taking steps every day to love our little life

A Starbucks Coffee Break: Why I Quit My Job to Make Coffee

A Starbucks Coffee Break: Why I Quit My Job to Make Coffee

StarbucksI’ve been working at Starbucks for almost two years now. My job at Starbucks has been my longest-held job since graduating college. That used to be something that embarrassed me, but not anymore. Working at Starbucks has undoubtedly been my favorite experience so far.

I love Starbucks for many reasons: they’re organized, innovative, unabashedly liberal, and passionate about people. (Did you know that Starbucks spends more each year on health insurance than on coffee beans?).

The Beginning

I started working at Starbucks because I needed a break from the job I was doing. I had spent thousands of dollars on a degree in order to get a job in a field I was told my whole life to strive for, and I couldn’t (at the time) make it work.

Learning was my passion. I love being a student, and I know that I want to go back for more formal school later in life. But at the time it was too much for me. After teaching middle and high school and working administratively in three colleges and universities with nothing but “potential” to show for it, I had had enough!

coffee beansAt the time, Starbucks was easy work. But as with most things worth doing well, it takes hard work to excel. I worked my way up from barista to barista trainer; then trainer to shift supervisor. Now that I’m stepping down to spend more time at home, I’ve found a new aspiration in my last few weeks full-time at Starbucks. Becoming a Coffee Master

Starbucks offers a program to a few employees who show great interest in coffee and learning about coffee. The program also intends to have the new Coffee Master boosts sales for the store, but they target employees who have passion. Though I am still in the training for this training, I cannot wait to be a Coffee Master and earn my black apron.

Why I Quit My Job To Make Coffee

In high school, I remember  being told that the reason I should go to college was so I can get a “real job.” At the time, I was planning on being a high school Bible teacher or missionary, or something equally deserving of the credulous “real job” title. For some reason, the quintessential “non-real” job was Starbucks.

One Tuesday morning I was sitting in the cafe of the Starbucks I now work at with my friend Tim planning out our lives (which are very different now). I remember thinking

This would be the bottom for me. If I don’t become a teacher or a professor, I’d have to work at Starbucks!

Almost six years later now, I’m watching two high school students have that same conversation. But this time, I’m on the other side of the counter. I’m not going to bother getting into what is or isn’t a real job (it’s meaningless anyway), but I will only in this context: 

You don’t have to live the life others you to.

Until 2015, every employment and education decision I made I did because of the expectations I assumed others had for me.

The Job I Was Expected To Do Wasn’t For Me

Man sitting drinking coffee, reading bibleBeing so heavily involved in Christian school put incredible pressure on me to pursue ministry. I made a great effort towards this goal so my teachers could look back, years later, and be proud of me. (Sometimes I see a few of them at Starbucks, and I do hope they still are proud of me serving Pike Place Roast instead of Paul’s Epistles). I went to a private college, earned a degree in Biblical studies, took extra education classes, and got hired as a middle school and high school bible teacher right out of college.

In no way was I prepared. After I year, I thought to myself “Oh, I guess this means I really should teach at the college level instead”. Though I still do have Ph.D.-filled dreams, I am thankful for the encouragement to pursue higher education from friends and teachers. If I hadn’t gone down that road, I wouldn’t have met Grace or had been given any of the opportunities I now have; however, I wish I would have heard this advice in Starbucks years ago:

You Don’t Have To Live The Life Others Expect You To.

A few more years of this (jumping from college job to college job) I broke down. The stress, expectations, and fatigue from having 0 interest in what I was doing wore me down. I fell down in front of Grace crying as I was leaving for work one morning (Grace’s post here has a little more about that event).

Ultimately we decided to take a break from our expected jobs. I started working at Starbucks and enjoyed it from day one. The customer service angle, difficult time management, and distant corporation, does bring its share of difficulties. But it is considerably more enjoyable than what I was doing.

You don’t have to work at Starbucks to take a coffee break. But if you can feel a potential meltdown on the horizon due to making one more spreadsheet, phone call, or pointless meeting – get out. Because it’s not worth it! If you’re in a job because you think someone else expects you to be there (but you don’t want to be), get out.

What About Career Potential Or Resume Gaps?

I realized that it would be better to have 1-2 years of a weird off-topic job on my resume than a 6+ year commitment to academic administration (when I wasn’t even sure if that’s where I wanted to be) if it meant I’d feel lifeless most days.

If you’re stuck, if you’re not loving your life, it’s okay to change jobs. I’m not even embarrassed by it anymore because I’m happy. And peaceful. And much less stressed. You’re getting out might look different. I chose Starbucks because I needed three things in a job:

  1. Equal or better total pay than what I was currently making
  2. More time with Grace than I currently had
  3. More headspace (A job I didn’t bring home with me every night)
1. Equal or Better Total Pay

I did drop from $12/hour to minimum wage when I started at Starbucks, but I needed equal total pay, not just a higher per hour number. My last job paid more up front, but cost more in the end:

  • +$100/month on gas
  • +$15/month on car maintenance
  • +$250/month on out of pocket health insurance 

With Starbucks, I drive 2 miles to work, spend $0 on coffee (Those long commutes did cost me a lot in coffee actually), super cheap and better insurance, plus tips, free counseling, etc. Starbucks really does treat its partners like partners.

2. More Time With Grace

Driving 40 miles a day meant that my 8:00am – 4:00pm job was really 7:00am – 5:00pm (traffic is the worst). This meant that on days Grace worked late (twice a week), minus sleep, we got about 52 hours a week together (filled with errands, responsibilities, and other things of course).

I work about 40 hours a week at Starbucks now, with only a 10 minute commute. Grace stops by to see me often, I have friends I enjoy working with, and we even stop by to get coffee on my off days

3. Headspace

Stress, off-hours email and texts from my boss, the stress of not finishing a project, of not working hard enough, wore on me.

Starbucks can be stressful, but usually the cause of my stress is me not listening to the advice I give to new barista’s: it’s just coffee.

Moving On Again?

Starbucks work counterI think this job is important besides it’s important to do anything well. But it’s also an important job because of Starbucks’ commitment to humanity. Starbucks mission isn’t to make coffee, it’s too inspire. Which, is what our future jobs will be doing hopefully through this blog.

Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

With Mason, our dreams have changed again. Spending more time together now means more time at home with him. I can’t stand being away from my family. So I’m cutting back to part-time at Starbucks (still receiving full-time benefits), to live in an RV, explore our world.

I’m 100% confident in this decision because I’m finally listening to that advice I wished I heard years ago:

You don’t have to live the life others expect you to.

What are you committed to currently in your life only because you think you’re expected to?

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