10 Things I’ve Learned Working at Starbucks With A Masters Degree

I want to give you a free copy of my eBook called The Chase: Thoughts On Quitting Your Job And Chasing Your Dreams. I wrote it for those who feel like they are meant to do something more. Click here to download it now.

Note: I wrote this post a few years ago while I was working at Starbucks, waiting and hoping and praying I could be a “real” writer someday. I hope it brings hope to you, especially if you’re working a job that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what you dream of doing someday.

I never thought I would find myself working at Starbucks, especially at 29, especially after finishing my Masters Degree. But here I am, thankful to have a job that provides me not only with a paycheck  but also with benefits, and realizing that there are all kinds of things I can learn about myself, about others, and about what it means to be a good employee — even working a job that I never expected.
Here are some of the things I am learning.

1. I’m not too good to make lattes

Masters degree or not, I’m not too good to make coffee for people. In fact, despite my “illustrious” Masters Degree I’m still one of the least experienced, least skilled baristas at my store. I’m learning that my co-workers, and even the clientele I serve each morning, have a lot to teach me, if I’m willing to be  humble and pay attention.

2. Humility is influential

Everyone wants to be important so that they can influence others. It’s not a wrong desire. But the thing I’m learning working at Starbucks is that, putting yourself in a position of humility gives you a unique ability to influence others in service, relationship and love. I’m convinced that’s why Jesus showed up on this earth the way that he did.

The influence that comes from humility is more powerful than the influence that comes from power. [tweet that now]

3. People are just people. 

Strip away all the money and the titles and the things people own, and people are just people. No matter where you go — a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a big important corporation — you will work with people who, at the core, are just the same as people you would meet anywhere else. Some of them will be like you, some won’t. Some will be downright difficult to work with.

Working at Starbucks has been an opportunity for me to grow in my ability to relate with others, to submit to leadership, and serve and love people even when they don’t serve or love me back.

4. There’s no reason to “stick it” to anyone

I know everyone wants to “stick it to the man,” especially when it comes to corporations like Starbucks. And to be fair, I can’t defend everything Starbucks has ever stood for, or done. It’s too big of a corporation for me to make that generalization. What I will say is that the “big bad man” has taken really good care of me, and my husband, during a time we really needed it.

Starbucks has given us exactly what we needed to plant a church, launch a business, and get our lives off the ground — health benefits, free coffee and a job with a schedules that flexes around ours.

5. Don’t despise small beginnings

Good things start small. You plant a seed, in good soil, and it grows.

Right now I’m planting seeds, and tilling soil, for a garden that doesn’t exist yet. It’s hard work, but I can’t wait to see the fruit of what we’re building.

6. It’s not about the money 

I only make minimum wage at Starbucks, but somehow I’m still really invested in what I’m doing each day. I think part of this is my personal conviction to bring glory to God in whatever I’m doing, but part of it is that Starbucks does a good job of giving ownership to each of it’s employees. That’s why they call us “Partners.”

When people have ownership and buy-in to what they’re doing, they don’t need a giant paycheck. They find significance in adding value to something bigger, something outside of themselves.

This helps inform my leadership as I build a team of people (with very limited capitol) to contribute to Prodigal Magazine.

7. Loyalty and encouragement

When my manager critiques me, it gives me an opportunity to grow. When she encourages me, it secures my loyalty to her. Leaders have a unique position to lift up, and to crush, with their words — and therefore a unique responsibility.

Words matter, especially for leading a team. I’m learning to choose my words carefully.

8. Tip your barista.

Or at least hang up your cell phone and smile. Ask their name. They wake up at 4am to come make your coffee. And they get paid $8/hour.

Just thought I’d throw that one in there.

9. The support role

At Starbucks we have a role called “Store Support” that is in charge of brewing coffee, and re-stocking/replenishing supplies. The person in the Store Support role doesn’t interact with customer orders at all. He or she just “supports” the other baristas and their objective for the store.

