Networking Baristas

by Brooke S. Musterman


Another early day of slinging mochas. It was earlier than early, I'm not even sure God is up at 5:00 in the morning. It's a great job, not anything I would want to make a career of, except that it seems I have. One day though.

Ann strolls in, interrupting my musings in her perfectly tailored slate blue suit, gliding to my counter, her spectator shoes, clicking on the tiled floor. She is on her phone, like she always is, and orders sideways to me,

"Venti Cappuccino, a little on the dry side, at 140 degrees, please."

Hello, to you too, I would think.

I was [sometimes grudgingly] working my way through school, as many do, at a local coffee shop. Some might call it a dead end job. Some days I might be inclined to agree with them. I wasn't doing what I was training to do, or even what I wanted to be doing in a food service job.

I later found out, Ann seemed aloof because she was in a hurry. We did get to chatting one day when she was less rushed. She described to me this huge advertising project she was dealing with at work. When I found out she needed help that I could provide, I jumped at the chance.

Then it hit me, what a unique and optimum position I was in. As a barista, I am always in contact with a diverse group of people. I am constantly serving these people, a transferable skill I can use in many capacities at any job. The way I serve and problem solve has created many networks that have opened up jobs for me. [Likewise, probably has closed down one or two opportunities, as well.]

I learned not to shirk off so-called menial jobs just because they weren't what I wanted to be doing now. Many of them turned out to be wonderful training tools. I learned many valuable skills that I use today in my professional life.

Ann was one of several who hired me to do some contract work. A contact I wouldn't have otherwise made by ordinary networking. She hadn't advertised the position. She may not have even realized that she needed help until she talked to me.

I was able to test out a career as a graphic designer, ultimately deciding against it. I was able to venture my dream job, as well as afford a couple of career changes, with a built in support system. A natural introvert, the experience serving the public definitely helped bring me out of my shell.

My dream job isn't all roses either. Sooner or later I have to deal with the tedium that comes with my "real" job, [from which my coffee shop job is a good escape]. I have been able to build habits for dealing with tasks I don't care for, which may be the most valuable thing I've learned in any career.

My heart truly did sink when I realized I would have to continue to work a supplementary job while starting my own freelance business. This is not "making it," I thought.

But after a few years experience, my outlook is truly looking up. I wouldn't trade it for the world. The networking is out of site, and the more skills you build, even seemingly meaningless ones, the better. All can be poised in your palette of experience.

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