Your first job: it’s either a horror story or must-visit every time you go home. A couple of years ago, I started looking for a job. Something that would provide a little more stability than babysitting here and there. I looked at some big name places in my hometown, some chain coffee shops and a couple of retail stores. There was a little Mediterranean café at the end of the street that I had heard of a few times but had only actually been in a couple of times for a quick cup of coffee. So, I figured I would check it out and see if they were hiring. Turns out a friend worked there, and so I applied. The boss was almost as intimidating as the menu which I knew nothing about and couldn’t pronounce. I offered no experience in the food industry. I was asked if I could start in the next week.
Training was terrifying and overwhelming and I thought for sure that I was doing every single thing wrong. If this is how you feel in the first few weeks of a job, stick it out. Give it a few months. Give your new coworkers and your new boss and your new customers a few months. If your experience is anything like mine, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Since deciding to stick it out, I learned how to make a cappuccino with the perfect steamed milk to foamed milk ratio. I learned how to (sort of) pronounce everything on the menu. I figured out just how long to warm up the different flatbreads so that the dough was just right. I learned how to deal with customers who I didn’t really want to deal with. I built friendships with all of the regulars. I learned how to remember people’s names and how much it can brighten someone’s day when you know their name, and when they know yours.
Of course, like any job, working at the café taught me important life skills. It taught me how to manage my time. It taught me how to work with people and how to work for someone. These are all skills you will learn no matter what company you work with. But I worked for a boss who owned the café, cooked the food, and hired the employees. That made all the difference. Working at a locally owned business taught me how much behind the scenes work goes into owning a restaurant.
Work at a locally owned business so that you can befriend your boss. If you’re as lucky as I am, this will mean that she will cook food for you whenever you want it, even if it’s five minutes before close. Working at a locally owned business provides flexibility with hours that larger companies can’t accommodate. It also provides you with the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills, not just one. I didn’t just learn how to make lattes, or just learn how to take orders, or just learn how to serve food. I got to do it all, sometimes on rainy days when there wasn’t a line, and sometimes on days when the phone just wouldn’t stop ringing.
Work at a locally owned business so that you can get to know your coworkers, and so that when someone moves away, you can get all of your friends to interview. Getting paid to work with your closest friends is seriously as good as it gets.
Work at a locally owned business because it will push you far out of your comfort zone. You will have to know everything like the back of your hand, but it will be so worth it. You will build relationships and walk away with so many skills that I am thankful to have. If you’re lucky enough, your boss might even let you work when you come home for Christmas break and might even send you a care package with all of the food that you still can’t really pronounce but miss dearly.
If you’re ever on Belmont Street in Belmont, MA, stop by Seta’s Mediterranean Café and grab a Mano for lunch, or a Hannah Bowl for brunch. Don’t forget to ask for lavash with garlic sauce!