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KAUFMAN: Unexpected value of off-campus barista gig

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For four years as undergraduates, students feel heavy pressure to get internship experience under their belts. An internship is undoubtedly a great opportunity to be shaped as a professional; however, my experience working at a local coffee shop has shown me that a part-time job, especially in the service industry, can shape you as a person.

I have been a barista at Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. for a little over a year. The notorious sophomore slump had me feeling unmotivated and questioning how I was going to make the last half of my college career truly count. This angst manifested itself into a two-month-long hunt for the perfect part-time job.

This hunt was much harder than anticipated. Having never worked in coffee, I lacked the training necessary to become a barista. When interviewing for these positions, I couldn’t use my previous internship experience or academic background as my crutch. Instead, I had to reflect on who I was as a person and why I would be a good fit with the company.

I had previously developed a script of what to say in interviews, but when I realized a coffee shop doesn’t care about my knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, I prioritized my soft skills for future interviews in all fields.

Anodyne is only a few minutes from campus, but working there has allowed me to experience Milwaukee from the perspective of a local, not just as a Marquette student. The coffee shop is in the middle of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Walker’s Point, which is currently undergoing a great revitalization period.

When employees from other local businesses come in for their daily coffee, we chat about what’s new at their businesses and what is happening in the area. If it weren’t for the coffee shop, I would never have been exposed to so many different opportunities to get involved in the Milwaukee community, and chances are I would still consider La Perla the best place in Walker’s Point perhaps the greatest travesty of all.

In the beginning of my job search, I was motivated to gain a memorable experience for the remainder of my college career. Being a barista has allowed me to look beyond campus and experience Milwaukee from an entirely different lens. The work ethic and patience I have gained from working in the service industry will shape how I approach any job in the future.

Unlike at an internship, my coworkers don’t all have the same end goal as I do, which makes my experience that much more enriching. Some of my coworkers are still in school, some are artists and some are lifelong baristas. The opportunity to spend eight-hour shifts getting to know individuals who aren’t college students has been refreshing and has helped me understand the importance of a work-life balance.

When I am behind the bar, I can stop being a student for a little while, converse with the regulars and just worry about perfecting my latte art.

The word “anodyne” is defined as a source of soothing comfort and, for me, Anodyne is just that.

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