Instructional Design

My First Job: My days as a barista have come full-circle

Recently, there has been an influx of posts from “influencers” on LinkedIn describing their first jobs and reflecting on what they learned from them.  I thought it would be fun to share what my first job taught me!

My first real job was at a muffin shop (not to be named here) when I was 15 years old.  We served all kinds of different muffins and the usual variety of coffee options.  A few of my friends from high school worked there, and one of them suggested I apply when she found out they were hiring.

My Mother Was Right

I didn’t have to submit an application and I was hired without the owner ever meeting me or seeing my face.  Why?  Because my friend mentioned that I was a Girl Scout and he apparently had all the info he needed.  I was floored.  My mother was right about being a Girl Scout…it turns out it does say something about character, at least to that guy.  So, the first thing my job taught me was that my mother was right about something.  And for 15-year-old me, well, that was hard to admit.  Thanks, ma, for insisting I stick to Girl Scouts through all the ridicule in middle school.

Training is important!

Since reflecting on my days as a barista/muffin girl, I realize it taught me a great deal about the need for training and development – especially on-boarding of new employees.

Of course, there really isn’t much to learn about selling muffins.  They sell themselves, really.  I just had to know, when re-stocking, that the fresh muffins were to be placed closest to the glass so that the less-fresh ones (made earlier that day or night before) were sold from the back.  [Did you know that about places with product in windows?  Typically, the fresh(est) product is closest to the window (you) and farthest from where the person serving you is getting them from.]

Back to my training need ah-ha.  I think I was only “trained” for a few hours before I was scheduled to open the store and run it by myself for several hours – and I never saw anyone do it so I had no idea what to do, when, or how.  That was the least of my training needs on this day.  I soon realized, when all the coffee drinkers came in placing their fancy coffee orders (by the way I am not a coffee drinker and I never have been) that I had no idea how to do anything beyond coffee, creamer, and sugar.  Espresso?  I had no idea.  My customers wound up being the ones training me.  Yes, they had to teach me from the other side of the counter how to make their preferred coffee drink.  I was embarrassed beyond words.

Flash Forward

Flash forward to today and I am now a training and development professional, and I am keen to training needs everywhere I go.  I am forever subconsciously doing training needs analyses.  These days, when I am in the shoes of those coffee-drinkers (except doing something besides ordering coffee, of course), I feel bad for the person who has so obviously been neglected from proper training.  In fact, I have been known to pull managers aside to politely point out the need for training and development when I see it.

It’s strange to see my days of scrambling through coffee-making come full circle, and to think that I knew something was missing – I couldn’t possibly have been expected to know everything there was to know about my role in just a few short hours.  And I couldn’t possibly have known what to do to open the store without job-shadowing or observing someone else do it.  Same goes for making espresso, and all those other fancy coffee drinks.  Now I know that it wasn’t me.  The on-boarding process – or lack thereof – failed me…but I think it makes me a better instructional designer today!


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