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Put On Your Positive Pants

Embrace the day of small beginnings

Words: Jesse Hewitt

I’m Jesse, I live in London, making coffee at Ozone and chatting to the masses. I had no idea I’d be where I am today, doing what I’m doing, where I’m doing it, and I wouldn’t want to be anyone else, doing anything else. Best of all, I don’t really know where I’m going. Opportunity is a central theme of all of our lives, whether we take them or not. And most of the opportunities we are presented with are linked to the people that our lives are intertwined with each and every day. I’m not claiming to be an opportunity pouncing, future foretelling, 100% always-right-choice-making prodigy that still has time for his family and three useful hobbies. But in my short life so far, I’ve learnt a thing or two about making the most of what’s in front of me, proving that a smile can take you a thousand miles, and that it’s important to have a laugh along the way.

EMBRACE THE DAY OF SMALL BEGINNINGS

I was 19 years old when I stumbled into hospitality. I didn’t know it back then, but it has been a beautiful accident that I hope to never look back from.

After losing my overratedly (is that a word?) cool job at my local surf shop, my Dad gave me a few fatherly kicks in the ass when I was still being picky about what I wanted to do next and how much I’d do it for. He pointed out that a ‘professional couch jockey’ wasn’t a real job and wasn’t going to pay for all the food I was consuming, but more importantly that “when you haven’t got any options, flipping burgers isn’t a job – it’s an opportunity”. I’d initially scoffed at my Dad’s exaggerated words of “flipping burgers is an opportunity”, until I landed a job at an up and coming burger restaurant. I never would have thought that choice to take what was available would literally lead to me becoming a manager, receiving on-the-job formal qualifications in hospitality and having further personal studies paid for in full by bosses that became more like life mentors than employers. Touché Dad.

BE A POSITIVE PETE, NOT A NEGATIVE NED

Work is just a heck of a lot better when everyone gets along and has a bit of fun.

From covering the inside of stockroom door handles with mayo, to having new staff members mop the freezer walls, to moving a colleague’s car I’d just filled with bread crates to the opposite end of the carpark while they ate lunch, I’ve been thoroughly committed to every aspect of the personal and professional development of those around me. Some have learnt well from their training, taking the opportunity to show me their progress by smothering my hairy legs in aioli when I dared to wear shorts on hot days, and wrapping my water bottles in three inches of cling film whenever I left them in the wrong place.

Of course, your job is important and we all know you take it seriously. Just check your pulse tomorrow morning, remember that you’re alive and go stick a post-it note on someone’s leftovers saying “free to a good home”.

KEEP YOUR COOL, GRAB A CANAPÉ

Just like walking into a fully catered party you weren’t invited to, just keep your cool, grab a canapé and go with the flow, because confidence is king. I’ve found that having neatly polished skills actually aren’t all that important when you’re just willing to do whatever people ask with a ‘can do’ attitude.

I had never drunk a coffee out of choice until I was in my early 20’s. The murky liquid was synonymous to being a boring adult with bad humour and an obscure proclivity to nasty tasting things including olives, beer, oysters and musicals (I still don’t understand oysters…). A few friends in the know helped spur on a new found passion for the industry and with little-to-no skills in making or serving coffee (or table service for that matter), I found myself with an opportunity to manage a trendy new café in hometown Melbourne.

In my early days, enthusiasm quite often bridged the skills gap while I just figured things out. I simply made sure I was an expert before anyone ever batted an eyelid.

TAKE THE WEIGHT, ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES

Just because you don’t really know what your boss actually does, doesn’t mean they’re not busy. They probably watch their fair share of funny cat vids on YouTube too, but chances are they have twice as much to think about as you do. Amidst their ever increasing ‘To Do’ list, there are no sweeter words for an employer to hear about a problem or issue than simply “I’ll take care of it”. It’s music to their ears, silk through their fingers and a rainbow paddlepop on a hot day, all at the same time.

The less time they have to sweat the small stuff, the longer they can think about the bigger picture which ultimately includes my job and wellbeing. And ordering the staff beers. So, when the professional criticism comes, I’ll take it like a champ without dismissing their correction or defending my pride. No one wants to promote a whinger. I just make sure they never have to say the same thing twice.

If you’re still unsure about what to do next and are waiting on that next shining star, you might already be onto a good thing. Flipping burgers turned out to be the opportunity I needed. And at the times when it was 1am and I smelt like smoke, sweat and bacon as I scrubbed down the grill for the last time that night, I just remember what a good friend told me, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.”