Career Lessons from the Great British Baking Show: A Recipe for Professional Success

By Claire Klieger

I could spend hours (and have) binge watching the Great British Baking Show. When the world news gets me down, it’s my go-to avenue for escapism. And, when you have been working in Career Services as long as I have, you also can’t help but see career-related lessons in even your favorite form of distraction. So, here are five my GBBO-inspired career tips:

  1. Be prepared to work with the ingredients you have and limited instructions. Sometimes there just isn’t much of a recipe. Just a like technical challenge, you may often find yourself assigned a task at work with very little in the way of instructions. In some cases you may know exactly what the end product should look like but not how to get there and in others, you may not even know that. In either case, just as on the show, your supervisor will be expecting you to rely on your previous knowledge and experience to fill in some of the gaps yourself or figure things out on your own to get up to speed. That said, unlike on the show, it is okay to proactively seek clarification about expectations for the end product, including deadlines, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • “Keep Calm & Carry On.” There are plenty of times on the show when contestants encounter mishaps with their bakes. In other words, when it is clear that your pie has a “soggy bottom,” you still need to have the persistence to carry on and present the best product that you can.Similarly, on the job, it is important to be resilient. During times when you make mistakes, be able to take responsibility for them, do with you can to correct them in the moment (even if that sometimes means starting over) and move forward to produce the best outcome in the future.
  • “10 more minutes!” –  Know how to work under pressure and time constraints. Most of the bakers who attempted to assess the situation, make a plan, stay organized, prioritize what they were doing, and adapt with the remaining time left were often the most successful. These same strategies work well to remain calm under pressure when you know that you need to finish a project with a tight deadline.
  • Be your own Showstopper! My favorite part of every episode is the showstopper challenge where the constants get to plan out a bake catered around that week’s theme but with the freedom to design something in advance. Typically, the winners week after week demonstrate the same qualities: creativity, thoughtful planning (usually also practicing at home multiple times), the ability to set ambitious but also manageable goals, and, most importantly, chose a design that highlighted their specific skills. In your work, seek out opportunities that set you apart by shining a spotlight on your greatest strengths.   
  • Listen to constructive criticism and feedback – Paul Hollywood may be a tough judge, but he especially values when contestants incorporate his suggestions into future creations. This is, of course, also true of supervisors who greatly appreciate staff members who are willing to hear feedback without getting defensive and apply it to improving their performance on the job.

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.