Nobody likes this role. It’s hard work, and not very gratifying. It’s boring.

But it is also really necessary.

I’m learning that support roles, although not very glamorous, are some of the most vital roles in life. If we can embrace these roles when they’re given to us, and choose to support and serve with joy, we add unspeakable value to our team.

10. Life Lessons are everywhere

Sometimes I have a training at Starbucks, or just a normal shift, and I come home to tell Darrell about something new I learned about myself, about doing business, or about other people. This happens probably once or twice a week.

Even if you’re working a job you hate — there are always things to learn. If you have the right perspective.

 

Question: Are you working a job (or have you ever) that you never expected? What has that job taught you? 

I want to give you a free copy of my eBook called The Chase: Thoughts On Quitting Your Job And Chasing Your Dreams. I wrote it for those who feel like they are meant to do something more. Click here to download it now.

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

73 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned Working at Starbucks With A Masters Degree”

  1. Thanks for this one, Ally. I’m definitely not using my degree where I’m working right now, and never expected to stay in this position for almost 2 years. It’s hard and it’s challenging to come to work every day with an optimistic attitude. This job has definitely taught me humility, but also what you said, that people are people. Because of my position, I interact with a lot of people high and low on the ladder. And even though some of them have “bad reputations” when you actually take the time to learn about them, you realize they’re just like you. They may be crabby one day, but it might be because of struggles at home. So even though my job isn’t my favorite..at all, I’m trying to do what I can to bring joy to those around me while I’m still here. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. “I’m trying to do what I can to bring joy to those around me while I’m still here.” Good stuff, Michaeleen. Keep it up.

      Each day I go to work I pray that the Lord will put someone in front of me that I can encourage, or uplift. I bet you ARE impacting people, even people who may never tell you!

  2. When my oldest son was entering first grade, I left my HS English teaching job to become an aide at his school. I worked with two extremely difficult autistic kindergardners and spent lots of days wondering why I was there. It provided me distraction-free evenings with my family and I learned a lot about myself and about what the Lord wanted for me when things didn’t go according to my expectations. It ended up being one of my favorite jobs and I stayed in it for four years, until my middle son was born. Your ten lessons were true for me, as well. So thankful God never lets us off His radar when there are things to gain and lessons to be learned in unlikely places!

  3. “It’s not about the money.”

    The money thing has humbled me. Because at 29, with a Master’s Degree, I am doing a job I like, but I have yet to find an employer who’s willing to pay me what I’m “worth.” It makes you rethink a lot of things. 🙂

    1. Yes, definitely. Some of us may never get paid what we’re “worth” but that doesn’t make us worth less. Our worth isn’t attached to what we get paid. Sometimes getting paid less than we’re “worth” forces us to refocus and notice where our real worth comes from.

      Thanks Matt, as always, for sharing. Your comments are always so insightful.

      1. “Sometimes getting paid less than we’re ‘worth’ forces us to refocus and notice where our real worth comes from.”

        Wow thats a really great way to think about it…thanks so much this has really opened up my eyes to see where I’m needed in this world…

  4. I’m currently working two part-time jobs with a Bachelor’s degree under my belt. I never expected to be working for minimum wage. But I wouldn’t change it.

    You know it’s funny because I just had a conversation with my boss two days ago in a meeting. I was dissatisfied with a few things and I brought it to her attention. I told her that I was in this position to stay and I wasn’t motivated by how much money I make because if that was the case I still wouldn’t be there. Yes I said that to her.

    And this is what my job has taught me.

    In my position I’m challenged and have learned so much that my experience there has been valuable. Not just in my personal life but spiritually too. I’ve been cut down, chewed out, and treated like I’m incompetent, but I wouldn’t change it because I’ve learned the power of communication and have learned our feelings matter – we matter.

    I know God is using me where I’m at and whether I’m making $8 an hour or $20 an hour, I’m going to let Him continue to use me.

