Take What You Love And Run With It
A guest post from Camila Coddou about stepping beyond what people believe service work to be.
Hi all! Ashley here. On Tuesday, I released an episode with my friend and colleague, Camila Coddou. Camila is a certified coach and longtime coffee professional and she’s been on the show twice before. We talked about how much skill goes into service work and how often, those skills aren’t recognized outside of the service industry.
I invited Camila to contribute a piece to the newsletter about how to to see beyond what others assume service work to be. In the past, I’ve discussed how being a barista has given me so much: interpersonal skills, a chance to build community, and an awareness about the world around me I didn’t even know I lacked. Camila took these ideas and pushed them further, and I’m excited to share her insights and knowledge with you below:
It’s endless what we do. There's like no limit to the amount of skills that coffee professionals and service industry workers in general have. Give yourself the time to inspect what exactly it is that draws you to the work, has kept you in the work. What do you love about it? And then from there, where can you take that.
I’m Camila, and I am very excited to guest write today’s Boss Barista newsletter!
I recently got in touch with Ashley because I wanted to chat about taking what I learned in coffee and using it to build a new career.
I started in coffee 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve worked behind any counter you can imagine: on a boat, in a teeming metropolis, in the mountains. I’ve worked in dish pits scrubbing endless piles of dishes; crushed lines, making drink and after drink without a moment to pause; and memorized all kinds of kooky designations for setting up drinks—draw a question mark on the cup for skim, put a small saucer on top to indicate decaf. Eventually, I realized that my favorite part of the work was working with people, so I took what I loved most and ran with it. I got into training, education, and management.
After 12 years of working behind the bar, I decided to move my skills elsewhere and try new work. However, when I applied for jobs, I could not get an interview, no matter how good my cover letter was or how many jobs I submitted my resume for (to be exact, it was 115).
I think hiring managers saw my years of service industry experience and thought, “Oh, this person has only worked behind a counter.”
Coffee work (and all service industry work) is HIGHLY skilled. What I learned working behind a counter is varied and dynamic. It’s about being aware and attuned to your surroundings and multiple concurrent needs: what needs to be made, does equipment need maintenance, does a customer need support? It’s about quick executive decision-making to meet micro-deadlines over and over and over again over the course of one shift. And it is about relationship building and clear communication on both sides of the counter, playing an essential role in the health and liveliness of a community.
These are hard skills to learn and maintain. They shouldn’t be dismissed or overlooked and can be used in any industry. Most work requires interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and the ability to make decisions; these are the same skills we learn and practice daily in coffee work and every other type of service industry job.
So, with that in mind, and with much trepidation, excitement, and a bit of chutzpah, I thought to myself: “Forget those naysaying hiring managers. I know what I can offer,” and started thinking about how to create work outside of coffee.
I started by doing some consulting around equity and hiring. While in that work, I realized I was calling on what I learned from coffee management about coaching people. I supported people in understanding what they were good at and where they wanted to evolve and improve. So I started researching what I needed to become a life coach, took a certification course, and slowly started taking on clients. In the two years since starting my coaching business, I’ve taken on dozens of individual clients, created a month-long workshop called The Pause Project—now in its 8th session—and am about to launch a new workshop offering.
Coffee work is work I love; it is a home to me, and to this day, I still work shifts behind the bar to support my coaching work. If service and coffee work is your path, dig into that passion. But if you love this work and want to see where else it can take you, consider leaning into the parts of your job you love, developing the hell out of that, and harnessing your skills to look outward.
If you love organizing things, maybe you can turn that into an inventory management job. If you’re the person at work developing new recipes, consider jobs where creativity and imagination lead the way. If you enjoy communicating with others, consider writing—start a blog, scribble down ideas, and share your story. Or you can follow my example: if you love building relationships, find ways to continue working directly with people, harnessing all the skills you’ve developed by serving hundreds of customers daily.
There is such beauty and importance to the work we do. There is a lot of love in coffee and service industry work and so much room for personal evolution. Our work invites you to show up as yourself. Our cafes, restaurants, and third spaces are at their best when the people running them show up as themselves and love what they do at work—beyond simply pulling shots or bussing tables. Maybe the thing you love is the thing that coffee shows you how to grow into and explore more. Maybe that’s the work that coffee leads you to. I know that’s true for me.
Thanks for reading my thoughts on coffee, passion, and career. If you’re interested in learning more about my coaching practice, you can follow this link here.
If you’re interested in trying out one of my workshops, you can learn about The Pivot workshop and Trust the Foundation. If you want to follow along with my work, offerings, and writing, find me on social at sister_sundown and sign up to read my newsletter.
Photo by Kelly Ziesenis Carter