I never thought I would find myself working at Starbucks, especially at 29, especially after finishing my Masters Degree. But here I am, thankful to have a job that provides me not only with a paycheck but also with benefits, and realizing that there are all kinds of things I can learn about myself, about others, and about what it means to be a good employee — even working a job that I never expected.
Here are some of the things I am learning.
1. I’m not too good to make lattes
Masters degree or not, I’m not too good to make coffee for people. In fact, despite my “illustrious” Masters Degree I’m still one of the least experienced, least skilled baristas at my store. I’m learning that my co-workers, and even the clientele I serve each morning, have a lot to teach me, if I’m willing to be humble and pay attention.
2. Humility is influential
Everyone wants to be important so that they can influence others. It’s not a wrong desire. But the thing I’m learning working at Starbucks is that, putting yourself in a position of humility gives you a unique ability to influence others in service, relationship and love. I’m convinced that’s why Jesus showed up on this earth the way that he did.
The influence that comes from humility is more powerful than the influence that comes from power.
3. People are just people.
Strip away all the money and the titles and the things people own, and people are just people. No matter where you go — a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a big important corporation — you will work with people who, at the core, are just the same as people you would meet anywhere else. Some of them will be like you, some won’t. Some will be downright difficult to work with.
Working at Starbucks has been an opportunity for me to grow in my ability to relate with others, to submit to leadership, and serve and love people even when they don’t serve or love me back.
4. There’s no reason to “stick it” to anyone
I know everyone wants to “stick it to the man,” especially when it comes to corporations like Starbucks. And to be fair, I can’t defend everything Starbucks has ever stood for, or done. It’s too big of a corporation for me to make that generalization. What I will say is that the “big bad man” has taken really good care of me, and my husband, during a time we really needed it.
Starbucks has given us exactly what we needed to plant a church, launch a business, and get our lives off the ground — health benefits, free coffee and a job with a schedules that flexes around ours.
5. Don’t despise small beginnings
Good things start small. You plant a seed, in good soil, and it grows.
Right now I’m planting seeds, and tilling soil, for a garden that doesn’t exist yet. It’s hard work, but I can’t wait to see the fruit of what we’re building.
6. It’s not about the money
I only make minimum wage at Starbucks, but somehow I’m still really invested in what I’m doing each day. I think part of this is my personal conviction to bring glory to God in whatever I’m doing, but part of it is that Starbucks does a good job of giving ownership to each of it’s employees. That’s why they call us “Partners.”
When people have ownership and buy-in to what they’re doing, they don’t need a giant paycheck. They find significance in adding value to something bigger, something outside of themselves.
This helps inform my leadership as I build a team of people (with very limited capitol) to contribute to Prodigal Magazine.
7. Loyalty and encouragement
When my manager critiques me, it gives me an opportunity to grow. When she encourages me, it secures my loyalty to her. Leaders have a unique position to lift up, and to crush, with their words — and therefore a unique responsibility.
Words matter, especially for leading a team. I’m learning to choose my words carefully.
8. Tip your barista.
Or at least hang up your cell phone and smile. Ask their name. They wake up at 4am to come make your coffee. And they get paid $8/hour.
Just thought I’d throw that one in there.
9. The support role
At Starbucks we have a role called “Store Support” that is in charge of brewing coffee, and re-stocking/replenishing supplies. The person in the Store Support role doesn’t interact with customer orders at all. He or she just “supports” the other baristas and their objective for the store.
Nobody likes this role. It’s hard work, and not very gratifying. It’s boring.
But it is also really necessary.
I’m learning that support roles, although not very glamorous, are some of the most vital roles in life. If we can embrace these roles when they’re given to us, and choose to support and serve with joy, we add unspeakable value to our team.
10. Life Lessons are everywhere
Sometimes I have a training at Starbucks, or just a normal shift, and I come home to tell Darrell about something new I learned about myself, about doing business, or about other people. This happens probably once or twice a week.
Even if you’re working a job you hate — there are always things to learn. If you have the right perspective.
Question: Are you working a job (or have you ever) that you never expected? What has that job taught you?