EDITORIAL NOTEBOOK

Reflecting on summer jobs

I spent this past summer making other people’s coffee. As a computer systems engineering major who had just finished his freshman year, if I had really tried, I could have likely done something in my field, making significantly more money than I did at Starbucks, and probably spent my summer at a desk writing code. So why didn’t I? Mainly, because I wanted to do something different before I likely spent my whole life doing work in my major. Being able to say I was a barista at Starbucks means very little to future employers, other than proving that I am in fact willing to work and perform to my job description, even if it is listening to people’s extremely specific requests on how to make their coffee. How do I reflect on my little summer job? Overall, I’m glad I had it, and I feel that I gained a lot of experience from it.

During the summer, I wanted a job that would not only earn me money, but also prevent me from just sitting at home for the summer doing nothing. I thrive on being busy and feeling like I am contributing to something. This job satisfied both of those requirements. However, while working there, I also experienced something else that I was not expecting.

Starbucks allowed me to have a job where I contributed to the overall operation of the store, even if I was lowest on the totem pole. It took me a few weeks into the summer, working in that environment, until I began to realize that there was much more to this than what I was doing. In actuality, I was able to see how corporate Starbucks had engineered many aspects of the store to increase efficiency and decrease costs, and how my role fit into the overall operation of the store. At no point was I unsure of what I should be doing, as everyone always had a job, and new seasonal drink recipes were so simple that I could walk in the day they were released and know how to make them already. Everything is planned out, and any barista can simply walk into another Starbucks and start working there without a hitch. This level of optimization comes at a cost, however. I can think of several occasions where some corporate requirement was just ignored by everyone at the store as it simply didn’t fit in our specific work environment. It was very clear in some instances when a change came down the line that it was written by someone who has never been on the floor of a real Starbucks.

Overall, I’d say working at Starbucks was a great summer job. If you end up with any job, I would recommend looking around you, figuring out more about your job, and really learning to appreciate how everything fits together. Always try to take something away from your experience, no matter what it is.