This post was written by Courtney Denning, social media manager for Winans Chocolates + Coffees and guest writer for Barista Life. Courtney has degrees in plant biology and gender studies and has held a variety of jobs from summer camp teacher to gift basket packer to library assistant. She writes about Ohio on her blog, This Ohio Life and can occasionally be found working the espresso bar at Winans. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. If you’d like to catch her coffee posts, check out Winans on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter or their blog, Joe on the Go!.
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Then and Now: Pulling Shots + Frothing Milk at 17 and 27
My first job was as a barista in my town's local chocolates and coffee shop; Winans Chocolates + Coffees. I started my job in November of my senior year of high school. I was 17 and my best friend had just started working at Winans. She came to see me after school one day with a pumpkin spice latte to tell me I should apply to work with her. I worked at Winans until graduation, gaining both valuable job and life skills as well as a new obsession: coffee!
Ten years later, I found myself in the same position I worked as a high school student. It was November, I was 27 and working again as a barista. In between I have held the following positions: naturalist intern, summer camp teacher, curatorial assistant, community food intern, data basing assistant, educator, summer camp organizer, cashier, and library services assistant. My many jobs have taught me a lot and provided me with a wide range of work experience. Working as a barista again, I've realized that this job is perfect for so many stages in life.
Teenage Barista: working as a barista in high school taught me so much. I learned a lot about coffee, tea, and chocolate, but the most important things I learned were responsibility and confidence. I've always been socially anxious and nervous talking to people I don't know. Being a barista gave me a way to work around that fear. I was able to put on my "barista voice" (which later became my "teacher voice" and my "customer service voice") and speak confidently and clearly to customers. I didn't just take drink orders, I asked questions to clarify them and made small talk with total strangers. This was huge for me. I’m introverted and quiet, but since working as a barista in high school I’ve been able to teach summer camp, lead large group tours, and teach yoga.
Post Stressful Job Adult Barista: working as a barista is the best remedy for getting out of a bad work relationship. One of my many jobs in the past ten years nearly broke me. I was extremely unhappy for four years and when I was finally able to get out of that position I didn't think I could work anymore. The stress, office politics and often having to take my work home with me had taken its toll. The best part about being a barista as an adult who has work experience (some of it bad), is that when you're done with your shift, you're DONE. There's nothing to take home. When you get to work, you work on what's happening right now. A customer needs a drink made, another wants help with the chocolates. Stocking. Cleaning. All of this work forces me to be present. I spent so much of those four miserable years stuck in my own head; being forced to be in the moment has been an invaluable skill that I forgot I had until I came back to work as a barista.
Post Retirement Adult Barista: obviously I'm making some assumptions for this stage of barista life, but I really do think that working as a barista can work at any stage of life. From conversations I've had with family, friends, and customers (at the library, the home improvement store, the nature center), retirement can be lonely and isolating for some people. You work your entire adult life, being needed and feeling useful and for some people no longer working means they no longer feel needed. Working as a barista can remedy that without adding the stress and hours that often comes with other jobs. It also adds an element of socializing, talking with customers and catching up with co-workers.
For all the baristas out there, this goes without saying, there are some not so great parts of the job. Unfortunately, these cons of living the barista life are always present, regardless of your age. Cranky customers, ridiculous drink orders, sticky spills and being on your feet all day. Every job has its negative aspects and the field of customer service is rife with unhappy, can’t be pleased people. Something you have to learn as a barista, no matter your age, is to roll with it. Let go of the customer's negative energy; they're most likely upset about something that happened earlier in the day and has NOTHING to do with you. Just try to do your best and you'll be fine, no matter what stage of life you find yourself behind the espresso bar again.