How simple café jobs can provide young people with invaluable life skills 

How simple café jobs can provide young people with invaluable life skills 

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

During my work experience with Firefly, I discovered that many of the team worked in hospitality jobs before their current role, and it got me thinking about how my own experience working in hospitality might be giving me more skills and experience than I had initially imagined. 

Everybody knows that hospitality is not the most glamorous sector to work in, nor is it the most fun, yet today it remains a convenient job for many young people. Whilst the pay isn’t great and your feet are sure to ache after rushing around all day, the convenience of not needing qualifications means that it is great for a first job. I used to go into my weekend café job thinking that the only skill I am learning is how to make a coffee, however on reflection, I can now see how beneficial this job has been in preparing me for the real world.  

“How can I help you today?” 

Communications is something that is integral in most, if not all jobs. This means that knowing how to interact with complete strangers, and not just your classmates, is a skill that at some point we all must become proficient at. Whether it be taking a person’s food order, or handling a mistake the kitchen made, young people are learning how to use effective communication to tackle scenarios in the real world. 

Things often go wrong in whatever job you are doing, and situations such as orders going missing really tested my quick thinking and resolve. Although it is never fun when things go awry, learning how to control the situation and deal with things calmly is something that you get better with over time.  

“Can I speak to the manager, please?” 

We have all met people who like to make things extra difficult. Being confronted by someone like this when you are 16 can be incredibly intimidating. For many it can be quite upsetting at first, however after a while you adjust and learn how to handle it.  

I quickly learnt the harsh truth that not everybody in the world is going to attempt to make your life easier, and instead of letting that upset me, I realised that I could still do my job well despite them. If you can handle being shouted at on a busy and stressful day, then receiving an email from an unhappy person seems easy, right? 

“So...what are your plans for the future?” 

As well as developing your communication skills, these jobs are an excellent way to network. It might only be making friends at work to see in your free time, but for a student this can make life much more enjoyable. However, beyond this, hospitality can be great for meeting a wide range of people and furthering your network. As you progress more in your career, knowing a variety of interesting people can be helpful in moving through the job market. 

One of my current hospitality jobs is being a box waiter at Twickenham stadium, and getting this job was like finding a gold mine. Working in situations where you are serving drinks and chatting to the same people for several hours at a time allows you to get to know interesting people from all walks of life. Advice on careers is sometimes given out, and this way of meeting and connecting with people can really make you feel as if you are already making your mark on the world – even if you are still only a teenager. 

You never know who you might be making small talk with. One day it might be to an assistant, and the next day you might be talking to the CEO. Opportunities could arise at any moment, and impressing the right people might not only secure you a larger tip but might also give you opportunities to work with them in the future. 

The phrase ‘It’s not about what you know but who you know’ is glaringly true in today’s world where the connection between people has never been stronger due to technology. Platforms such as LinkedIn are a great way for people to connect to colleagues and others they have met at work. I have made sure to use this modern technology to allow me to stay connected to many of those I have interacted with. 

So, are these jobs really just about convenience or are they more about finally getting to dip a toe into the big world of work? Even if it is not a career for life, turns out working at the local café was not as big of a waste of time as I had originally thought. 

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