While my current research project focuses on the impact of coffee shops in urban spaces, through my fieldwork I’ve been collecting interesting findings about working in the coffee shop industry too*. Coffee shops are known for having quite high turn over rates of staff for various reasons which I will explore on here another time. In this post I wanted to share some advice I’ve been told by various coffee shop owners and managers about how to develop a successful career in coffee shops. There is no blue print for a career in coffee, and when talking to baristas, coffee shop manager and owners it’s clear that there are lots of different scenarios for entering, and progressing in the coffee shop industry.
So the top 10 tips I’ve collected in fieldwork for fostering a successful career in the coffee shop industry are:
(1) Invest in time to learn about coffee: this could be about coffee origins, coffee sourcing, roasting, brewing or even latte art. There is a wealth of material out there to help you not only in books, blogs and websites but there are also training courses you can attend, some affiliated with the Specialty Coffee Association, such as those at Prufrock in London.
(2) Learn from those around you: a great way to learn about coffee and the coffee shop business is to absorb the knowlede from the people you are working with, whether this about how to create the perfect espresso, or how to manage a team of people.
(3) Network with other people in the industry in person or online. There are a growing number of coffee events (from expo’s to barista chamionships) which are great opportunitines to network with other people in the business. Many of these events rely on volunteers to help them run. Another route would be to join the Barista Guild of Europe, an organisation dedicated to developing the role of the barista, and focuses its efforts around spreading education, career support and sustainbility – they even organise a Barista Camp.
(4) Develop your personal skills: being a barista is about more than just coffee, it is about working effectively in a service industry.
(5) Show off your skills: show your employer what you can offer the businesses. You may be a barista but if you have web design skills, or baking skills, for example, this might be something your employer can use too.
(6) Try not to ‘cafe hop’: while you might want to gain experience in different cafes an employer may view this as a lack of commitment, or wonder if why you haven’t stayed in a position very long.
(7) Work as a team: you may be a great barista as an individual but a coffee shop is only successful if everyone woks as a team.
(8) Tailor to the cafe: When applying for a job in a cafe show the employer why you want to work in that particular cafe – research what the cafe does, its ethos and tailor your CV/covering letter to it.
(9) Share your goals with your employer: if you’re interested in management, or marketing, or developing your skills in some way share this with your employer, it may be something they can provide opportunities for.
(10) Look for opportunites to expand your skills and share them with others: this could be anything from hosting a training workshop on something your particularly good at, to attending a training class in another venue about developing the food offering in the cafe.
Many of these points are similar, or inter-linked, around the importance of developing yourself and your skills, and working with the other members of staff in your workplace to effectively run a coffee shop. While these points generally refer to those working as baristas, many people end up taking on other roles in the coffee industry, not just in management of staff, but in roasting, sourcing coffee, and much more. I’ll try to explore a few interesting career pathways in coffee I’ve come across in this research in a future post.
*My other main research interest is around different forms of employment and so naturally I’ve been drawn to exploring career pathways and employment issues in this industry too.