Coffee Knowledge Hub

How to build your coffee career (Part 2)

In part 1 we covered different models for navigating your coffee career, the career ladder, the jungle gym and the deep dive. In part 2 we cover how skills are used to help you transition between roles

Written by Andrew Tolley
Posted in News on 7 luglio 2021

Let’s look at a more traditional career development, climbing the ladder, using a different example. Another progression from barista is moving to head barista and then perhaps to coffee trainer. It seems logical that when you go from barista to head barista, you have developed a set of hard and soft skills. You start as a barista, gain knowledge about coffee preparation and service, operational processes and technical skills. You become proficient in these areas, gain the respect of your peers and managers and you are ready to progress to Head Barista when the position opens up. As Head Barista, you utilise all the skills and knowledge you have gained as a barista but you also need a new skillset, more people management, mentoring, and perhaps some digital skills to work on barista scheduling and ordering coffees. You create a strong foundation and then build on this with more responsibilities, skills, knowledge and behaviours.

For many people the next step in their career ladder might seem to be becoming a barista trainer. However this is not necessarily a step up the career ladder. Although you might have content knowledge and a high level of barista skills, training is a profession in itself. Creating course outlines, materials that meet the learning needs of different learning styles, and a myriad of other pedagogic practices is going to require study and practice. The head barista with a thirst for knowledge who teaches like they learn, but struggles to teach in other ways or empathise with their students, is not going to be an effective trainer for all the diverse individuals who need training. Great trainers get their joy from seeing others flourish. Trainers may not be the best baristas, but they develop others to be the best baristas. The best baristas may not be able to train but they inspire others and do their job expertly. There is a career path for everyone, but you need to know your current status in terms of skills and knowledge before moving on.

Once you work out what your personal and professional objectives are, based on knowing who you are and your current qualifications. It is time to map out what gaps you have to fill to get to the next position. If you are a barista who wants to be a trainer, do a train the trainer course. The most famous train the trainer course in our industry is the Accredited SCA trainer (AST), however just completing this won’t make you a trainer. Go deeper and really learn how to train. You can learn and practice everything you would do in the AST course, before paying the money and getting this qualification. Can you create a course outline? Can you create effective training materials? Can you create a safe and welcoming training space? Once you can do these things, become an AST and you will be able to start earning money as a trainer to justify the expense of the certification. If it turns out you don’t actually enjoy the different tasks required of a trainer, then becoming a trainer might not be a good move for you.

No matter what job you have done or qualifications you have received, you will have developed a set of skills that are transferable to the next role. Transferable skills are often soft skills, like communication or leadership, that are relevant in different positions. They can also be hard skills like making espresso, if you go on to become a barista trainer. You should take note of the transferable skills you are developing as you continue to work and study. This process of continuously tracking your performance will help you to better understand yourself, the qualifications you have and the areas you can address to move to the next role. Keep your CV up to date on the CKH so you track your progress.

Building your coffee career does not require changing companies, there are many ways to grow within a company and this is often worth exploring first. By talking to your manager they will know that you are ambitious, they will be able to give you feedback on your performance, and they might have ideas about how to support your development through additional courses, mentoring and job opportunities within the business. You should also be aware that sometimes a jungle gym move will be a demotion in terms of level and pay, but if it gets you where you want to progress to then it can be worthwhile. A café manager who wants to move into human resources or marketing, will need to reskill. It is not fair to others in the marketing or HR team to pay above their salary grade when the person has less experience and direct skills relating to the new role.

We have visualised the career ladder, the jungle gym and the deep dive to map how you can build your coffee career. As a final visualisation, think about your coffee career like an oak tree. The roots are everything you did before coffee, they are the foundation to your trunk. The tree trunk is the accumulation of transferable knowledge and skills you develop in your career journey. Each branch is an exploration of a new role or job type. The size of the trunk and the branches is directly related to how much effort you put into each area. The coffee industry is the environment that nurtures your growth, but fundamentally, your success is down to you. Take the time to plan your development, and make the most of your professional life.

To understand the above in a more macro sense, scroll down this page to see this visualisation of job transitions for a shop assistant. It highlights that there are external risks to every job. Keep your skillset up to date in terms of transferable skills, soft skills and hard skills.


Soft Skills; Wikipedia; Access: 24/06/2021

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