A letter to the next young job-seeker at my cafe door

You’re hoping that when your son or daughter turns fifteen that they’ll want to get a casual job, right?  You want your pride and joy to take those first steps towards independence so that when it’s time, they’ll fly the nest to embark on a successful, happy life. And then you can transform their bedroom into a spare room, sewing room or home gym... no, I'm sure that's not the case!

To get their start in the workforce, I guess they’ll drop their resumes into their favourite cafe or fast-food joint. Hopefully, they’ll pop one into Cafe Derailleur too.  

I’ve interviewed and employed a lot of young people at Derailleur. Hospitality begins in the home, so parents listen up: we are not interviewing your kids; we are covertly questioning to see whether you’ve trained them properly!  

I’d like to help you help them; so here it is from a café owner’s perspective:

A letter to the next young job-seeker at my café door:


Dear Eager Young Person,

Firstly, thanks for your enthusiasm and for stepping away from Snapchat to drop in your resume in-person. I know how hard it can be for some Millennials to take their eyes away from their smartphone for fifteen minutes. Bringing your resume in personally is a good move. I’m busy running a café and probably wouldn’t have had time to read your Facebook message or email.  

You’ve also shown some nous by not dropping by during the busy lunch hour.

You’ve dressed well, heck you could fit right in right now. That reconnaissance you did to see how my staff were attired, and then consciously dressing to match has paid off. I already imagine you as part of my team - but look, unfortunately, a job’s not available right now.

You’d like to demonstrate your skills while you’re here anyway? Go for it, I’ll show you the kitchen. With that initiative, even if I suspect your training comes from an Iron Chef TV-binge, I’m probably going to keep your resume near the top of the pile for when that real job eventuates.

I employ for will, not skill. If you’re the right person for my café, I’ll invest in your training. So while you’re scaring me with your knife skills, I’m wondering:

Do you help out in the kitchen at home? Do you do the dishes every night without mum and dad asking (that's initiative and autonomy) and quickly (that's work rate) and properly (that's attention to detail)?  

Do you cook regularly? (that's passion for food). Iron your clothes, shower once a day and brush your teeth (that's presentation and personal hygiene)?   

Do you do your homework without being asked and set your alarm to get yourself off to school each day (that’s motivation)?

Speaking of school, do you support your food tech teacher (that's respect for your boss or supervisor), and are you doing a Certificate II in Kitchen Operations?  

Are you part of school's culinary challenges (that's a great competitive nature, to push yourself to be the best)? Do you put your hand up to make coffees for the teachers at recess? [I admit I didn’t do that!] Do you volunteer at the school fete helping serve food or coffees (learning to serve others - it's empowering so watch out)!

You might not have actual kitchen or hospitality skills yet, but you’ve got valuable relevant experience. Speaking of which, where did you do your work experience?  What did you learn and how did you apply this knowledge to improve your hospitality skills?  

When it comes to job hunting, please know that there will be plenty of knock-backs along the way and the resilience your parents have taught you will come to the fore.

Regardless of how super-impressive you are, you’ll probably need to drop your resume in more than once (that's perseverance). Know that with each approach you’ll have new skills (there’s continuous improvement). Eventually, either I or someone else running a café here in town will be able to give you a break.

When that happens, congratulations! You’ve scored a casual job; now welcome to the world of work!

You’ll be required to hand in your TFN’s, BSB, account numbers, Super and SPIN’s, once you work out what these are.  

You’ll be inducted and learn about the National Employment Standards and Restaurant Industry Awards, pay rates, penalties, junior and minimum rates. You’ll hear about lunch breaks, toilet breaks, and rosters and receive a staff handbook.

‘What! It says I can’t have my phone on me at work?  You mean to say I have to add up manually and hand write, not text?'

'You’re kidding, there are policies for everything: sexual harassment, bullying, OH&S, discrimination, zero drugs policy and even social media. I can’t bag my boss or workplace on Facebook?’

To start, you’ll be put on dishes.  Yep, that's right - DISHES! That’s where you’ll learn how the kitchen works. Look after the chefs, baristas and waitresses while you learn to do dishes quickly AND quietly.  Keep your head down, the chefs don't want to hear how good you are, instead, let your work speak for you.  

Here in hospitality, multitasking is the game. How many things can you do at once?  Put the dishwasher on, get the bean-shoots from the cool room, get a high chair down for the shorter waiter on the way. Finish polishing the cutlery and empty the overflowing recycling then run the Smashed Avocado and Eggs Benedict to table six. Then clear table three on the way back into the kitchen, because you can never come back to the kitchen empty handed.

Phew, the dishwasher's finished, so pull that rack out and let's start again. And again. And again. For five hours.  

‘When do I go on the floor and serve customers?’  When you learn to do the dishes quickly and quietly.  Welcome to hospitality :-)

Now you’ll have a skill for life.  Bon voyage!