“You can’t be closed. The sign says you always open at 10am.”
“Yes Sir, but I am a human, I know more than the sign does.”
If you are in the service industry, you know exactly how conversations like this go.
Every waiter, bartender, barista and shop assistant knows that these jobs can really test you (and your ability not to punch people!) sometimes. All jobs have their challenges, but when your work isn’t your passion, it’s easy to lose sight of why we might be doing it: to temporarily make and save money (if money worries are getting you down, find out here how to budget and put money aside. No Stress). So after a while it can start to feel like you’re wasting your time. Look, at some point we have all felt trapped in a job that isn’t the career we want but I promise you, you are gaining so much more from that job than money.
I’ve been waitressing for 7 years, that is a third of my life. I was a child, I was a teenager and then I was a waitress. Like the world’s shittest Pokémon evolution. So really, I know how you feel; you’re tired, your feet hurt, you haven’t eaten in eight hours and you’ve not seen your flatmates in three weeks. I know that the chef, your manager and the girl who thinks she’s your manager are all driving you crazy. You want more money and less stress, right? But maybe if we changed our attitude we wouldn’t feel so hard done by; if we just changed the way we thought about these jobs, we might start to see the benefits. So what are the lessons you should be learning from your service job?
Lesson 1: This Is Your Job – So Own It.
“I don’t care, this isn’t my real job anyway”. Oh I’m sorry, is this your imaginary job? Taking pride in what we do tends to come so easily to millennials, so why is it still such a struggle for people to take any pride whilst working in the industry that the majority of us have been in? Okay so yes, maybe you are an actor or a lawyer or a trapeze artist in your heart, but right now this is your job. And if you don’t make yourself care about it, it will crush you. Learn to be amazing at the things you don’t care about and it’ll be a lot easier to be amazing when you land that dream job.
Lesson 2: Confidence Isn’t King, You Are
Besides the obvious response that having to talk to customers boosts your self-esteem, the challenges of service jobs can increase your confidence in other ways. Only after successfully weaving a tray of drinks through a crowded dance floor of drunk people’s elbows as the DJ tries to derail you by suddenly playing “Don’t Stop Believing”, sending the drunks into a frenzy, do you truly know what confidence is. And speaking of blind drunk customers, nothing will prepare you for scary future interviews like watching some formidable CEO drink himself into a coma at “work drinks.”
Lesson 3 – Don’t Be Wasteful
You know in Les Miserables when Val Jean steals a loaf of bread and everybody freaks out and throws him in jail like he just murdered a puppy? Well I’m pretty sure that that was based on every manager’s reaction when they catch you snaffling food out the back. Nobody will appreciate the amount of waste in this world than you will when you’re scraping tray-fulls of perfectly good food into the bin instead of into your belly. How many times have you wished you could give all the leftovers to the homeless since you started? If everyone thought that way, the world would be a much nicer place.
Lesson 4 – Don’t Be A Jerk
You’d think this would be an obvious one, but as customer after customer will prove, it’s really not. But once you experience a few rude people embarrass themselves by freaking out at you, you’ll never forget to thank the staff when you’re on the other side of the bar. It might seem unfair now, but learning a bit of humility and how to avoid conflict with stubborn people in the real world isn’t something we should take for granted.
Lesson 5 – Shit Happens
We all know that stomach-dropping feeling when you lose concentration for half a second and a champagne glass slips on your tray. You then watch in high-definition slow motion as it dominoes every other glass around it and 100s of pounds worth of booze leaps to freedom. At the sound of glass shattering, everyone points and stares, children cry, women faint in horror, the room bursts into flames. And then your pal rocks up with some blue-roll and it’s all okay again. Apply what you learn during these moments to the rest of your life and don’t be scared to make mistakes because they honestly are never as bad as they seem.
“It’s all leading somewhere”
Whether it’s leaning on the bar waiting for the locals to turn up or at an event with a tray of arrival drinks, service jobs always involve a lot of standing around. Nowadays, it’s pretty rare for any of us to be without phones, TV or music to distract us, but without that luxury on shift, we have to just daydream about all the things we would rather be doing than working. So really, service jobs allow us the time to make plans and find the resolve to do them; to take that trip, to get that dream job. Do you know what I was doing last time I was standing around at work? I was writing this article in my head.
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