Before graduating from college and pursuing my career in content production (and before I started writing for Career Catalyst!), I spent my nights and weekends working in restaurants. I worked in several roles — both in the front and back of the house — and I learned some amazing resume-building lessons as a result. Even though I went on to work in a completely different industry, I’ll always have an appreciation and understanding of what it takes to bring a great dining
experience to a patron. Also, I learned some skills that are still relevant in my current role.
Here are five things I learned working in a restaurant that I’ve been able to apply to my career in communications:
1. Have patience and learn to problem solve.
When your job is to craft a dining experience for someone, there are several skills you learn. One of these is how to be patient. Sometimes in a restaurant — as is in many different jobs — things don’t always go as expected, and you find yourself in a position where there is a problem that needs to be solved. At the same time, you need to maintain your good attitude and ensure that your guest has a good experience. Being able to keep a level head while solving problems is a skill that easily transitions out of the hospitality industry and into any job you might seek.
While working in communications, I quickly realized that like food service, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes there are things that fall through or tasks that need to get put on the backburner. Having the ability to be patient in any situation — no matter how stressful — is an advantage, especially if you work in a busy industry. If you’re patient and a problem pops up, you can easily begin working on how to resolve or defuse it. These are experiences that I was first exposed to in a restaurant and have been able to carry over with me into my current job.
2. Learn to multi-task.
This point goes hand-in-hand with number one. As a server in a busy restaurant, I learned that no matter how hard you plan, you often find yourself biting off more than you can chew. Sometimes there’s food in the window for one of your tables and drinks ready at the service bar for another. Circus performers aren’t the only ones who know how to juggle, you know. When working in a restaurant, you need to have the ability to switch back and forth from tasks relatively quickly. If you can’t, you might lose control of your tables or food tickets and find yourself desperate for help.
On a similar note, I often find myself juggling things in my current job too. It’s easy to let the work get the best of you and slow you down — but if you can learn what the expectations are and can prioritize your tasks in conjunction with the standards, you’ll succeed. Working in a restaurant taught me how to wear more than one hat at a time, which is a skill that I use daily as a communications coordinator.
3. Be flexible.
When you work in an industry that is solely focused on customer experience, you have to become flexible. Chefs and restaurant workers are often expected to work late nights, weekends and some holidays — so learning to be flexible with your personal schedule is a must. Also, a restaurant staff is often like a good team; they’re always helping and backing each other up. Don’t be afraid to lend a hand and help out your neighbor, even if that means you have to work a little bit harder. At the end of the day, you want your guests to be fulfilled and happy with the service provided — so if someone needs help, make sure to step up.
In an office setting — or any other career — you’ll probably be part of a team, too. That means being flexible with your co-workers and understanding of any issues that might arise. It also means being willing to move things around and help someone who might have a lot on their plate.
4. Communication is key.
In food service, communication is the cornerstone of the business. You have to talk to your guests, communicate with the kitchen, work with the people on the bar and ensure all of the patrons enjoy their meals. Learning how to speak up if you feel like something is wrong (no matter how intimidated you might feel) is difficult but ultimately necessary. If issues aren’t communicated properly, more problems can occur — especially when it comes to your guest and their meal.
But communication doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Actually, learning to talk effectively with the people around you is a valuable skill that you can use in any job. Sometimes personalities collide in the workplace and things get tense. If you have great communication skills, you can work to diffuse problems in a positive manner without causing any additional stress. Now that’s a skill you can take to the bank!
5. You need to have thick skin.
Lastly, working in a restaurant taught me how to work without getting overly emotional. Food service can often be stressful and downright frustrating — but if you can manage the stress, you’re on the right track. Teach yourself how to take criticism and turn it into a positive experience. Being a restaurant worker sometimes has its challenges and things can go wrong — so make sure you’re prepared for any potential backlash.
In any job, this is a great skill to have but is sometimes hard to achieve. If you work in an office, chances are you might be subjected to criticism. It’s okay to have feelings over the situation, but don’t let it overcome you because you don’t want your emotions to get in the way of your job. On the other hand, know when you’re not being treated fairly. If you’re your best you and still find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, consider having a conversation with your manager or exploring other career options.
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