Waiting tables was a big part of my life in college. I started my first serving job when I was 19 at an Irish Pub in town. I had bartended, but had never waited tables before. And I spent the next three years at that job. It was both the best and most stressful job I had ever had. The people I worked with became some of my favorite people, and I spent more time with them each week than my college friends. And though the job didn’t require a degree or any prior education, it was one of the most educational experiences of my life. I learned some major life lessons that I know will carry me through the rest of my life. Here are just 8 of the life lessons I learned as a waitress.
1. I learned how to multi-task. On a busy night at work, you’ve got a million things going on. One table needs drink refills, another needs condiments, another is waiting for their bill, etc. Waitressing teaches great time management and teaches you to prioritize tasks so the most important things get done first.
2. I learned to save my pennies. Literally. Waitressing is not a steady income. You might make a ton of money on Friday night, and have one table on Sunday night. It’s up to you to save your money accordingly so there’s always something in the bank account. And save those coins. A few nickels might not mean anything, but those coins can add up after a few weeks of tips!
3. I learned to be the bigger person. Some customers are going to be rude to their waitress no matter what. You can plaster the biggest smile on your face and give them the best service, but they’ll still be rude. As a waitress, you don’t have the pleasure of being rude to the customer. You have to be the bigger person and keep that smile plastered on anyways.
4. I learned to respect my coworkers. No matter the hierarchy of a restaurant, you rely on all of your coworkers to do your job. You rely on the cooks to get your food out in a timely manner. You rely on the bartenders to make your drinks. You rely on the hostess to seat your customers and get the tables cleaned off for new groups. You can’t successfully do your job without being able to work well with all of these people. You learn quickly to respect those around you for them most success.
5. I learned that a smile can get you far in life. When you’re a waitress, it’s your attitude that sets you apart from any other waitress. Delivering food and drinks is a relatively simple concept, but it’s doing it all night with a smile on your face that makes you a great waitress. That extra smile or asking how someone’s day went might be the difference between a mediocre tip and a great one!
6. I learned to tip well. I honestly can’t remember what kind of tipper I was before I was a waitress. But I can tell you that now, I’m an excellent tipper. A server has to royally screw up or have a really bad attitude to get anything less than 20% from me. Because I’ve been the waitress who worked her ass off for a crabby, demanding table, only to be given a 5% tip. There are always going to be people who tip like crap, but I definitely won’t be one of them.
7. I learned what a strong work ethic can get you. You can always tell the difference between the new waitresses and the veterans. The new waitresses will be excited when they get cut early, or will breathe a sigh of relief if someone offers to take one of their tables. And they’ll very quickly learn that the fewer tables you wait on, the less money you make. It might be more fun to leave early and use your Friday night to go out with friends, but the waitress that stays late and takes on extra tables is the one that makes bank.
8. I learned that a good pair of shoes goes a long way. This is no joke. I learned the hard way that’s it’s better to spend the extra $25 on a pair of shoes that are still going to be comfortable 8 hours later!
What life lessons did you learn at your college job?
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