    Because you’re right, it’s not about the money.

    1. I think the other thing we learn when we’re chewed out, cut down or even treated poorly is how to be secure in our identity. We learn that, if we look to others to speak our value to us, we will always be disappointed.

      Hang in there! God is using you and teaching you in this season. Sounds like you recognize that.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. 100{9ac618bfda39dd0c8c9a0232963cb9a2adfe54a7367c2d4954ad9e847b2e5305} yes. I’m sure I’ve learned more than I realize from the whole experience but most importantly to look at the long term as much as in the moment. Life shouldn’t be all about the money but sometimes you have to take a job because you need money.

  6. I always intended to have a full time career and prepared well for it. But I walked away from it to be a homeschooling mom. It has turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I learned that God knows me better than I know myself, and he will give me the true desires of my heart.

    1. Bridget — what a cool perspective! And what a HARD but important job you have.

      It is so cool how God knows us and provides for us in unique ways. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  7. Ally while reading this, I just had to say out loud “Dude, this is so good.” That doesn’t happen very often when I’m reading a blog post. I hope this encourages you to keep doing what you are doing.

    I’m doing something I REALLY dislike for my day job, but it definitely has provided for me and my family. Thank you for reminding me to look on the bright side and to be thankful for what I have.

  8. As someone who has been working for a while (30+ years), I have found it’s not a question of “if” one will work a job never expected, but “when.” Often these can be turning points or paradigm shift for where one is going. There have been a few jobs that I really struggled in working and having a positive attitude but when I approach them as “Lord, what is it you want me to learn?,” the experience has always been amazing. Usually learning from and dealing with that which is most challenging in one job, whether area/person/skill, is exactly what is needed for the next job I get. Great article!

    1. “Lord, what do you want me to learn” Yes, this. It’s been a paradigm shift for sure, but I’m actually really enjoying it and learning a lot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. I LOVE this post! I worked at a locally owned coffee shop for two years, with a bachelors degree. And honestly, it was one of my favorite jobs ever. I still miss it. I’m currently in a job that I don’t like (kinda wanna go back to playing with coffee grinds to be totally honest) and I have to remind myself of all the good in my job. Thanks for sharing such a positive attitude.
    And yes, ALWAYS tip your barista. It’s just the right thing to do.

    1. Thanks Jamie! The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, isn’t it?

      Serving coffee is great. So many chances to interact with people and make their day. Thanks for jumping in the conversation!

  10. If there’s any one message the Lord is sending lately, it’s the centrality of humility, and the paradoxically redemptive power of it.
    Beautiful post!

  11. Tracy Severson

    I LOVED working at Starbucks and would go back in an instant…thank you for sharing because this is so true!

  12. Great post! I have been tackled with the realization that God is always working, always planting me for some reason, for good. Even if the job isn’t what you expected or thought you would have at this stage in life, God did. It’s beautiful that you see that too!

  13. Ally, thank you SO much for these last couple of posts. They have hit so close to home for me as I feel like I am in a similar situation that you are. I especially liked your words, “Don’t despise small beginnings”. Patience is so important at this time in our lives and while we may not be able to see it now, there is something bigger that will show itself later. We just have to trust and watch God work.

    1. Ashlyn — you’re welcome!

      Trusting God. It shouldn’t be hard, but it is! Isn’t it? I keep reminding myself in this season: He is trustworthy. He keeps proving that to me time and time again. Thank you for reading and for your comment. It’s a great addition to the conversation.

  14. Great post Ally. I worked at Starbucks after college and it was a great transition job for me. Cool to hear all you are learning.

  15. I love this post, particularly because I am about to make a similar move master’s degree and all to take a break from my career and work at a cafe. It’s a great reminder. You can’t humiliate the humble. I tweeted my experience with this at you 🙂 Thanks again for sharing!

