I coincidentally turned the legal working age in New York around the same time Ugg boots were becoming an everyday outfit staple. I hate to admit that that was my primary motivator in entering the work force, but that was exactly why I began sending in applications to almost every establishment that could offer me a paycheck in my local area.
Ultimately, I was hired as a Barista at a Barnes and Noble Cafe, and because bookstores have always been my “happy place,” I could not have been more thrilled. The job itself wasn’t terribly difficult, but with it, I developed several skills I was able to carry over into my now career, despite the two being worlds apart.
- I learned to channel frustration away from affecting my work - or my day in general. Believe it or not, the general public isn’t always the most polite, and this is especially true when you find yourself working at a restaurant or in retail. No matter how well-versed you are in the work you’re doing, no matter how kind you are, no matter how perfect you know you made that latte, you’re still going to hear some sort of criticism by way of berating rant at one point or another. I was initially shocked any time someone had anything petty to complain about, but I realized that I could only give my best, and I would never sink to any lower level.
- I became a team player - With only nine girls employed to maintain the cafe, each and every one of us had to do our part to make for a more enjoyable and less chaotic experience when the going got tough. We worked by the idea, “As a closer, think like an opener. As an opener, think like a closer,” to ensure we could make every person’s life a little easier no matter which shift they were assigned.
- I learned a good manager from a bad one - I was lucky to have the manager I did for my first job. Though he was much higher in rank, he without question would be right out there on the floor with us fulfilling orders and working with customers whenever we needed help. You’d be surprised how rare this actually is. Not only was he helpful, but he was also constantly checking in to make sure we were all happy with the job, as well as with everything going on in the cafe. He certainly set the bar high for any and all managers I’d have from there on out, but more importantly taught me how to lead and be liked.
- I developed a solid work ethic – multi-tasking is a second-nature skill to baristas. You’re making a plethora of different drinks, preparing meals, answering calls, keeping things clean and tidy despite milk spills, customers making a mess of the condiment bar, and in the midst of it all, putting your best face forward despite the not-so-nice treatment you’re sometimes subjected to. Having so many things going on at once helped me become a better, more focused worker. It was rare to see any of us standing still and not doing anything, even if the cafe was empty. Just having the mindset that there was always something to clean, to organize, or prepare for the next day was what really contributed to helping each of us develop the work ethic I know we all have today.Here I am in my well-deserved (and highly against dress code ) Ugg boots.