It’s More Than Just Coffee

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Lunch is dead. It takes too long, it’s too crowded, and it’s a hassle. Besides, it is often offered for free or at a big discount if you stay in the company cafeteria. So instead of lunch out at the local restaurant where one can network and maybe even interview for new jobs, we are stuck with our colleagues, who complain about the boss. The solution is coffee, whether you drink it or not.

Coffee is no longer an innocent drink to have with the morning dough-nut in private. Coffee isn’t even a drink. Coffee may not even involve coffee. When someone asks you out for a coffee, it means a short meeting outside of the office. It could be purely social (even a date), it could be all about business, it could be just good networking, or, most likely, it could be an interview. Most importantly, “coffee” means not too long.

There are many benefits to “coffee,” including:

  • It’s possible to have five coffees or more in a day. You can only have one lunch.
  • Lunch can be lots of calories. Coffee is nonfattening unless you order a huge Mocha Frappuccino with extra caramel.
  • Coffee frees up lunch to get real work done. You can still have that turkey sandwich at your desk at lunch, knowing that you already had five coffees.

In our drive for efficiency and productivity, lunch is being replaced with coffee. Lunch is now reserved for true friends and making deals. It is a special event.

The place for the two activities is reversed. Lunch is probably now in the office and coffee is outside of the office. A typical coffee shop is more like a career fair, with interviews taking place at every ­non-private little table. I see people discussing their strengths and weaknesses everywhere while their coffee gets cold. So I tried conducting an interview in the local beanery, thinking that it would put the candidate more at ease. The alternative was a stark conference room, which does not lend itself to participants feeling at ease. In the coffee shop, as always, there was a line while the barista did her thing, so we broke the ice over small talk. When it came our time to order, my candidate ordered a Mocha Coconut Frappuccino, blended, with foam on the side. Extra hot.

“Is this a person who is going to be high maintenance?” I wondered. If ordering a coffee is this complicated, how will this person do when it comes to putting a plan together? Is it right to judge people by the coffee they order? Right or wrong, when looking for a job, we are all judged by every small movement. Could be our clothes or hairstyle or where we went to ­school — or our coffee order.

When I entertained yet another candidate for a job, I learned about coffee names by chance. My candidate, who was named Joaquim, was asked his name. He replied, “Joe.” It turns out, about half of us have coffee names, and that’s a good thing. Coffee names are all about clarity and ease of completion. No need to spell Ann, Joe, or Scott. Coffee names are all about efficiency, and short names make the line go faster. Coffee names are all about creativity too. What name can we dream up that captures our essence without having to spell it every time? Coffee names can create an alter ego too. If we can change our name at the coffee corner, the superhero in the office can’t be far behind.

Coffee is an important part of the workplace that can make or break a career all at once. Coffee is more than a caffeine buzz; it is a parallel universe to the office. Remember what can happen over coffee and save the mocha frappes for when you get a job.

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