Hello fellow coffee lovers!
I am currently struggling with unemployment. My previous employer went out of business and left me and my co-workers without work. At first I looked at this positively, as free time on my hands to enjoy the summer, visit relatives, study and work in my big vegetable garden. Now winter is creeping in and I'm really feeling the chill. I have no heat, no $ for transportation and my spirits are waning.
I believe part of my difficulties in finding a new job are the last 3 jobs I have on my resume. My most recent employer knew little about coffee but was strongly opinionated about it. She used half the beans that my co-workers and I thought efficient for drip coffee. She extracted shots fast and watery. She re-steamed milk multiple times. Anyways, I don't want to harp on her, she was a lovely person in many ways, she just started a business without really knowing what went into it.
My employer before that was a catering company with a popular lunch spot. They also had little regard for coffee or it's proper handling. We used Illy pre-made pods and did the best we could with that.
And the largest blot on my resume is Starbucks. I won't even go into how bad Starbucks can look on a resume, you probably understand. And they are the last job on my resume, so perhaps people think that is where I was originally trained.
So you can see that I have a problem here. Do potential employers look at my work history and presume that I care little for 'real' coffee? Do they assume I am not the right type of person? And that I must be a poor barista because these places didn't encourage otherwise? That I have deeply ingrained bad habits?
How do I convince them otherwise without sounding snobby, without complaining about previous employers?
I make a point to show my love for coffee, I use language to describe what I know how to do. It is true that I might be rusty, but when I do get a chance to work on a machine my skills come back quick and I love to make beautiful, tasty drinks.
I stay with jobs for a year or three, I really know my customer service. I'm good!!!!!!
I started at a wonderful cafe in California where they were really into coffee. I have lovely dreams about working on that old La Marzocco. . .
Any advice?
I've given resumes to all of the cafes nearby. I've sent resumes on craigslist. Unfortunately, many of those cafes don't say who they are, so I can't show up in person.
I don't know what to do! I don't want to work at Olive Garden!

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Great thread! I will only add to what others are already saying. You have a lot of past experiences with coffee and you can use those to work for you or against you. I've heard you detail some of the negatives from each of your former positions here. I would try to focus on a positive from each of those positions. When asked about each company share something that you learned at the position. For example, "I know that Starbucks is not known for the highest quality when it comes to each cup of coffee. But I was able to really sharpen my customer service skills and ability to multi-task in that high volume environment." Keep everything positive to a potential employer. This will speak volumes to your character and deeper perceptive abilities. Obviously, don't regurgitate what I said. Be very personal, personable, knowledgeable about the company you are interviewing for, knowledgeable about their products, full of ideas, and all of the above that others have added. Good Luck!! If you ever move to St. Louis, MO let me know!!
A job pays the bills. That's why we have jobs. But the beautiful thing about this coffee industry is that we can have passion about our work, and then it no longer becomes a job. It becomes a calling, one that influences much, if not all, of our lifestyles. Forget the job, focus on the people. You have the job skills, and if those need some reinforcement, you can learn. The people are the critical element. Find the shop you want to work in, shoot, find several! Get to know the baristi, talk coffee, show your passion. Attend as many barista events like jams, cuppings, etc. Practice your skills if possible. Getting noticed at a barista jam is a definite possibility. After you have established a groundwork of acquaintance with those working in the shop you have selected, especially the hiring person, then start asking for an interview opportunity. Chances are, they will listen, simply because they have seen you out there, being part of the coffee community. Good luck.
I've said it before, and it's always true, "Passion creates Opportunity." Find a way to share your passion with the targeted shop owners you want to work for, like Jay mentioned, and you will not have a problem getting a position. I have introduced two baristas to shop owners in the past six months, and once the shop owners saw the barista's passion, hired them on the spot. It wasn't what I did, other than introducing them. And both are great shops.
Don't underestimate the power of social networking. Make sure everyone can see who you are, what your level of passion is, and what your priorities are. Make sure that you are the person someone would be looking for, the total package. Because there are alot of baristas looking for work, shop owners can be more picky. Check out the BGA's certification. Add some things to your resume, attend some workshops near you, barista jams, barista competitions. Meet lots of people, share your passion.
Regarding what Jason said: I was gonna point to him as an example of coffee passion, but I was afraid I would make him blush... lol. Jason is my Coffee Jedi Master, I am learning much from him, and that would explain the similarity between our posts. He, and a bunch of others here on BX, inspire me.
Thanks Paul, but honestly, I picked it up from Gregory Kolsto, my old roastmaster from Krispy Kreme Coffee, and now roasting for himself with Oddly Correct in Kansas City. I am glad to pass it on, and hope others will do the same.

Paul Yates said:
Regarding what Jason said: I was gonna point to him as an example of coffee passion, but I was afraid I would make him blush... lol. Jason is my Coffee Jedi Master, I am learning much from him, and that would explain the similarity between our posts. He, and a bunch of others here on BX, inspire me.
There's only a few things that I'd add to what Jay just posted-- from my perspective, I'm just as likely to weigh personal interaction as I am what's on the resume. Even if you are just showing up to ask for or turn in a resume, be professional and on point. At least at our shop, I assume that previous barista experience is neutral at best; anyone hired will be retrained to our standards anyway, and often starting from scratch is often better than having to unlearn bad habits. Show up as a customer a few times and get a feel for the menu. Be able to be enthusiastic about what you like about the shop. Be as warm and engaging with the people at the shop as they would hope you would be with customers if you worked there-- customer service and empathy are as important of skills as milk steaming. For what it's worth, I wouldn't give much weight to talking about BX. A much better use of the interwebs would be to learn as much as possible about your potential employer's roaster, or about a specific coffee that they offer-- appeal to what your prospective employer is passionate about, not to what they very well could be ambivalent about.
I had to run off earlier, but now I can continue...

