What the Service Industry has Taught Me

Everyone you meet and every situation you encounter has the potential to teach a lesson. This is the attitude I try to carry with me every shift that I work as a server at Birch’s Restaurant in Long Lake, Minnesota. I love my job, I am a very lucky girl, as many people do not have the same success and experiences in the service industry that I have had. I have a great relationship with my boss and all my coworkers, and the location of the restaurant makes it quite the gem and a great source of income for a college student.My life in the service industry, however, has not always been as enjoyable and lucrative. I have had many past experiences that were extremely unpleasant and difficult to endure. I started working at just 14 years old in a family friend’s pizza restaurant, and the list of places I have worked at continues from there. Some companies were great and some were horrible, but each one was a valuable learning experience.

Despite the challenges they have posed, the lessons I have learned from each establishment are valuable to me and have been the most crucial components for building myself as a person outside of just a resumé.

The service industry teaches “how to think on your feet”, making quick decisions to solve problems that arise and can wreak havoc if not resolved within a matter of seconds. I have gained more problem-solving skills through working than could ever be taught in a classroom, as being forced to solve problems in a real-time situation turns on a part of the brain that school curriculum fails to stimulate. Being able to work with the public and learn to exercise all possible options to satisfy a customer and ensure their return to a company is a skill that can help any person, regardless of their future long-term career. It certainly has its drawbacks.

For starters, the schedule of a service worker varies dramatically from our 9-5 employed counterparts. We sleep when everyone else is slaving away in their cubicles. We are awake and working while those cubicle dwellers sleep, sometimes into the wee hours of the next morning.  We work while everyone else parties and goes out to enjoy themselves, typically at our own expense. Holidays are the money makers, despite taking one away from their family and ability to relax and enjoy the season. Sometimes, no amount of effort and eye for perfection will appease the unruliest of customers, and that is okay, one just has to figure out how to make it work and get through the shift, crossing fingers those customers will never return.

I don’t want to be a waitress forever, but for now it provides a great social outlet and helps me to refine my knowledge and skills in working with people and communicating on a whole different level in order to promote a business and sell a product. Everyone should try to work at least one service industry job, not only to experience the lives that we live, but to gain the skills and the empathy for their server, bartender, cab driver, flight attendant and clerk. Any amount of recognition for service is always appreciated and means a lot for someone who chooses to be a part of the industry.

A quote from one of my favorite restaurants, Stella’s Fish Cafe and Prestige Oyster Bar, in Minneapolis Minnesota. Cheers everyone.


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