Never try, never know

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been perusing every possible career website available recommended to me for a job that I can possibly do for the next little while in Sydney. Something ideally lasting 3-6 months would be perfect (given that the working holiday visa only allows you to work at a job for at most 6 months).

I’ve already spent the last few weeks of December going all over the place to familiarize myself with the city and to visit the main attractions. The novelty will soon wear off with time (going from traveler mode to resident mode), and my wallet is feeling the pinch. The latter probably being the most prominent.

Most people would directly start their search in the field of their expertise. It’s only natural, especially if you’ve already spent a couple of years working in the industry, like I have. For me, that would be in software development, project management, or photography. I started searching for jobs in these areas, writing cover letters after cover letters.

Then something clicked in me. Why was I here, and what change do I want to do? Did I really want to move halfway around the world just to do another 9-5 office job, or even so, something I could be doing back home? Maybe. But I think my time could be better spent on something I normally wouldn’t divert my career away from.

Retail, travel/flight, and barista, were the top three jobs that I had narrowed my choices down to. Funny enough, they’re all customer-focused.

It doesn’t mean that they were the only ones I was wiling to do, but if I’m starting with interests first, hopefully I’ll be staying true to the quote “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I think there really is a fine balance between racing against time, money, and doing what you want to do. Rush into finding any random job you can find, and you’ll be stuck in work mode too soon. Take too long to find a job, and you start eating away at your savings and limited visa duration. Oh, I’m sure if there were job interviews lined up right now, regardless if it’s in my list of preferred fields, I would still be clawing at it.

What can I say, I like coffee. Making coffee? No problem back home. Grinding some coffee beans, scooping them into a pod, then pop it into my Keurig machine counts as knowing how to brew coffee right? Well not really. I knew making a good cup of coffee isn’t as simple as it looks, but it also can’t be as hard as loading some coffee into the commercial espresso machine, right? Wrong again. It’s one of those things that requires science and math (being precise!), and a lot of experience.

So I’ve been seeing a lot of job postings online recruiting for barista / cafe all-rounders. This should be easy, I thought. Just tailor my cover letter to what they’re looking for, highlight my customer support experience on the resume, and click the apply button.

Not so, at least not in this industry. I must’ve sent out at least two dozen applications and not hearing back from a single one. What a let-down. From the employer’s perspective though, I can understand it’s actually quite difficult to try-out the right candidates, let alone hire someone without much experience in the field.

Determined that, surely, everyone must’ve started out without any experience and worked their way up. The only way to prove that I was serious in pursuing this was to gain basic knowledge in the coffee business. I partook in a 5 hour course in barista essentials and food safety, leaving with a nice little certification in the end (which probably didn’t mean much to a cafe, but I was rather proud of getting it :p). I was as giddy as a fresh grad and quickly added it to my list of achievements on paper.

Equipped with printed resumes in hand, I decided to try my luck in person in the densely populated coffee areas of Surry Hills and CBD. It wasn’t an easy task, I ended up walking over 10km in a span of two days. To my surprise, many of them were hiring and eager to take in resumes for review. Whether or not they would call back later would be a different story.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Danielle was an owner of a cafe in a busy area, and upon explaining to her my intentions but lack of experience, she did not hesitate in expressing interest in my passion and eagerness towards learning, and took down my contact information. It was a huge surprise to receive a call later in the afternoon asking me to come in the next day (on my birthday!) to conduct a short trial to see how I would do.

The trial ended up lasting about an hour, where I was working alongside the head barista (newly hired for 2 days), who has been a barista for over 25 years (!!). In that timeframe I was probably making and serving over a dozen drinks to customers. In the end, I didn’t make the cut as the cafe was looking for someone with a bit more experience who could work independently. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly disappointed, but was truly grateful for the opportunity Danielle gave to me, and trust that they had. I didn’t even think I’d be touching the espresso machine that day.

I won’t be giving up just yet – there’s bound to be a place for me. Just need to keep up the search, with a combination of the right timing and people. Hopefully I’ll have another update soon.

Not everything you try will yield favourable results, but remember: if you never try, you never know.

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