I’m working at Starbucks

November 28, 2012

Connection, Experience

“I’m working at Starbucks.” What does that mean? When you read the title what did it mean to you?

When I texted that sentence to my friend, I thought its meaning was perfectly clear. Later, I learned the meaning depends on your perspective.

My perspective has changed. I’m part of a new work world now. A place where entrepreneurship is the norm, where people celebrate when another one of us quits his day job, where the term “location independent” is a regular part of the vernacular. When people in this world say, “I’m working at Starbucks / at a pub / in a hotel / in Costa Rica” they mean they are running their business from their laptop while they happen to be in that particular location.

I quit my job a year ago, did some retraining, and started my own business. I run my business from my laptop, which I attach to a beautiful 30” monitor for design work and freely detach to do writing, research, emailing and whatever else from anywhere with wi-fi.

But most people, my friend included, go to a job and work for a company. I’ve been there – you see everyone around you doing it and you may think it’s the only way.

Here’s the story of my text to her:

I had finished my appointments for the day and had a couple of hours before I was to meet my friend for dinner. To fill the gap, I decided to get a latte and write a blog post for my business site. I sent her this text: Hey, I’m working at the Starbucks up the street from the restaurant. Text me when you’re leaving work and I’ll leave a bit after.

When we met each other, she instantly said, “What do you mean you’re working at Starbucks?!?” For the last two hours she thought I had taken a job there.

I had a split-second pity party: You don’t think I can make it? You think I gave up so quickly? You think I planned this so poorly that I’m already broke? But my hurt feelings disappeared quickly as I realized it’s just a perspective thing.

Most of us grow up knowing that we must get and keep a job. To strike out on your own is, if not unthinkable, too risky and kinda crazy. It’s only been a couple of years since I changed my mindset. Plenty of others aren’t there yet.

I’m curious to know what you thought the title meant. If you thought like my friend, could you start to change your mind?


Image: zeromk

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4 Comments on “I’m working at Starbucks”

  1. Lane Says:

    Gretchen, my first thought was “well she’s doing that because she wants to”. The I started asking myself if that meant you were a barista or designing at a table in Starbucks. It could have been either and in each case I knew you would be doing it because you chose to. You’re doing what you want now in the way you want and I know it’s making you happier.


  2. ohiasia Says:

    I get the free wi-fi, but Starbucks coffee is so horrible and overpriced!

    Hats off to you for breaking out of the Man’s 9-5, and while in theory “anyone” can do it, “everyone” can’t do it, can they? Does society need a large portion of its workers working 9-5 jobs, or is a society of entrepreneurs feasible?

    After a year, clearly your making your business work. But the stats for new businesses (1 out of 3 fail within the year, half fail within 5 years…) can make breaking out on one’s own a scary venture! Especially if there are multiple mouths to feed, etc.

    Interested in your thoughts.


    • gretchen Says:

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I have taken a calculated risk. I only have to feed my own mouth and I saved a good amount of money before leaping out on my own. But we can no longer look at the Man’s 9-5 as the secure alternative. There is risk in being dependent on one income stream from a job that could be outsourced or downsized or changed into something that makes you miserable. We’re already seeing an increase in the number of “contingent” workers — freelancers, contractors, part-timers — who make that choice in an effort to gain control of their income, work and life. Today, we can count on working at 7-8 different companies during our careers. In the future, I think work will be even more self-directed and entrepreneurial.


  3. Lindy Siu Says:

    Well, the first thought that crossed my mind was that it meant you were working out of Starbucks 🙂 But then again, like you, I’ve transitioned from cubicle nation to mobile nation (if you like), so that’s not unexpected. Love the title though, witty and intriguing at the same time! 🙂 x


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