What the froth has taught me.

How I learned that making mistakes is the way to success.

Creating just the right kind of froth for a coffee is a strenuous thing. It takes hours upon hours and numerous painstaking trials to learn how to make a cappuccino froth with just the right thickness, gloss and warmth. Then you’ve got to learn the right wrist movement when pouring it down to a perfectly grind and brewed espresso shot. Not to even mention all the froth art complexities.

I worked as a barista for almost six years. Even though I didn’t win any awards for my barista skills, I  think I managed quite well. Now as a management student, one could think that all these skills I’ve acquired are going to waist.

But I would argue against that.

I’ve written about the experience paradox that almost every student faces when trying to get a job after college. Recruiters expect some former experience from students, even if they still are studying and haven’t had a chance to work in their own field of interest. In this post I’m going to convince you, how a HR student can gain valuable experiences not just by being a HR-assistant, but also by doing various other kind of jobs NOT relating to HR, like in my case, being a barista.

  1. Teamwork
    Organizations of today don’t get anywhere without functioning teamwork. And what could be a more better place to hone your team working skills than a café? With sometimes four or more employees swirling around a small space we create orders under time pressure and the scrutinizing eyes of the customers. If in these working conditions teamwork fails, the whole thing falls apart. You learn how you need structure within the team, trust and good relations – and most importantly you learn how to create these in future.
  2. Customer Service
    Working as a barista means being directly connected to customers. You and your colleges are the faces of the company, and this brings along responsibility. You not only learn how to handle downright insolent comments, you learn how making a connection with a customer is the ultimate deal. If the customer feels that he or she is authentically valued and taken care of, they will most probably be back another time. This rudimentary lesson I’ve personally learned only by working as a barista.
  3. Employee Management – by being an employee
    Being an employee has taught me a lot about employee management. The biggest revelation has been how the smallest changes can have large scale effects on employees, if not handled right. Take for instance an insignificant changes made in the placements of our machines. Although I knew that these changes made the work space more logical, I had created muscle memory for how the machines where previously been placed. During that first day of the new arrangement, I constantly was making mistakes, bumping into others and doing things at a slower rate. I was exhausted after that shift. Only such little changes created a big impact on my work day and my effectiveness. How even bigger and more complex changes affect employees? In my opinion, these are important questions for any HR manager.
  4. How to Handle MISTAKES Like a Boss.
    Of all the things I’ve learned during my barista years, this is the one that should rule them all. Being under time pressure and doing things as quickly and perfectly as you can, makes you prone to making mistakes. You forgot that she ordered almond milk instead of soy milk, you accidentally give too much change back, you just forget to put the frozen mangos in the freezer. Little things that grow slowly into huge losses for the company, or sometimes even bigger things happen.

But the lesson to learn here is, that in fact the act of making the mistake (or even the person making them), is NOT the problem. The problem is always in the system. And you are making the ULTIMATE MISTAKE, if you’re not figuring out WHY the mistake happened in the first place. I know how much it hurts when you make a mistake and the company loses money because of it. But instead of getting angry, I’ve learned that by solving the reason behind that mistake could possibly upgrade the company into an even more awesome level.