Coffee Knowledge Hub

How to build your coffee career

So, you are working in the coffee industry, you love coffee, and the coffee community. It is a job but also a world in which you feel like you belong. You can see yourself staying in this industry, but having worked in a particular role for a while, you are ready for the next challenge. What are you going to do? How do you decide what to do next in your coffee career?

Written by Andrew Tolley
Posted in News on 24 giugno 2021

The coffee industry is huge by many metrics, but the one we are focused on here is the diversity of job opportunities. From production to consumption there are millions of people working in coffee and 100’s of different job types. As an industry it has the potential to provide meaningful work opportunities for your entire working life. If you are passionate about the coffee industry, you could work in any number of roles and find personal and professional fulfilment, while doing a broader range of different jobs than your parents or grandparents imagined possible when they started their working lives.

The attitude to jobs has also shifted dramatically with generations. Millennials are now the biggest part of the workforce. 1 in 5 millennials in the US have left their job in the last 12 months, 13% expect to leave in the next 6 months and 22% expect to stay no longer than 5 years with one employer. Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn highlights that the new norm is to change jobs 4 times in 10 years and that millennials are more interested in trying out different jobs before settling on a career.

Changing jobs should not be taken lightly. It is disruptive to your lifestyle, your income, your current employer (if you leave the business) and most importantly will impact the direction of your future roles. You can think of job changes like a game of chess, each move should be carefully considered for both the immediate consequences and for ramifications to your next move, after this one.

There are 3 simple ways to visualise building your career. There is traditional career progression, climbing the career ladder where you stay within a role, but move up in terms of responsibility. A good example is progressing from barista to head barista, or roaster to head roaster. The next option is the jungle gym, where you shift types of jobs, not just the level. An example would be going from head barista to assistant café manager or barista trainer. Finally there is the deep dive. This is where you become even more of a specialist. Academics are a great example of this progressing from bachelor degree, to post-graduate masters or PhD to post doctorate researcher. It is a form of progression where your focus becomes narrower as your expertise becomes progressively more unique.

coffee careers are endless in their depth

To build your career by climbing the ladder, navigating the jungle gym or deep diving you need to consider your current skillset and the skillset of the job type you are interested in. You also need to know yourself, to be sure you are the right person for a role. As an example, many baristas express a desire to become a roaster. It seems like a cool job, there’s a big toy- the roaster, lots of coffee to create profiles for and loads of cupping and sensory development. At least, this is the impression many have. The reality is often quite different. Here’s a typical day of production roasting: Arrive at work, say hi to one or 2 colleagues, switch on roaster to get it to temperature, roast 12 batches of the same coffee in exactly the same way, 15 minute break, roast another 8 batches of the same coffee, lunch, roast another 12 batches…cool down the roaster, prep the next days green for production, go home. It involves heavy lifting, it is repetitive, often manual, and the feedback loop about your work is long – 12-24 hours before you cup the coffees, 7 days before a café feeds back about the coffee, though most of the time they only get in touch if there’s a problem.

This would not sell coffee roasting as a job to some people, but would be a dream job for others. How do you know which camp you fall into? Firstly start with what you know about yourself. See Table 1 for some guiding questions. What do you enjoy in your current role. As a barista, if you love chatting to lots of different customers, seeing them enjoy what you serve them and doing a wide range of tasks in a café, production roasting might not be the right job for you.

Table 1. Some questions to help you think critically about yourself

What are you interested in?

What are your personal motivations?

What work environment do you like?

What are your strengths and talents?

Building your coffee career is a skill on its own. So take the time to get to know yourself. Review the tips for building your coffee career. In part 2 of this article we look at skills, skills gaps and mapping your progression. Stay tuned!

Tips for building your coffee career

Update your CV – Use the My Profile section of the CoffeeKnowledgeHub to auto create a CV you can then download.

Education – do courses that provide the knowledge and skills gaps you have.

Volunteer – see if you can get some work experience in the role before you make the leap.

Develop your network – talk to people in roles you are interested in, what are their jobs really like, what is the company like to work in.

Take on extra – curricular projects - every business needs additional things done, link a project to a role you are interested in and your current employer can support you in doing it.

Need some motivation? –you can do this


Vuleta, B, 2021, 30 Remarkable Stats About Millennials in the Workplace, What to Become, viewed 23/06/21,

Berger, G, 2016, Millennials Job-Hop More Than Previous Generations, But They'll Slow Down Eventually, Linked In, viewed 20/06/2021

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