Posted on by Barista Life

The following content was originally posted on, written by Lenny, who worked at Starbucks from 2006-2013 (partner #1301323). He has dedicated his time to help new partners and baristas get the most out of their time at Starbucks.

How to Get Promoted at Starbucks

@wearebaristas asked:

Hello, I am a fairly new barista at Starbucks and I love working with the Siren. I would really like to growth within the company and become more than a barista, climb up the ladder. I was wondering what can I do? What will help? I am planning to stay for a couple of years, while I get off my advertising and marketing agency of the ground. Thanks in advance.

Great question.

I love that you’re:

1.) Working on something on the side
2.) Want to contribute and grow with the company

Where do you want to go? Retail or corporate?

For the retail side, the path is straightforward:

  1. Barista
  2. Shift supervisor (minimum 6 months as a barista - work minimum 25h/week)
  3. Assistant manager (minimum 1 year with the company - work full time)
  4. Store manager (minimum 2 years with the company - work full time)
  5. District Manager

First, I have no idea if there are ‘hard’ rules on how much time you need under your belt before you’re considered for a promotion, those are just general rules-of-thumb. My second manager actually started as a barista was promoted to a store manager in around 2 years, but this is certainly on the fast side.

Second, if you’re looking to run a marketing agency on the side, understand that most of your time will be committed to Starbucks. I wrote that a shift supervisor works a minimum of 25 hours a week - in practice, you’ll be easily clocking in 30+, which really doesn’t leave you a lot of time to do other stuff. Once you’re promoted to a shift, while you earn more money and bear more responsibility, you lose a tremendous amount of flexibility in your schedule. I was able to dabble in real-estate investment and product design (I’m a designer at a tech startup now) because I insisted on staying a barista.

Third, most store managers never get promoted to district manager. This is just a reality of moving up the ladder. It depends on your district, but I believe my district had 7 stores. I would estimate a typical district to have at least 5 stores. So if you do the math, an average store manager would have a 20% chance of being promoted if you don’t consider outside hires. And considering that 2 out of 3 DMs at my store were outside hires, your chances aren’t great. That being said, I worked with 4 managers and 1 of them was eventually promoted to DM (around 5 years with the company) so I’ve seen it happen.

There’s nothing wrong with being a store manager, of course. If you’re a good manager, you will get put in higher profile stores. I know someone who’s been a manger for 10+ years; she manages a very high profile and visible store and loves it. You should also read this answer on Quora about Starbucks. Being a store manager can certainly be a rewarding experience.

If this sounds like something you want to purse, I’d recommend you get promoted to a shift and go from there. At my store, getting promoted to a shift was fairly easily:

  • Have open availability
  • Work confidently on the floor
  • Have common sense

Most baristas already have common sense, and once you’re a few months in you’ll be confident on the floor. So if you have open availability (which makes it MUCH easier for you manager to plug you into the schedule) and make it known you want to be a shift, you’re automatically on the short-list.

For the corporate side, you have many more options:

If you do a quick search on Starbucks careers, you’ll find that most jobs are in Seattle. And unlike retail positions, they don’t have that many openings so I can only assume it’s more competitive.

There are also 2 types of Starbucks internships you should check out: 

They may not be full-fledge full-time positions but it’s a good start if you’re looking to stay with Starbucks.

I don’t know anyone who works at corporate or who went through any of these programs, so I’m sorry I can’t help you more.

Options outside of Starbucks:

If none of these work out - don’t worry! It’s a big world out there. 

First, like I said before, I’m impressed that you have a side-project and love the company you’re with. That means you have initiative and loyalty, two qualities that any organization would love their employees to have.

Second, I also noticed you have a blog. That’s cool, I’d keep at it. My career as a product designer started when I was ‘discovered’ through my blog.

Third, if you’re successful with your marketing agency, your experience will be very valuable. One of the biggest chicken and egg problem is the riddle of the ‘entry level job’ : you need experience to land a job, but you can’t gain experience without landing a job. One way to get around that is literally create your own job - good for you!

Based on these qualities, you’re a very intriguing candidate to any competing coffee chains (although you’re not limited to coffee chains).

Try to imagine what a hiring manager at Philz, Peets, or Dunkin’ Donuts might think when they see your resume: A loyal, self-starter, with experience, and inside knowledge of a direct competitor. That’s a serious heavy-hitter!


Anyway, you probably have many more questions, but this is the best I can do.

You know, just a year and half back, I had 3 paths I could have pursed professionally:

  1. Work at Starbucks corporate (or other competing chains)
  2. Real estate development and investing
  3. Design in Tech 

If I had taken the 1st path, I’d probably have a better answer for you. :)

But an opportunity as a designer materialized out of nowhere, and I took it. And the rest is history. 

So, basically… sure, be responsible and explore your options within Starbucks, but still allow yourself the freedom to be flexible.