A story about what it feels like jumping out of a secure life and plunging into the unknown. 

My first coffee job application

I'm strolling through Borough Market and slip into Monmouth Coffee for a post-lunch caffeine hit. I glance at a flyer taped to the pillar: “We’re hiring! Trainee Roaster”. 

My heart stops. 

This must be fate. I’d only decided a month before that I would pursue coffee. And what an opportunity, learning from one of the best! A million thoughts swarm my mind: How well do they pay? Is it worth devoting three years of my life to becoming a roaster? Will I click with the company?

I push them all aside. Let’s give it a shot and decide later.

I read on. “Submit CV and covering letter…We regret that we are not able to reply to those not selected for interview....Application closing date: 15th August 2014”. I glance at my watch. 

Shit, today’s the 15th. And it’s 1pm. I have 4 hours to write a cover letter.

I sit down on a bench and sip my coffee. What the hell do I write? I have zero experience. All I have is a passion and a story. Time is ticking. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. My coffee’s getting cold. That’s it! If a passion and a story is all I’ve got, that’s what they’re gonna get!

I begin punching away at my phone. Words come thick and fast. I can’t believe how easy this is to write. It’s as if I've written it all before.

Finished! I glance at my watch. 2.30pm. 

'What’s left?' I wonder. Oh, dammit, my CV isn’t ready either. I need my home computer to update it. Go! Go! Go! 

I press ‘Send’ at 16:42pm. 18 minutes to spare. 

 (Scroll to the bottom to read the cover letter I sent.)

What happened next took me by surprise. I mention that I’ve applied for the position of Trainee Roaster to a bunch of friends and family. Everyone expresses the same two sentiments:

1) I will definitely land an interview; and

2) They advise me NOT to take the role.  My dad goes so far to say "I hope you don’t get it”. 

They consider it a “lowly" position for someone who scored highly at Uni and landed a “prestigious” role in finance. I have a battle on my hands. I have to convince them of my reasoning. 

But more importantly, I have to convince myself this is what I want to do. I picture myself lifting boxes of coffee beans day-in day-out, living in crumbling ex-council flats and watching enviously as my friends get pay rises, secure mortgages and prosper along the corporate conveyer-belt.

I remind myself of the reasons I quit finance in the first place. And, fortunately, once I’ve retraced my reasoning I get more and more comfortable with the prospect of becoming an artisanal roaster. Even excited. 

I hear nothing. Weeks pass. Zilch. “We regret that we are not able to reply to those not selected for interview”. 

By the beginning of September, I'm back on the road, one last gasp of wanderlust before I settle down in Melbourne in January. 

I’ve given up all hope of an interview. Coffee is a bloody competitive industry and this is what a hotly competitive industry feels like. You write the most honest, engaging cover letter of your life and all you get back is silence.

When the coffee topic surfaces in conversation amongst friends, I hate having to justify again and again why I chose to pursue a minimum-wage job and, worse, not even getting an interview. I can’t think of a better way to suck out someone’s confidence.

And then this appears:

"Dear James,

Thank you very much for your application for the role of Trainee Roaster. 

Unfortunately you have not been selected for an interview on this occasion. We have received a very high number of applications and are focussing on candidates with more relevant experience in coffee.

Thank you again very much for your lovely application, it’s especially lovely to know that Mary recognised you when you visited Ceresia!

I wish you all the best in finding just the right opportunity for your career in coffee.

With best wishes”

I don’t care I haven’t been called for interview. At this point I'm just grateful it was an application worth replying to. There's hope yet. 

Better luck next time, eh?

Here is the cover letter I sent (with names and addresses removed):

Don't plan your career. Or do. Or maybe not yet...