  16. I came to your site from a joint blog you did with Emily Wieringa (or she commented on) anyway, i too work at Starbucks. I donèt have a masters degree but this is definately not what i envisioned myself doing at this stage. it took alot of talking to dear friends who challenged me to see that one, i am GOOD at what i do and two that having the hours i do allows me to be involved in the ministries in which i like to partake…so i like it that was as well. there are some aspects that youève shared here that i need to remember and set to mind. humility especially. thank you for sharing.

  17. I’m so glad I read your post Alli.
    I have an interview at Starbucks tomorrow afternoon.
    I’m hoping that I get the job, because I’ve always believed that Starbucks would be a good fit for me. I like that this experience has humbled you and made you realize that we are all just people. Perhaps I need another dose of that… I worked a “real” job prior to going into this… not quite a masters degree, but one would think that you’d work at a place like Starbucks prior to entering the corporate world.

    I hope I get the job, and I hope that this proves to be a good experience for me. I’m applying for the shift sup. Don’t know if I am qualified for this, with my limited knowledge within the company, but I do have many years of experience in supervision and retail operations. This too shall act as a transformation period for me (that was todays sermon as well). I am no longer a slave to my riches, and I have forfeited my salary and benefits in exchange to see what the world truly has to offer me in fulfilling my divine purpose as a small business owner and photographer.

    I’ve saved your post, because I think this is an amazing list, and I intend to return to it.

    Thankyou for sharing your thoughts Allison.

  18. At the age of 40, about three years ago, I was laid off from my job were i was making 46,000.00/year. i decided to pursue other interests, which led me into subletting a cafe, and learning about agriculture and animal husbandry. Yesterday, I decided to apply to Starbucks. Today I received a phone call, and tomorrow I have an interview. Thank you for writing this as I take on this demanding task at very little pay, which honestly, is more than I am currently making.

  19. Thank you so much for this post. I can completely relate to where you are at, although I do not have a masters degree, I do have a bachelors, have experienced a lot of the world you can say and recently work full time at Tim Hortons, which in Canada is the Mcdonalds/Dunken Donuts of Canada. I think that more than anything else, I am learning that humility is key, I am above no one that I work with just because I have a degree, and on top of that, most of the people I work with are the hardest working people I have ever met, and they too are just trying to make it in the world.I think the biggest issue I have with job is not so much the job itself or the people I work with but rather the customers, people can be so rude, I will never again find myself being rude to someone that works in fast food, customer service or any other job that isnt looked at that positively. I would just encourage people that they dont know what the person on the other side of the speaker box is going through, so be kind.
    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this.
    Noel

  20. Thanks for this post! I find myself at 29, a bachelors degree struggling horriable in my career funding myself working the last 2-1/2 years in a part time job, feeling like I have wasted away my 20’s doing nothing. I’m sure I learned 10 things too I’m just afraid what that was.

  21. I was offered a job at Starbucks and I was browsing on the Internet about other people’s experiences working for this store and I found this. Right now I’m also waiting response for another job working in an office but I really would like to try to work for Starbucks because I think is not always the money that makes you happy but also all the things that you get to learn working in costumer service. My husband would tell me that if I’m offered a job in my career while working with Sartbucks I should take it but if I really like the job I’m going to stay. Good post, thank you!

  22. What I learned while reading this blogpost:
    You seem to look down on others that don’t have the same advantages as you 🙁

    There us something wrong with our economy because I’ve know lawyers and (yes) even people with masters to stoop to working at Starbucks. Gasp!

  23. You are so interesting! I don’t believe I’ve read through anything like this before.So wonderful to find someone with some original thoughts on this issue.
    Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

    Here is my site – unblocked

  24. I tell my husband all the time, what you do for a living is not who you are. My husband could work graphic design (BA in Art) for $9 an hour with experience maybe $11 or he can drive a truck (we got our CDL’s right out of college) and make $20 an hour. I have an english degree and can’t find a job now that I’ve been out of the work force for 5 years. But when I was working it was in accounting and I was making $23 an hour, nothing at all to do with my studies. Sometimes I can see the angst in him because he is “working doing what he loves” but I remind him that driving a truck does not take away who you are as an artist. It is just a way to pay the bills.

