work I could find. This coincided with a trip to an orchard with my sister and many, many pounds of McIntosh apples. I eventually was hired on at a temp company, which found me a position processing claims paperwork.

January 2013
Career move: finding paid work after traveling overseas
Results: one red-wine chocolate cake ($25), one part-time temp position at a university

I had just gotten a new cookbook for Christmas, which led to a little experimentation. After several interviews that didn’t result in job offers, I applied to the temp pool at a nearby university and was offered a three-month part-time position. Part of my first paycheck went to celebratory cupcake ingredients.

April 2013
Career move: Finding a full-time job
Results: One batch of my aunt’s pumpkin cheesecake muffins ($20), one batch of buttermilk cupcakes with berry frosting ($10), one temp job as a financial assistant

While I worked part-time, I tried to find a full-time job for when the temp position ended. As the project I’d been hired for wound down, one of the women in the office began preparing to go on maternity leave so my role was moved up to full-time to take over for her. Maybe the pumpkin muffins convinced my coworkers to keep me around.

August 2013
Career move: Finding a full-time, permanent job
Results: One batch of cream cheese brownies ( ($15), one blueberry cornmeal cake ($15), and my first job with benefits

A position in another department opened up as the woman I was filling in for prepared to return from maternity leave. I submitted my application and was invited to interview. My previous interview experience had been limited to one-on-one or one-on-three conversations, but this involved four separate meetings with seven different people. Thus, the blueberry cake.

Rough estimate of total career-related baking: $182

Laura Chanoux works in higher education in Chicago and also bakes when she’s not stressed.

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