Conquering Mr. Cappucino

by Sarah Jensen '93

I felt a flush over my face when he walked in the door. He was the reason I had moved to Portland after graduating from Scripps. I thought he’d lead me into my career in graphic design and advertising. The small company he headed seemed a perfect fit for my visual arts degree from Scripps. Their intimate group seemed an ideal fit—a continuation of the close-knit Claremont family to whom I’d grown so accustomed.

As he approached, he recognized me, his eyes widened briefly and quickly shifted downward. Uncomfortably, we neared each other and I asked, “What can I get you?”

He ordered a short cappuccino, handed me two dollars, and walked away. I bowed my head momentarily, caught my breath, and forced my smile at the next customer in line.

I was working behind the counter of the very same Starbucks at which I’d interviewed for my dream job. Just one-month prior, I’d sat with the cappuccino drinker and talked about the opportunities available at his small company.

Maybe I should have suspected something was awry that morning during our conversation in that warm, steamy Starbucks. For he kept qualifying my future job, reducing it to a part-time internship, “don’t-know-about-the-pay” position. But I breezed past these unimportant details—I’d worry about rent when it came due. I needed this job. I needed to put to use the skills and education I’d honed at Scripps. Once they saw my work, once I was in the door and side-by-side with them at their busy, cluttered desks, I’d prove myself. They’d have to hire me. Even pay me.

But after a few weeks of leaving messages with his secretary and checking my machine for the voicemails that wouldn’t arrive—I accepted my jilted fate and opened the want ads of the Portland paper. The rent had come due.

Speed forward to now.

I want to offer my gratitude to Mr. Cappuccino. While he made my life-after-Scripps a bit of a struggle as a barista at Starbucks, he offered me a completely different direction in life. Had I gotten that job, I’d be in a completely different place. Not better or worse, just different.

For instead of creating a design scheme in a studio in the Northwest, I am now finishing my dermatology residency in the heart of the Midwest. My year spent working at Starbucks gave me the opportunity to consider what I wanted to do. The time allowed me some breathing room and space to define myself and my goals. And through a variety of applications, after various moves, and with the self-assuredness I’d refined at Scripps, I’ve directed myself into a fulfilling career in medicine.

I’m enamored with my field; I’m journeying to Boston this year to further my training through a fellowship in dermatopathology. Scripps has driven a love of learning into me, and I can’t seem to get away from the academic center.

What I’ve learned from my brief experience after graduating from Scripps is that one can benefit from misfortune in addition to its counterpart. If the doors are not opening in the path you’ve chosen, simply make a turn and discover where that road leads. I’ve found that I can be happy in a number of roles, and that “dream job” is actually a plethora of different careers—just awaiting my choice of which one (or two or three) I want to explore. Scripps supplies its graduates with the necessary tools to make these choices and embark on their careers.

And, even if that year of brewing coffee in Portland hadn’t offered me time to ponder my change of course into the medical field, I did learn how to make one darn good cappuccino.