  25. I’ve gone through a lot of transitions lately, having just finished my Master’s degree in marine biology (at 31 years old), and am still working at Starbucks until I find a job within my career. (I still need to pay bills and need benefits.) I have had a lot of friends and acquaintances question my choice to continue at a minimum wage job that I’m obviously “overqualified” for, but find that while this may not be the job I spent tens thousands of dollars gaining an education for (and accrued tens of thousands of dollars of debt), I still gain skills and experience that will help me both in life and my future career. I’m not giving up on science because I haven’t found a job in marine biology yet, and I’m not less of a person because I serve you your cup of coffee before 5am. Thank you for your post. I’m not alone, I make an amazing latte, and no matter what I do in life, I can always grow in it. Your blog is inspiring.

  26. Do you have any advice for a freshman college student? I just finished my first semester of college and I am dreadfully worried about my future. Especially since I am undecided and will be in so much debt when I get out of college. I don’t receive any financial aid since my parents make “too much” money so all I can get from the schools are loans. It worries me a lot to know people who go to school and get their bachelors or masters degrees, but yet still can’t find a job. To be honest, it makes me reconsider if I should even go to college anymore if I’m going to be in so much debt……

    p.s. I’m thinking about getting a minor in business but major in social work so I can work for an adoption agency. Does that sound like a good plan?

  27. Directed here from your post today, and boy am I glad I clicked open-link-in-a-new-tab. “The influence that comes from humility is more powerful than the influence that comes from power” is too good not to tweet. Needed this reminder today.

  28. Taylor Robertson

    I really enjoyed reading about you and your Masters degree while maintaining a job at Starbucks Coffee Company. I can definitely relate to you when you were discussed “The Support Role”. I can relate to that in so ways just being on that floor is like being on a stage – to hear this article by you it’s really touching finally someone understands what a Barista a Partner is going through when were on that floor in our aprons and we have our black sharpies – it’s like only a Barista will understand. The advice and things you shared about you learning things everyday about yourself it’s so beautiful to hear that from you- you kind of got me wanting to drop school and work towards my career with Starbucks, concession says so, informing me everyday that’s is nothing wrong without having a degree and being a district manager and moving up from that position. Now I’ve been at Starbucks for a year and four months it’s in my blood. Thank you so much for this I really needed this! I was thinking to read this everyday to remind myself that my life is beautiful because of Starbucks and my loving Husband who stood by my side every time I had a bad day at work, I’ve learned from you that I should stop getting irritated over rude customers and appreciate the any opportunities that is given to me when it’s time for me do the support role.

  29. This is the right site for anybody who would like to find out about this topic.
    You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that has
    been discussed for decades. Excellent stuff, just great!

  30. Thanks, I really appreciated, having the chance to consider, what you had to say here and, I’ll be pleased to read what other people wish to express. I reckon hitting the rails is a great travel idea! Well you’ve given me some good insights here.

  31. I totally agree. I actually think it’s a pretty fun job! I worked at an independent coffee shop, so I think it was almost more challenging in the sense that the roles weren’t really defined. So I found myself doing “store support” along with everything else. I just moved entirely across the country, and I almost felt guilty moving all the way out here and not taking advantage of my 2 B.A.’s. But, when it comes down to it I think I really need to work on focusing on myself and my relationships (with my husband, God, etc) and then just getting a job to bring in some sort of cashflow. God uses each one of us in different ways and places!

