Anyone who’s been a server can relate to the chaos associated with the service industry. Although many believe that serving is child’s play, those who work in quality establishments are expected to exhibit a wide variety of skills from problem-solving and math skills to social adaptation and communications skills. Serving can therefore act as a stepping stone in terms of skill development within the job market.
Now, anyone can technically be a server, but to be a good server, this position requires a lot more. Anyone who thinks that serving is simply writing orders down, walking back to the chef, and sweeping have clearly never worked in the industry. Being from a family who owned a restaurant, I know this industry all too well and respect the hard work that goes into providing optimal service.
Serving put me through university and although some days I felt as though my head may explode and my nerves would never calm down, I gained some immensely valuable skills which I have used moving forward in the job market. For those of you who have or are currently working as a server, you’ll appreciate this. Those who haven’t, perhaps you’ll appreciate good service that much more the next time you receive it.
When you think about it, serving during a dinner rush in a fine dining establishment requires many skills engaged at once. That pressure you feel as soon as the floor fills and the sous-chef has started throwing things is similar to what you’ll experience in the workforce, but not in such a literal sense. Here they are: some of the most valuable skills you developed serving, without giving them a second thought.
1. Multitasking under pressure
There were some nights and early mornings when it felt as though everyone and their uncle were at our restaurant. With only myself on the floor, there were times when I’d be juggling up to twelve tables, while answering the phone, seating people, clearing tables, and everything in between. Stress levels would be immensely high, but you quickly learn: either you adapt and learn to multitask or you’ll be looking for a hiding spot.
In order to complete your main goal, which is keeping customers happy, you need to learn how to accomplish many tasks without growing a third hand. That means learning how to be incredibly efficient. If you have to take an order, deliver a check, and bring extra napkins to different tables, do it all in one run.
You place the check on the one table, drop off the extra napkins to another, and then take an order. You quickly learn that small, quick tasks can be eliminated, reducing your stress levels. By getting these tasks out of the way, you’re able to focus on one of the most important tasks: giving guests a genuinely positive and personable experience.
Once the order is taken and you have built a positive rapport, you can check on a couple of tables, run payment, and then enter the new order into the kitchen, depending on the flow of orders at the time. Now, the workforce will throw the same types of challenges at you. Although they won’t be in the form of breadsticks or cutlery, learning how to multitask is a skill that can be transferred to a wide variety of settings and situations.
Once you hit the job market, you’ll soon realize that teamwork can help everyone advance. Think about your current or past serving days and how teamwork played such a vital role. In the serving industry, assisting others while they assist you tends to be the perfect system. You all have common goals and, when possible, you help each other achieve those goals.
Unless you want to go into research or another field where you tend to work alone, you can expect some degree of required teamwork within your dream job. Just as you need to communicate and stay calm as a server, you will need to communicate with others in your future career, solving problems in order to come up with practical solutions. Being a team player goes a long way in the job market.
Think about the scenario above which mentioned napkins, taking an order, and delivering a check. If another server isn’t busy, you can ask them to run payment while you get to know your new table. Just as they assisted you, they will more than likely ask the same in return at one point or another. The skill of knowing when and how to ask for help can be highly beneficial in the job market as well.
3. Time management
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Knowing when to send an appetizer through, then the entrée, and everything in between helps build critical time management skills. Now, you may not be ordering your boss’ steak in the future, but deadlines are just as reliant on essential time management skills.
If you have various deadlines, how do you achieve them? How do you reach your goals, both short and long-term? Time management is a major factor when it comes to delivering assignments and completing tasks on time. Along with time management, comes prioritization.
Just as you prioritize while serving to reduce stress levels, the same is true within the workforce. This skill will allow you to tackle any workload without feeling overwhelmed. Being able to effectively practice time management will also help you achieve greater balance regarding your work and home life.
At the end of the day, if you can’t effectively communicate and respond to the needs of others, you won’t make it very far in the service industry. People skills are one of the most important factors regarding happy guests, meaning larger tips. The same is true in the job market, as effective communication goes a long way.
For starters, landing a job will be pretty tricky if you can’t communicate with others. Your first roadblock would occur within the interview process. For servers, they’re used to speaking with hundreds of people a week, and with this experience come strengthened communication skills.
While talking to tables and building a rapport, you have to be quick on your feet, witty, and even humorous. That charm you put on in the restaurant will transfer beautifully in an interview. Although you should be professional, a little personality and quick wit can go a long way.
5. Adaptive thinking
Oh dear, you’ve double booked a party and now you must adapt to the current situation. Being a quick-thinker is essential in the serving world because you don’t want to stand between a hungry person and their table. Adapting to all sorts of situations is common on a daily basis. Once again, in order to provide the best possible experience for customers, you’re going to need to be flexible and adapt to a wide range of demands and requests.
In the job market, there will be plenty of unexpected moments and to be fair, employers are looking for those who can adapt. Problem-solving is everything and when you display adaptive thinking skills, you’re more desirable as an employee. Adaptive thinkers are forward-thinkers and with that comes developing ideas that really shine.
For all those nights when you’re scrambling, thinking of the best-case scenario while accommodating the needs of others, you’re polishing skills that potential employers will love. This also ties into leadership skills, as you lead those around you towards more productive and effective solutions.
If you’re currently a server or have been a server in the past, think about that position and how it has enhanced your abilities and skill set. I’m grateful that I worked in such a fast environment for so long, as it helped me develop skills in which I may have never addressed.
Have you learned any other skills as a server? Let us know in the comments section below!