Communication Student Gets Taste of Future Career in Running Restaurant Socials

Harley Cook, a third-year communication student, works as a social media intern for Château Coffee Company in Lansing. From photographing coffee and food orders to posting on Château’s socials, Cook has been able to build the necessary skills needed for her future career, all while pursuing her passion for food and restaurant marketing. 

“I love doing food photography and videography,” Cook said. “I actually work on campus at Eat at State. I just really desired to work in a coffee shop because it’s something that I haven’t done before. Coffee and pastries were something else that I thought I could get a little experience in.” 

Cook’s typical work routine consists of a healthy dose of hard and soft skills. She communicates with the baristas and the owner, captures content such as interesting orders and customers, edits those photos and videos, creates and maintains social media posts and even contributes to special projects. 

“It’s a combination of both photography and videography lately,” she said. “We’ve been getting videos of the baristas and their favorite drinks and the really special menu options. Each month, the baristas create their own drink that they want to be featured with, so it’s sometimes a combination of both photos and videos since I have specialties in both.” 

Like working any job that caters to the public, Cook has improved her ability to interact with customers and subjects throughout her internship. 

“I’ve actually gotten better at talking to people,” Cook said. “Before I worked there, I was able to command the room when asking people for photos. But now, it’s more personal because people are trying to do their own thing, working or talking to friends. I’ve been able to use communication skills to get others to understand why I’m taking the photos, when I’m taking the photos or introducing myself in the company in order to get the photos.” 

In addition to brushing up on skills and highlighting experiences, Cook also advises future interns of any discipline to allow employers to see the person behind the application. 

“My biggest piece of advice would be to put yourself out there,” she said. “I applied on Indeed, but even after that, I went in for my interview and talked about my passions. Showcase your personality and why you’re there. It’s still about your experience with the job and job duties, but I think a lot of employers are looking for personality, as well as someone who’s going to be able to engage with the team, supervisors and clients.” 

In fact, Cook says putting herself out there allowed her to meet interesting customers she might otherwise not have interacted with, such as the Lansing Rowing team, who were daily patrons. 

“I learned to always reach out to people,” she said. “I could have easily just sat there and quietly taken photos of the baristas and customers without knowing them. Specifically with the Lansing Rowing team, if I never went to ask them to take a photo, I wouldn’t have known about the team, their personalities or that they come in every day.” 

Aside from the talents Cook already brought to the table, the Career Center Internship Award also helped her succeed at Château. 

“Since it is a little bit of a drive, I used the internship award for gas money,” she said. “It made it a lot easier and took away one of those worries. I was also able to buy some new camera equipment, amp up my video skills and try to get very professionally made video and photo content.” 

All in all, this internship experience acted as a vital stepping stone for Cook to achieve her ultimate career goals. 

“My dream would be working for a restaurant with a lot of desserts, appetizers—just a huge menu that I could capture and feature,” she said. “(I’d want to highlight) the restaurant itself, customers, the team and give that overall engagement to showcase everything the restaurant has to offer. Just putting in that time now to figure out how to run a social media platform, how to reach out to people, how to reach out to customers and patrons—that all helps me prepare for the future and a bigger role that I want to accomplish.” 

By Stella Govitz