I always look at work history on a resume. In fact, I've stopped printing applications and rely solely on resumes. To me, if you can't produce a viable resume that's tailored to the job you're seeking, then I'm not wasting my time. All too often (especially in this economy), I receive resumes listing "professional goals" as something to do outside of coffee/foodservice, or goals that demonstrate that this resume was either tailored for another job/company or just something generic. In both cases, we pass on that candidate.

And listing that you read BX on your resume? To my mind, it's a bad idea at worst and a "so what?" at best. Being a member of BX (or any of the other coffee-related forums/websites) is certainly not an accomplishment and really has no bearing other than potentially filling you up with muck from other people that I, as an employer, now have to work through because you may have adopted some of these "standards" as your own.

Certainly, working for places with lower standards for technique and quality is not a great thing. However, as an employer, I tend to look beyond that basic fact. Yes, if you've worked previously in coffee, chances are that your standards are lower and the approach of your previous employer is lacking, I understand that and know that it is part of the challenge I face. It is my intent to find people of high caliber. People who are going to be able to adapt to a higher standard, a more challenging standard. Those are the kinds of people I would like to find and join our company.

Do potential employers presume that you care little for 'real' coffee? Chances are that your potential employers care less about coffee than you do. If it were me, I would want to find a place that championed coffee. A place where I can learn and grow. When I started out six years ago, I was lucky enough to find great friends and mentors who helped guide my path and set standards for me to follow, learn and grow. It was, and still is, a very exciting time of learning, adapting and pushing our limits.

Paul recommends going to barista jams. I certainly think that's a great way to go. Learn as much as you can. I was recently impressed by someone from my area who paid her own way to a barista jam because she was so passionate. Impressive - especially for my area where just about no one cares about making quality coffee. So when that resume came floating across my desk, the decision to interview was a no-brainer. Again, get out there, learn, meet people and get known in the business.

Another thing that Anthony's response reminds me of is: find out as much as you can about not only the roaster/supplier, but about the company and its' people as possible. Not so much information as to seem like a stalker, but enough that you know about the company, its' goals and why you want to work there. As a potential employer, if the applicant reaches the interview stage, I know as much about them as I could gather from a variety of sources. When a candidate comes to an interview, I'm usually ready and I'm more impressed by an applicant passionate enough to do their homework about us as well.
Wow! So many responses and so much great advice to work with. Thank you to everyone!

Re: Kevin.
I definitely DON'T want to settle. Unfortunately the last few times I've changed jobs it has been at a time where I really needed/wanted to get a job fast. I wasn't picky enough. At this time I am so poor that I am willing to work most anywhere. I have been that person who tries to change the place too, it is frustrating and unappreciated.
Re: Cash
I understand your frustration at not finding a job as someone who is 'different'. It definitely seems easier for skinny hipsters to get the jobs, or any kind of cute girl. It's awesome that you didn't give up and instead created another way to stay connected with what you love. Thanks for sharing the blog idea!
Re: Alexander
I'll have to work myself up to do that! I tend to get nervous when meeting people for the first time and I hate inconveniencing anyone. But I think you're right. If I can make an impression in person I'm WAY more likely to get a job, a piece of paper is not as memorable as a conversation.
Re: Joseph
I know start ups may be more likely to be willing to hire (unless they have all their barista friends lined up.) I have been wary before of working at new cafes though, as often they don't stay open long. And starting up is hard! There are so many things new cafe owners have never experienced, so everything is always new. Granted most of the cafes I mention were started by people who were never baristas, but by people who seemed to think owning a cafe is a very easy and profitable business. One inexperienced person decided to open a cafe, almost as a hobby, something to do while their significant other was at work. They were very disappointed that it wasn't as profitable, was physically demanding, and were very surprised at how difficult customers could be, IF they could get customers.
I'd be more willing to work for a start up now, because times are so hard. I'd LOVE to work for a start up of career baristas! I've often fantasized of working with/for people who really know their stuff.
Re: Jared
Yes! Willing to learn and being invested in what you're doing is soooo important! I pride myself on being that way, and I love when it rubs off on others. Igniting the passion of customers and co-workers really improves the whole experience.
Re: Mike
I definitely want to brush up on my 'geek' vocabulary. I'd love to get hands on experience with vacuum brewing and to learn more about varietals and stuff like that. I'm thinking of giving myself some homework, maybe write up a few reports and make a blog out of them.
I really want to get out there and meet people. The $0 in my bank account does not allow anymore than coffee at home though. Ha! neither does it allow transportation, I have to walk everywhere! At least I have the internet and I can get to know cafes through their websites if they have them.
Re: James, Brady, Mike, Jay
I think you have a really important point, and one I'm going to start working on a lot more. Networking and being part of the community is something I haven't really done, something I really should be doing.
There are numerous cafes here in Portland where I would love to work. I'm going to go sell some books at Powell's for coffee money!
Re: Joe
I do try to focus on the positives with potential employers, that's part of the difficulty in letting them know that I am so much more than my recent work history. I don't want to complain, but I do want them to know what great things I can do. I'm going to focus on what I can do/ have done and put that in another part of my resume.
My friends Mavis and Andrew Pugh live in St. Louis! Mavis is a pastry chef and Andrew makes noise. Maybe you know Mavis!
sheesh I'm all tired out from responding, got to go walk the dog. I'll be back. . .
Thank you again to everyone! This is so much help! I'm much more hopeful !

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