Lessons From The Cafe
So, you just graduated and the gap year you took is finally up — it’s now time to put on your big boy pants and sell your soul to the corporate world as you so adamantly promised your parents you’d do.
As you’re about to put together your résumé, you can’t help but feel that you probably could have utilised that gap year you just had a little more wisely.
Instead of moonlighting at your favorite local café, you think of the bigger things you could have accomplished like say, building homes for victims of a natural disaster or working harder towards getting that internship at Google.
Dang it. Dang it all.
Perhaps it wasn’t all that bad – maybe that short stint you had at the coffee shop did actually help with something bigger than just making some extra cash for a living back then.
But how could cleaning tables, dishing out orders, and washing dishes by the truckloads have anything to do with being a professional in the corporate world?
See, many of us choose to repress that temporary job we had when we were teenagers when we fill out our résumés.
But the truth of the matter is, that part time job you took on undoubtedly helped you gain something more than just a couple of bucks — it helped you develop invaluable transferable skills.
Before signing off as barista extraordinaire and moving onto bigger things, here are some skills you probably subconsciously learnt along the way.
Multitasking under pressure
If there’s one thing that is accurately depicted on TV, it’s the pressure in the kitchen.
Everything you watched on screen is true – the mental breakdowns, the colossal pressure, the explosive
They all happen.
Picture this— you jump in and out of the cashier’s counter. You make the drinks at the bar. You send it out.
On the way back to the cash register, you check on the statuses of those orders at the kitchen.
You resolve complaints and more, all while sustaining that million-dollar smile. Yikes.
Being a barista is not for the faint of heart. Being a barista means being fast.
An espresso shot “dies” after a good 10 seconds so multitasking is your saving grace in order to finish your shift unscathed.
The biggest lesson you probably won’t ever forget will be the delicate art of dealing with people. You learn that being sensitive to others is a prerequisite to anything hospitality.
From managing effective diplomacy with your regulars to handling the raging outbursts of your co-workers, all of whom are probably just as diverse as your clientele – you do it all with agonising but celestial patience.
Many a time you’ve dealt with individuals whose lights you’d be delighted to put out. It’s true that the customer is always right, and no one knows this better than those in the hospitality industry.
This industry is all about people and it takes a special kind of superhuman to be able to maintain courtesy and professionalism when dealing with difficult customers.
Taking the initiative to refill that customer’s glass before it’s even empty is a sign of empathy and vigilance.
All of which are invaluable assets to not just a servant of the establishment but also the organisation you’re applying to right now.
Teamwork and communication
Remember that tiny bar space that you have to share between four to five people to make everything work seamlessly for the highest output possible? Yeah.
The jarring intensity of what goes on behind the bar is simply not visible to the
From the cash register to the bar and the cleaning crew, knowing where everyone should be at any given point in time during rush hour requires exceptional teamwork.
You never let the 9am line get any longer.
Making someone’s coffee can be considered something very personal.
Their efficiency for the day really depends on how well you make the beverage.
Over time, you learn your regulars’ obnoxious orders (read: quad shot, soy, no-foam latte) and chances are, you’ve met people from all walks of life.
From that freeloader who’s there all day for the Wi-Fi and gets the cheapest thing on the menu (a.k.a water) to expats who tip huge amounts, it’s the best part of the job.
Your horizons expand and you’re no longer confined to your little island of familiar faces.
You build confidence from having regular contact with new people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse ways of expressing their needs, wants and instructions.
This means constantly adapting your communication style – a skill that will come in handy in and out of the workforce.
The last drip
It’s important to internalise that your time at the cafe is not just for the side cash to get by. Remember that any job or occupation can teach you something you’ll be able to use at a certain point.
We are in the business of lifelong learning and making the effort to expand your transferable skills is something you’ll thank yourself for in the years to come.
So, as you fill out that résumé right now, fellow graduate — make an inventory of everything you know and everything you are capable of. And I mean, literally, everything.
Nicholas is the Youth Programmes Lead at Leaderonomics. When he is not busy inspiring youth, you will find him making the perfect cup of coffee at Greyskymorning. Or playing Pokémon. Have a chat with him at firstname.lastname@example.org