CAREER ADVANCEMENT / SEP. 01, 2015
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5 Weird Skills You Learned from Waiting Tables

The movie Waiting… was almost a completely accurate portrayal of working in the restaurant industry. Many servers will always have nightmares about their managers calling for food runners, and servers being too busy to be bothered by them. Server nightmares are the worst; it’s like you never get to leave work because you’re either physically there or mentally there. Any former server will tell you it was the worst job they’ve ever had but it actually taught them quite a few important skills that will benefit them throughout their careers in various job settings. You may not have even realized that you were lucky enough to have gained these weird skills, so I’m here to remind you! Here are five weird skills you learned from waiting tables that will benefit you in the job market.

See Also: Beyond Skills: 5 Weird Things That Are Detrimental to Your Employability

1. How to Manipulate People

You learned how to manipulate your customers, your coworkers, and especially your boss. You learned how to talk to your guests into getting extra shit they didn’t need because you needed the extra cash. A higher bill typically equals a higher tip, right? (If people are tipping the way they should be, yes.)

You learned how to manipulate your coworkers into sometimes doing your work for you, and there is no sweeter feeling than that. They know that if they take your shift this week, you might take theirs next week, but it’s okay because you gave them an extra incentive anyway (nobody says no to an extra $20.)

You also learned how to get away with stuff with your boss. Every server (especially girls, let’s be honest) figured out very quickly how to get what he or she wanted from his or her bosses (typically men in this industry). Thus, you learned how to work the system to your favor. When your boss told you to put your hair up and you did, for five minutes, you learned how to slowly put it back down without being noticed because you spent a lot of time doing it and making it presentable.

You learned how to joke around and keep secrets for your boss, and coworkers, so when it came time for them to do something for you, they had to. This is a very good skill to know for the cutthroat world that is the job market.

2. How to Pretend to Care

When you work with people, in order to get a positive response in a negative situation, you have to learn to show them you care. This is a great skill that you learn with waiting tables. You think your server cares that your food is cold or that it came out late? No. Your server is taking care of a million other people who are mad that the kitchen is backed up as well, and while you’re sitting there griping to your server that your food didn’t come out right, everyone else is waiting to do the same. While you think your server is also a cook, specifically making your food, they’re actually servicing about five or six other tables in the restaurant, at minimum.

As a server, when you know your table is pissed, you’ve learned how to make them think that you’re listening to every word they’re saying and going to promptly take care of their specific problem right this minute. In customer service, that’s all you need to learn how to do. If your guest thinks that they are the center of your attention and you’re doing everything you can to alleviate the situation at that exact moment, they’ll assume that you really do care about them and their problems (even when you don’t).

Lastly, you learned how to be personable because your livelihood depended on it. You learned how to be patient with people – guests and coworkers alike – and how to not let negativity influence you at work. You’ve learned how to professionally deal with jerks and how to make people like you because you want their tips. You learned how to politely joke with guests and how to get your coworkers to get along with you, even when you were the “new guy”. You can definitely take all of those skills and use them to your advantage in any workplace.

3. How to Give Backhanded Compliments

While waiting tables, you know that you have several guests that fish for compliments sometimes. Because you needed their high-end tip, you learned how to honestly tell them what you thought without pissing them off by giving them backhanded compliments like “I can see why people tell you you’re ugly, but with a beard, you totally look much better.” All they hear is a compliment: “With a beard, you look great!” That’s all they need to hear. You laugh jovially and they tip you well because you were so sweet to them.

You also learned how to flirt with people to get what you want (their money). It sounds terrible but it’s true. And not everybody uses this skill to just be a jerk, but it’s something you have to learn as a server. Especially as a bartender, you learn how to work people. You have to learn this to stay afloat in this industry. If you want to make money, people have to like you. You have to make them want to give you their money. Whether you’re a charismatic dude or a friendly chick, you’ve had to use that to your advantage to gain repeat customers and keep them coming in with fat tips. It’s a cold, hard fact of this industry.

Note to customers: if you didn’t get a number when you left, the server just needed to pay their bills.

4. How to Listen Without Listening

While servers and bartenders alike learn how to “listen”, I think it’s a skill that bartenders use most. As a bartender (and server), you have to listen to people’s problems all the time. You are basically their shrink on a budget. You know more about your regulars than their own family members. You know who’s sleeping with who, who hates their husband and kids, who’s broke, who’s loaded but not telling anybody, and who’s on the verge of calling it quits. You listen when nobody else will.

You learn how to listen to your guests without letting what they’re actually telling you affect you, whether it’s good news or bad news. As long as it doesn’t affect you and your job, you’re cool. You don’t mind letting them think that you actually care about their bad experience at the restaurant around the corner. (Okay, to be fair, sometimes you had those regulars that you really did like and cared about, so you really did listen to them and their problems, and they always took care of you for it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, however).

5. How to Party

One of the truest things that EVERY server learns is how to party and to party right. Not only do servers throw the best parties, they also quickly learn how to get their shit together for their shift bright and early the next morning. They always have the best booze and anything else that’s needed for a legit good time. They take care of their own at a party, and it’s an unwritten rule that everybody takes care of everybody else when it’s their turn to host the party. Nobody knows the perfect hangover cure better than a server but, on the other hand, nobody knows the pain of working hung-over better than a server working an open-close double shift.

See Also: How to Hold Multiple Plates as a Waiter

What it all boils down to is the fact that everybody should be a server for at least a short while in his or her life. Not only can you learn the aforementioned skills but several others, too, that will only benefit you in the job market and your human interaction in general.

What are some other weird skills you learned from waiting tables? 

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