February 28, 2014

Career and Life Skills I Learned From Working In Bars


Over the years, I have worked a variety of jobs. I have worked in a dry cleaner’s store, a family-owned grocery store (not my family), as a Receptionist and as an Office Manager for both small companies as well as large, global organizations.  

I’m happy with where I am now in my career, but I can honestly say that I have learned the most valuable life and career lessons while working in clubs.  I've held positions of waitress, shooter girl, and bartender over the years in many different establishments.  

The lessons learned come from all of them however, and can be applied to your life no matter what career path you have chosen or plan on choosing.

1. Be confident:  In the bar I would have to go up to groups of people, men and women, and introduce myself and ensure the customers were having a good time.  I would have to break the ice, and if I were awkward the customers would be able to tell.  They then wouldn't be having a good time and would leave; which meant less money in my pocket at the end of the night.  I didn't like that idea, so I would push my nerves aside and start the party!  For someone who has always had terrible self-confidence and has been incredibly shy around new people, this was not the easiest thing to do!  I was constantly worrying that other people were judging me, and I still have this terrible trait to this day (albeit it’s not as bad as before!).  Exude confidence.  People really aren't judging you as much as you think they are. If they are, screw them – you’re awesome and you know it.   


2. If you fail it’s not the end of the world:  Have you ever tried carrying a tray of drinks, in heels, in a busy club where you have to maneuver your way through the crowd?  No?  Well, let me tell you: it is not easy.  In the early day, I dropped many trays of drinks. It was embarrassing and I felt terrible. I wanted to run to the washroom and cry, but I couldn't.  I had to help tidy up, replace my orders, and get the drinks out to the customers as quickly as I could.  Brush off the fail.  Mistakes happen - learn from them. I, for example, learned to not try and walk past the drunk girl flailing her arms around in an attempt to dance sexy.

3. Stay cool under pressure:  Being the only bartender behind the bar on a random Tuesday night that should have been slow and ended up being a packed house can be overwhelming.  You have 30+ people demanding drinks all at once.  Where do you go first?  Who do you serve?  Why are they waving money at you?  BREATHE.  In life, a lot will be thrown at you. It could very well happen that it all gets thrown at you at once.  Stay cool as a cucumber.  If the situation is stressful and you show signs of stress it will only get worse, not better.  Put a smile on your face and conquer each task. Soon enough that mob of 30+ people will dwindle down, and you’ll have some peace…before the next rush.
Photo Credit: dcclubbing.com
4. Don’t pay attention to labels:  Working in bars, you could tell who the obvious big spenders were usually because they were pulling out their wads of cash and ordering multiple bottles.  Obviously buying multiple bottles meant they wanted to spend some serious cash, and that’s great. That said, I remember the most random, unlikely people being the best customers.  These were the ones that would spend a lot of money, and then also leave generous tips.  They weren't doing it to impress people - that was just who they were. Either way, I treated all my customers the same way.  Everyone got the same great service whether they came in and sipped a beer for 4 hours, or they bought 3 bottles of champagne.  This has carried over into corporate life as well.  Many people feel intimidated by CEO’s or people in power within their company.  As a receptionist, I would crack jokes with managing partners of companies, even the CEO.  Don’t be intimidated by their big offices with the great views or their fancy suits, remove the labels and be respectful and kind to everyone equally.

5. Be a team player:  Working in a bar is a team environment.  There are the bartenders, the bottle service/waitresses, the bus boys, the security, management, the DJ’s, and the promoters, etc.  We’re all working together to make the customers night memorable, and to make as much money as possible.  Even though the barback’s job was to stock the fridge, I would grab a case of beer and stock the fridge for him if he was in a bind cleaning a mess.  If my fellow bottle service girls were swamped serving a high spending table, I would clean their section for them. When you work with a team mentality, you and your team will prosper.  As they always say, there is no “I” in “TEAM”.