Ben Larrick ’13 entered his summer internship at the Better World Foundation with aspirations of gaining practical, real-world experience in the field of coffee brewing.
As the internship comes to a close and his final fall semester begins, Larrick feels his time may have been wasted. He fears that his lack of meaningful summer experiences may leave him uncompetitive in the increasingly cutthroat pool of young professionals seeking to become coffeehouse baristas.
Larrick split his time at the foundation between coordinating community enrichment programs with town officials in Caroll County, Va., analyzing the efficacy of those programs and working with full-time employees of Better World Foundation to design proposals for future programs.
“It totally blew,” said Larrick. “There I was, a starry-eyed university student looking to really make a difference in the world of coffee joints that play impressionist jazz and these corporate clowns had me running in circles ‘revitalizing local communities to build a stronger nation.’ It was a bit of a wakeup call, I guess,” he said.
Larrick’s supervisor and several of his coworkers at Better World Foundation attempted to better his prospects of future employment by writing recommendations on LinkedIn for Larrick’s “commendable performance during the summer.” Common themes were Larrick’s strong work ethic, his ability to learn new material quickly and his aptitude for making what one colleague referred to as “cool drinks” for the foundation’s “Fun Food Fridays.”
“Candy-coated poison,” Larrick said of the recommendations.
“You know who makes cool drinks? Those slurpee-sluts at 7-Eleven," he added. "Baristas make art. Yes, maybe my mixing espresso, milk and Limoncello into one tangy yet smooth beverage was a camp-dividing move, but naming it ‘The Al-Puccino’ was genius. I understand that the folks at Better World don’t appreciate avant-garde brewing the way I do, but they’ve really cut my legs out from under me with this ‘cool drinks’ comment.”
Like many rising seniors, Larrick is focusing on his career search for next year. With the economy suffering from an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, he knows that most potential employers are looking for college graduates with some workplace experience on their resumes.
“How am I supposed to make myself stand out from all the other Starbucks candidates?” asked Larrick. “I managed a team of employees providing small businesses in Carroll County with support for taking advantage of federal stimulus. Like every other schmuck smart enough to sign his name on an application hasn’t done that."
“Real barista-quality material there. I’m screwed,” he added.
Despite Larrick’s frustrations with his internship, he is determined to make the best of his situation. “The whole thing sucks, but sometimes life just throws you curveballs,” said Larrick.
“The way I see it, I don’t have much to work with—a pinch of old cinnamon, some curdled milk, an off-brand black tea. But I still have to try and make that chai tea latte. I have to be the honey. I have to look life right in the eye and choke that latte down, curds and all, and be proud to pay five dollars for the privilege, he said. "Because that’s what it takes to be a barista.”