I hope you get ripped off, cussed out, and left to clean up the mess of others.
Dear Evan and Lulu,
I had many jobs before I became a librarian. All of them had value. All of them taught me lifelong lessons. That is why I don’t have many defined aspirations for you when it comes time for you to look for employment. I know you’ll have some jobs you hate, some you love, and some to just pay the bills. But there is one exception to my vast emptiness of desires for your work experience.
I hope you will wait tables.
At least once in your life, or maybe for years, I hope you will enter into the service industry.
I was shocked recently when I read something that described waiting tables as one of the worst jobs to have. I worked as a hostess, then a server, then a cocktail waitress, then a bartender for six years of my life. Although the profession has some challenges, it better prepared me for working with the public than any other experience I could imagine. Not to mention, I loved it.
Here is why I hope you will someday do the same.
People. There are not many jobs where you will avoid the interaction with people. It might be co-workers, it might be customers, it might even be remote. But somewhere, in some career, you will need to understand people. If your job is to approach strangers, 25 times a day, ask them questions about their life and then respond to those questions, you get a pretty large picture painted for you about people. It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fun, and sometimes you will learn to not like the people. But you will grow to understand them. Maybe you’ll only gain an understanding of their drink preference and attitude toward fried foods, but that, my dears, is a starting point. Iced tea and onion rings is information that lets you start a conversation that truly could go anywhere.
Experience. When you are waiting tables you don’t really have just one job. You don’t just take their order, hope it comes out how you punched it in, and say “see ya when it is time to pay!” (Well, at least you don’t if you want to make any money.) Your job is to guide someones experience and that means you oversee every detail of their time with you. From the refills, to the wait time, even the garnish becomes your concern. Experience is such a hard concept for people to learn and understand. I think those who have waited tables are much less likely to say “that is not in my job description” because their description is really to make people happy.
The WOW factor. When you work in the service industry your job review happens every single day, multiple times over and over. Each customer decides how you are doing at your job and compensates you based on your performance. It is true, that some people will tip lousy no matter what you do. It is true that sometimes you will be judged on things out of your control. But ultimately, you have the opportunity to WOW people several times a day. Wowing people does not come from taking orders and getting food out on time. It comes from going beyond what your job is and finding other ways to help. You WOW someone when you notice their child is fussy and you put together a special plate just for them. You WOW someone when you anticipate they are in a hurry so you speed every process up to get them where they are going on time. You learn that beyond the usual perks that come with waiting tables, tips and flexible schedules, WOWing people is what you remember when you think about your job each night.
Attitude. When you wait tables there is one thing that will ultimately decide how successful you are. I have found this to be true in most the professions I’ve had. Attitude. It is true that some states (ahem, Idaho) pay servers horribly low wages. It is true that some places don’t appreciate their staff or their customers. But what is the MOST true about waiting tables is that your attitude will define how successful you are. People who are positive, who work hard, who are flexible about picking up extra shifts, extra tables, and extra responsibility will love the profession because they have the attitude needed to excel at it. Others will complain, a lot, about the job and ultimately not be rewarded by customers or employers.
So as a parent I am telling you that I hope you get ripped off, cussed out, and left to clean up the mess of others. Those things are inevitable in the service industry. But I also hope you learn to talk to people, really talk to people. Even if it is about iced tea and onion rings. The world gets a lot brighter if we can even agree on things as small as those. I hope you will get to host some experiences for people. Some will be disastrous and you will have nightmares about them for weeks. Others will bring you happiness and reassure you that what you’re doing means something. Get out there and WOW some people. And what ever you are doing, cleaning up messes or preparing important documents, have the attitude that you want to succeed at it, because what you are doing is important.
I totally agree, although with my kids I’m okay with just restaurant work in general, front or back of the house. My husband and I met while working in a restaurant (he was a cook, I was a waitress). My oldest son started working in kitchens at 15 and is now 23, working his way toward being a chef and making a pretty impressive salary for his age.
My daughter has worked as a hostess and waitress for several years, although she is feeling “done” with it and hoping to do something else this summer. Which is fine with me- she’s done her time 🙂
I’ll push my two boys into restaurant work also, when the time comes. I just think it’s fabulous training for anything else you do in life. Great post!
I love this! As someone who also spent a number of years waiting tables, I agree with everything you’ve said. And as a librarian who is often in the position to hire both librarians and staff, I can say that I look very favorably on candidates who have this type of experience. If you can be successful as a server, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be successful working in Public Services!
I love this too!! I honestly think that my time as a server was one of the greatest learning experiences. It was my first job and one that I still look back on fondly. =) Even if some people really did suck! lol
I couldn’t have said it better myself! I did many, many years as a waitress until I became a high school teacher. My students have nothing on some of the hideous people I dealt with on a daily basis! In fact I often still moonlight as a waitress during the school holidays for the extra cash, the exercise and because I secretly still get a kick out of it!
I’ll never forget my first industry conference, right out of college and standing alone in a room of people networking, and not knowing what to do. You have to learn that you need the strength to extend that hand. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Make that small talk. It is so hard, and needs to be learned. Better early, rather than late!. I worked retail when I was a teen and in college, and had to deal w/people, but it was more short-term, no major experience needed, but never a waitress, only because I didn’t think I was coordinated enough. I can certainly see how great it would be for confidence, entering a room and taking over…I can see how it would be perfect.. Great lesson.
Megan, you have once again made some great observations and shared those thought-provoking ideas with us. I agree with you. I want my girls to be strong, feel capable, be responsible, share with others and be humble about their talents. Any job that gets them to serve others and helps them achieve that confident sense of self within themselves is a great job to me.
I agree! Was a server for 8 years during university and high school years. Toughest years of my working life. Learned so much. Made me quick on my feet and observant. Learned some great skills that most jobs cannot teach.
Check this song out. My buddy wrote it about his experience as a server lol