I’ve been a server since I was fourteen years old. I started working at a little restaurant back home as a waitress as I was going into high school, and that’s where my love of serving began. I served all through high school and continued to serve once I moved to Sudbury for college. I loved everything that came with the ‘server life’. I loved the lifestyle, the constant cash flow and the people that I had the opportunity to work with, but I also loved the life lessons that the job taught me.
Two weeks ago I gave my notice to the restaurant that I have been working at for the past two and a half years. Since I gave my notice, I’ve put a lot of thought into everything that I’ve learnt during my time there. Not only have I learned skills that I can carry into and use in my personal life, but I’ve also learned skills that I’ve been able to transfer over into my professional career:
- It teaches you to let the little things go. While the majority of the people that you deal with on a day-to-day basis are genuinely kind and good people, there will always be those who make it seem as though they are out to ruin your day. Being in the role of a server means that you are there to do just that: serve. You’re there to do whatever it takes to make your guests happy, whether you want to or not. When my guests get angry with me for something totally unforeseen or something that I had nothing to do with, it’s very difficult not to tell them what I’m thinking and leave them without any service. But I can’t. I have to force myself to smile, tell them that I’m more than happy to do that for them and follow through with it. I just remember that once they leave, they’re no longer my problem. And I can’t let myself dwell on it, because the rest of my tables will suffer as a result.
I’ve been able to transfer this skill into my career at StaffStat in many different ways. I get rejected by prospects on a daily basis, and if I didn’t know how to properly deal with the rejection, shake it off and move forward, I would sink as a salesperson.
- You learn valuable time management skills. Serving isn’t easy. Sure, it gets easier with time and practice, but to start it’s a huge learning curve. For those of you that haven’t served, to be ‘weeded’ essentially means that you are drowning and you can’t keep up. It’s that moment (or moments) of sheer panic as you’re trying to remember everything that you have to get done in the next five minutes before all hell breaks loose in your section. If you don’t practice your time management and keep constant focus on what you’re doing, you will get weeded and it happens fast. To be a good server you need to be a good time manager. I’ve learned the skill over time, and as a result I’ve become a much better multi-tasker as well.
In my current position at StaffStat, time management is key. I have a certain amount of follow-ups to complete each day, I conduct demos of the software that are often given time limitations to stick to, and I do more than just sell. I also write blogs, I log every point of contact with my prospects through database entry, and I’m often asked for input on new enhancements and features for the system. Without time management, I wouldn’t complete everything that’s expected of me.
- You learn all about patience. There are very few things more irritating than asking if your table is ready to order, have everyone agree that they are all set, and then have everyone take five more minutes to decide while you’re standing there with a fake smile, pretending that you don’t have 10 other things to do. But again, you have to smile, act as though nothing is wrong, and let them take as much time as they need.
While patience is something that I’m still learning to master, serving has definitely helped me get used to keeping my cool while internally losing my patience. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I often deal with users of the software who have no idea how to even operate their cell phone. So when they call in for technical support regarding the system, it can be a true test of my patience. After serving for so many years, I’ve learned tactics that help me keep my cool until I’m able to vent about it and move on.
And lastly, one that will pull a bit more at your heart strings…
- Your co-workers become family. You will never experience the feeling of ‘togetherness’ and ‘family’ in any other industry like you do in the service industry. Servers work strange hours. Rather than the normal 8:00-4:00 or 9:00-5:00, servers will often start their shift at 5:00PM and finish up long after midnight. Chances are, your schedule won’t line up with many of your friends’, unless they’re servers too. So you become friends with your co-workers. They’re the ones who will make plans with you at 1:00AM when your shift ends and the rest of your friends are sleeping. They’re the ones that you can rant to at the end of the day when every single table seemed to have it out for you. No one quite understands that feeling like your fellow servers do.