10 weeks in.
A full time job? Nope. Just the odd shift running coffees for a cafe or two.
Time wasted then.
Not so fast! You’re forgetting the invisibles: learning. Lots and lots of learning.
And the biggest learning is why it's so hard cracking this barista profession.
Bagging a role with a reputable cafe in Melbourne is as difficult as bagging a job in finance out of university. Sure, maybe not as a trader with Morgan Stanley, but certainly as tough as landing a middle office role.
That’s crazy. We’re talking about making coffee here. Let’s be clear: you grind coffee, put it into a machine and steam milk. How is it as difficult as sorting out the accounts for the largest banks in the world?
I could write an entire book. In short, it’s down to the competition: everyone in hospitality wants to be in specialty coffee, which means there are plenty of qualified baristas. No need to train. And those who are training have hordes of people who can just hit the ground running. "Click". I haven't worked in hospitality in years. I click as well as bashing together two wet fish.
After I’m turned down for the umpteenth barista job I seriously consider whether I made the right choice pursuing coffee. I can't seem to crack this industry at all.
These thoughts inspire my darkest dream yet: I'm at a quiet farm shack with an airport perched out on the horizon. I see a white object in the distance, hurling down to earth. It’s a small 3 person plane. It nose dives onto the runway and bursts into flames. Emergency crews are at the scene in seconds.
Then, a slightly larger plane falls out of the sky and wipes out an airport building. And then a full-on 747 explodes on the runway.
I can't believe what I'm witnessing. I start to rush off to help when, and I kid you not, one of those double decker A380s crashes in my backyard. The scene is apocalyptic.
What. The. Hell.
But, since that dream, something changes.
It happens after the Australian government says they’re unhappy with me. To paraphrase: "You’re not finding a job fast enough. Here’s the new deal: if you want our money, you must apply for ten AVAILABLE jobs a fortnight. You must also attend regular "Activity Tests”. Fail these tests and you’ll lose your funding. Oh, and we're releasing an employment agency on your scent. They’ll hound you with regular "Employment Pathway” sessions. If you miss a meeting because you had to rush your friend to hospital, we’ll cut your funding. We don’t care."
Thank you, dear Australian taxpayer.
No seriously, sarcasm aside: Thank you.
I wake up to realise I'm deep in a hole.
Getting that elusive job at a great cafe as a barista was always going to be a quick fix. I focused so hard on it I sprouted a snout, sharp claws and lost most of my vision. I scampered underground, digging deeper and deeper. I lost perspective.
After my conversation with the Aussie government, I haul myself out of the hole and stand shocked, blinded by the obviousness of what I’ve been missing. Opportunities volunteering at coffee competitions, coffee tastings, jobs offered across the coffee supply chain.
And then it hits me: if becoming a barista is as difficult as bagging a middle-office role with a major bank, then screw it. This 'quick fix' isn’t a quick fix at all. I may as well hunt down management and sales positions at the same coffee houses. They’re just as hard to get AND they’re the jobs where I have relevant skills.
I realise something else: I was low a month ago because my conversations with coffee shops were motivated by landing a job. I realise that undertone stunts conversation and stunts friendship. Now, when I walk in, we talk freely about life and coffee. It fuels my motivation like there’s no tomorrow.
I'm still broke. I can’t afford to patch up the gaping hole in the crotch of my jeans.
But I don’t care.
I’m enjoying this new approach.
I’m getting more confident coffee is what I want to do with my life.
10 weeks in? That's nothing in the grand scheme of things.