  32. Thanks for this article, it was an answered prayer. As I was driving to work this morning, I was thinking about quitting my job…. But I don’t know what I would do or survive on if I did.
    I have for close to 2years now been working a job I ‘am overqualified for. I have an international masters degree and other valuable certificates. I get paid less than some of my colleagues who are less qualified than me. No one even knows I may “extra” qualifications. After getting my masters I thought I would get a better job, but I find myself in my old job, same salary and same kind of respect. Its embarrassing and I have prayed for a job I “deserve” but to no avail(I have on many occasions hid from old colleagues I last saw before my masters. They assume/expect that I have moved up the career ladder). I get embarrassed sometimes that I have not upgraded to a nicer car, I cant afford a nicer car.

    I have cried and cried to God. I go through seasons of being okay and hopeful but sometimes(a lot ) its hard and I just want to hit my head against the wall because of frustration. I feel I’m not reaching my full potential and sometimes I just don’t understand why God afforded me the chance to get a masters scholarship and give me new dreams but to never get the opportunity to achieve those dreams (my scholarship was one of those gifts from God that just land on your lap without you lifting finger). I have had so many job rejections, It has really affected my confidence in my abilities. To a point where I sometimes avoid checking my mail for days because I fear that I will get another rejection…Rejection letters HURT!

    Its a hard experience but it teaches too. I have learned that promotion comes from God and when He says not YET…. You’ll die trying to force His hand. Its not your qualifications and network that take you far in life but God’s yes. I have been able to help more people in these 2years than in all my life. I have come to really care about people and peoples struggles with more patience than ever before.
    I also discovered that I’m not more special than other people, even if I can get the highest qualification in the world, I’m still no better than anyone else. Sometimes with have subtle pride, we not even aware of it ourselves. A job I “DESERVE” kind of pride, I have become more humble I also now understand having joy even when you don’t have all you want. Learning to be happy and grateful for whatever you have and trusting God for better.
    So there are advantages, not so much reputation or position or financial gain but its more who you become, the building of your character.
    Even when I’m at my worst, hating everything about my job and feeling that God is really not being very nice to me. My spirit always whispers loudly in the midst of my pity party screams, “Eye had not seen, ear had not heard nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that the Lord has in store for those who love Him”.
    Thank you for this Ally…. Sorry for long reply, I needed to let it out and this is the only opportunity ever afforded me to do so(you don’t have to read it all).

  33. Hi Ally,
    I’m so blessed to know that you are also God follower..
    I’m happy to read your blog.. I’m just searching to google when i get caught on your blog..
    May the Good Lord bless u more!
    Keep continue on serving God.
    This is Lauren from Philippines .

  34. I was extremely pleased to uncover this great site. I want to to thank you for your time just for this wonderful read!!
    I definitely liked every bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to see new stuff in your web site.

  35. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to
    say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your
    feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  36. excellent post, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this
    sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing.
    I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  37. Thank you. I worked hard in college to become a Lutheran minister. Today I’m a barista, learning many of the same lessons and working toward my own dream in my little free time. Thank you for your words of encouragement, they mean a lot.

  38. Hi Allison, I’m currently a partner at Starbucks & I agree with what you’ve learned. I’ve been a barista at 4 cafes & at one roastery before Starbucks and I didn’t think that I would still be doing this after graduating my undergrad. I’m debating pursuing my Masters of Arts in Higher Education, or to open my own cafe where I can be a business owner that facilitates life transformation for the marginalized in our community. (youth at risk, people experiencing homelessness, adults with disabilities & the elderly) Both lead to the same dream, but one means I’ll be working part time for min. wage for much longer than I hoped! Thanks for the encouragement as I continue making lattes, flat whites, the “latte macchiato” and coffee. 🙂

  39. Finding this article on this day, the day I accepted a position as a Barista at Starbucks is a tremendous blessing. While I did not complete my degree I’ve held prestigious positions over the years in Admin and Exec. Assistant positions. I recently decided that this line of work doesn’t bring me joy; people do. As I pursue my ministry creditionals this new role will allow me to combine my love for people and coffee and lighten the load my husband has as our families provider. What a blessing this post was and I will refer back to it during this journey. God bless you.

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