Bella's Blog

Hanging Up My Apron: An Ode To The Coffee Shop Job

Yesterday Laura Kay wrote a brilliant Guardian Comment Is Free article, a testimony of our time, on the difficulties of finding employment after graduation. Don’t laugh at an MA graduate working in coffee shops was her message, and she’s darn right too.

After a finishing a four years long dual honors university degree in Journalism and German I paved my close to non-existent career with the help, support and just-above-minimum-wage pay check of a coffee shop. Heck, I only hung up my apron a couple of months ago. Today I freelance, dabbling in copy writing, radio, video, events, online, print and social media; basically anything that comes under the umbrella of trying to make it. Yet sometimes I’m not so sure I’m better off for it; certainly not financially.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do today and I wouldn’t trade writing and getting the chance to get my voice heard, for anything. But penning text upon text only to get paid for the odd one isn’t what they call job security and it’s no wonder my mum sends me job adverts (for jobs I am very much under qualified for) on a weekly basis.

As much as the café offered flexibility and stability there are things I’m glad to be rid of today. Anyone would be. I certainly don’t miss dodging pigeons picking at last night’s sick piles on the way to work at 6am or indeed all the jobs you’re asked to do for free after a long day of clearing tables. It’s really amazing how many unpaid gigs there are for aspiring writers out there.

So no, combining a physically exhausting day job with long nights of writing is far from ideal; but hard work pays off.

Before getting that highly desired email reply saying that somewhere that pays it’s writers will take your pitch (I actually cried when The Guardian accepted my first article) you often wonder whether you shouldn’t give up on that silly writer’s dream after all. To this I’d say don’t, unless you want to make money.

Today I write for a living but dropping the café doesn’t mean that I make more cash; it’s a very good thing I’m not in it for that reason.

However happy but penniless I am doing what I do today I will always look back on my time in the café with a great, big smile on my face. Because not only did that place teach me how to make pretty latte art whilst greeting regulars and keeping an eye on puking children, it taught me the value of hard work. There were days when we were way too busy for anyone’s sanity and yet we pulled through, as a team. They don’t teach you that at uni.

There is one thing you cannot take away from the barista, or anyone in a job that doesn’t involve working on your own in your living room for that matter, and that is the people. I loved my colleagues, even the boss, and not to mention the customers (apart from the ones asking for extra hot, skinny, one shot, decaf cappuccinos with half a measure of hazelnut syrup, they could go away). They kept me motivated to keep writing.

Day jobs, however rubbish they may seem, can not just make people’s dreams come true, they can be grubby and early but also fun, creative and educational. They don’t replace a university degree but they sit very nicely alongside one. This is why I’d be the first to sing an ode to the coffee shop job and I why would do anything but laugh at someone serving me a hot drink. Instead I’d thank them and I’d ever so slightly envy them.

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1 reply »

  1. Just wanna say, this post inspired me… Really nice to read your post… I’m in the shooting industry too… And just thinking about give up on this industry. But then read you’re post makes me realize about my life process.. I should be brave to work in the “pennyless” job.. And be happy about it… I should stop worried too much..
    Thanks bella

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