February 16, 2015

How to Land a Job in Thirty Seconds

I had been looking for a few months, casually, mind you. I was not confident that any business would be able to accommodate my offered limitations. I only wanted to work a couple of days per week; I could not work weekends; I wanted a job I would not have to take home with me.

Two of my children - college students now - have spent their holidays working at a busy cafe-bistro in the nearby resort village where their dad also works as a manager at the main resort hotel. My kids have often expressed their gratitude at working for such kind people as own the cafe and the owners never tire of telling me how appreciative they are of my children's good work ethic and attitude.

One Wednesday morning, which happened to be my husband's day off, I was struck by an idea out of the blue. I wondered aloud to my husband whether the cafe might be an option for me. I love cafes. I have worked in one before and spend much time in them, and know how busy they can be. My husband thought it was worth a try. That same morning I had to go to the resort village to take care of something at the art gallery I help to run. My husband had to drop in at work as well so we decided to make the ten minute trip to the village. I had phoned the cafe in question earlier, even before I was struck by the idea of working there, and one of the two owners answered. No, they would not reopen until the weekend - they take the entire month of January off like many businesses in the tourism dependent village - but they were in the cafe painting and cleaning and she had said, "Come by, I will make you a coffee!" A good opening line if I ever heard one.

My husband and I took care of our errands and then stopped by the cafe. The owner made me the promised coffee - my usual small Americano (espresso topped with hot water) - and we chatted about our college kids, the owners' time off and whatnot for a few minutes.

"The thing is," I said, "I am looking for a couple of days per week of work. It has been a challenge because I cannot work weekends."

It is difficult now to describe exactly what transpired in those seconds between my statement and success. The owner's eyes opened widely and she made the following points in some order: We have been so worried about reopening so short-staffed. I would love another adult working here. We have been waiting.

I responded with something like: Really? You have? I love cafes and cafe culture. I'm so glad. And then we hugged.

Even more simply put, they needed me as much as I needed them, which in my view is a great way to start a working relationship.

Back in January when I was working backstage for the musical my youngest was performing in I thought, 'When this is over I will enjoy all my free time.' When the play ended its run, however, I found I did not enjoy all that free time. I found it hard to get motivated. I was increasingly lonely and isolated. Almost all the work I do throughout the year - my volunteer work, my writing - requires self-motivation and often a mental workout. I realized that in January, even though I was so busy the structure of my days helped me get things done at home. I appreciated my time more. I did not feel quite so adrift and my days and weeks had a form and shape beyond getting up and seeing my daughter off to school and occupying myself until she returned at three o'clock in the afternoon. Although I did not want to be running off my feet as I had been during the play I did want more structure in my life. I needed it. Perhaps my life at home would suit an introverted person but I am not an introvert.

I worked my third shift at the cafe last Friday. There is so much to learn and I am absorbing everything with my eyes and ears at every minute. The cafe is a hopping place. The food is excellent and I find I am proud to make and serve it. We make most of our menu from scratch and plate it prettily. Our coffee is very good and roasted locally by people I have known for many years thanks to my other roles in the community. I have to work hard but the job is never boring; there is always a sauce to make or something to chop or clean. I am comfortable in the kitchen and feel at home in the physical and social nature of the work itself.

What do my children think of me working at their cafe? My youngest is happy. "This is good," she said decidely, after I assured her I would not be working on weekends or full time. She will also begin working a little at the adjoining ice cream parlour this summer. My older children, who will work at the cafe again when they return from college in the spring were happy for me, too, especially after I assured them that if the question came up of who would get hours in the summer they would always take precedence over their mother.

On Friday, many people I know came into the cafe. One person who works for the village's tourism office and whom I know through the arts council of which I am currently president said to me as I served him his lunch, "You are doing this, too?"

I said in response, "Yes, part-time, but this I get paid for."

He smiled and said, "Yes, this is true."

Note: I typed this post from the handwritten version I wrote in, you guessed it, a cafe this past weekend. The photo above is of the view from the resort village in question.