Working in the service industry makes you a more well-rounded person
As my time in college as progressed, my on-campus job was no longer providing me with the money I needed. While I enjoy my jobs on campus, getting paid minimum wage and only once a month as a college student had me stressed. I decided to apply for some “traditional college kid” jobs around the area. I applied to almost every store in the mall, to local food stores as a cashier, and even out myself onto apps for dog walking or babysitting. My last line of effort was to apply in local restaurants to become a waitress.
I finally got a job as a waitress as a local well-known burger restaurant. Over my time of serving, I have learned a lot about working in the service industry and the people who work in it.
The first thing I was quick to learn was how much work being a waitress actually is, and no job is quite as it seems. Not only is it physically demanding, being on your feet for hours on end and carrying heavy trays all day long, but it’s mentally demanding as well.
Not only am I responsible for making sure that my table has full drinks, hot food, plenty of napkins and an overall good experience, but I need to do it sometimes as many as 50 times in a day. It may seem easy, but a Saturday night dinner rush can leave your brain scattered. Table 23 needs ranch, 25 wants a dessert menu, 34 wants a manger, 54 needs a coke, and you just got sat again.
I thought being a stage manager for college theater productions prepared me for high stress situations, but there was at least a feeling of control in the theater... no control when every server is scrambling, and the managers are... where are the managers?
Another thing that serving taught me is that a lot of people can be mean, but that the good experiences oftentimes outweigh the bad. I learned the value of an interaction, and how to make it count. While my tables may only stay for 30 minutes to an hour, I spend that time learning about their day, their job, sometimes what’s weighing heavy on their minds, and little kids will tell you anything you could possibly think of.
I share parts of my life, as well. People usually take interest when I say I’m a full-time student, they ask the big questions “What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?” The impact you make in that interaction can leave you with a meaningful connection you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The people that get me through rough shifts are my co-workers. We all deal with the same issues while working and complaining about our tables is a great way to bond. Spending hours on end with the same people in such close quarters allows for friendships to form rather naturally. When one person is having a rough time, we all rally to make sure we help them with anything they need whether it’s getting drink refills, running their food, or a high five. Serving is a team sport, believe it or not, and things can only run smoothly if everyone really works together.
Being a server challenges you in ways that a regular retail job may not. You learn to communicate super effectively with your co-workers, your customers, and managers. You gain confidence in yourself, whether it be handing a hard situation, speaking to strangers or getting a great review from a table. Finally, you learn to have respect for others wo work in the service industry. So often, these jobs are seen as “easy” and can often feel thankless.
Just know that your server has probably worked five days this week, has two new blisters, 27 different things they need to do, and manages to hold it all together and always have a smile.