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What I learnt being a part-time waitress and how I can use that experience for the future

HOW do you transfer and leverage skills gained from your part-time gig waiting tables into a professional working environment? Lunnie Gan shares her story.

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Students all over will at some point have taken up a part-time job during their studies. And while the extra pocket money may have been what kept us going, you may be surprised to learn just how much the skills you’ve acquired and learnt from those jobs can actually be leveraged into something special in future job seeking opportunities.

Having worked part-time as a waitress in Melbourne for almost a year, I definitely wouldn’t call it the best job ever yet there are some life skills that I have picked up and learnt about that have proven to be more valuable than I could ever have imagined.

Everyday I’m hustlin’: How to effectively work under pressure

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Photo : Kyle Mahan via Flickr

Imagine it’s a busy Saturday night. You’re a waitress who needs to seat customers, take orders, serve tables, handle customers’ dietary requirements with the kitchen, direct someone to the washroom and answer the phone. Add to all this cranky and hungry customers waiting for a table during your workplace’s peak rush period and soon enough, the stress of everything happening all at once can become all too overwhelming.

But there is a silver lining in all of this. Despite the endless demands of pushy customers, what the service industry has taught me is how to effectively multitask and hustle, yet remain professional and energetic all day long. Hustling under pressure taught me that panicking when stress hits isn’t exactly the best solution. In these situations, I try and remain calm, focus on the task(s) at hand and just roll with the punches. It’s always up to yourself to keep things up and rolling anyway. 

While I may not have stepped into the professional working field just yet, I’m pretty confident the accomplishments and working experience of multitasking will often be the best stories to share during future job interviews. Not everyone can juggle between different tasks in a pressured environment or be trained to manage crisis while keeping a clear head. And who knows? Maybe it’s these traits that will make you stand out in the future!

Don’t take it personally: How to managing difficult people 

Image: via april-norris

Image: via april-norris

In the service industry, you get to meet all kinds of customers, including the unpleasant ones. Unfortunately, as a waitress, you can’t actually just turn your back around and ignore them.

There’s always that one troublesome customer who demands to be served like a royal. They’ll expect to get seated right away, scoff at the waiting time for certain dishes, yet demand for food to arrive right away only to complain about the food being cold or tasteless. Every time this has happened to me, I’ve had to hold back and internally scream in my head. And while certainly frustrating, through this I have learned how to bite my tongue and endure all of those nasty customers with a smile and sense of good humour.

Awful and egregious customers will always be one of the worst parts of working in hospitality, but having a positive attitude and a whole lot of tolerance and good temper can go a long way. At the end of the day, I’ve learned just to not take it personally. From the customer’s point of view, it could just be a bad day for them; they’re not specifically having a go at you, so just try and not let it get to you.

This lesson applies everywhere. Getting along well and building good relationships with people are key traits that every employer will look for. Be it your colleagues, business partners or acquaintances, there are all sorts of people in the future that you might or might not like, yet your job will require you to put personal opinions aside and communicate nicely with everyone.

Sooner or later, after being able to tolerate annoying customers with a cheery smile, dealing with people from all walks of life probably doesn’t seem too bad.

A foundational lesson on respect

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Photo : Hanshh1 via Flickr

After a few months of working in restaurants, I definitely understood how much kind gestures, no matter how big or small, can matter.  

A compliment on the great service, a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or even just a genuine smile at the end of a meal are gestures that actually can light up my entire day! Working as a waitress gave me a foundational lesson on respect and helped me appreciate the efforts of others serving me. By putting myself in their shoes, I felt a sense of kinship to everyone whose ever had to wait tables or serve customers.

Now when I’m out dining in a restaurant, I make an extra effort to be nice towards servers and bartenders, making eye contact with them while minding my Ps and Qs. Of course, I can’t always speak for the company I dine with but it does bother me sometimes when some of my own friends take people in the service industry for granted and treat them rudely. After all, just because they work in hospitality doesn’t mean they are beneath us, and we all need a bit of appreciation at some point.

This actually makes a lot of sense in the long run too. In professional work places, it’s not about sucking up to the managers and CEOs on the top, but also about respecting and being appreciative of everyone’s contribution to the team from top to bottom. We’re all in this together!

Being a teamplayer: Understanding your role and how to work efficiently within a team

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Before taking up this part-time waitressing job, never would I have known just how much teamwork and co-operation was involved in making one’s dining experience a truly enjoyable one. Once I took the job up, I learned to put differences aside to work well as a team and get jobs done efficiently.

Despite the different roles and responsibilities of each person on the floor, being part of the front-of-house team meant stepping in to help when someone was tied up with problems. After all, we were all in this together and the least you could do for your fellow co-worker is to help them out when they need it. And hopefully they’ll do the same for you!

Being part of a team also means being able to see how supervisors operate and how they organise and motivate a team to work effectively. In my own experiences, I’ve had some great supervisors who’ve inspired me to do better and some not-too-great ones who made tasks seem like a burden. Essentially, I was allowed more insight into what made for a good leader through teamwork!

And it’s that very trait that every employer will want to look for in an applicant as there are hardly any jobs that exist without teamwork. I wouldn’t be surprised if stories about working well with co-workers and how you’ve covered for them during disastrous incidents may actually come across as genuine and true answers that employers are looking for during future job interviews.

Final thoughts…

Being a part-time waitress can be tiring — you’re hustling on your feet all day and all night and have to coping with all kinds of people, some you may not even like. But despite all that, as cliche as it may sound, I do feel the experiences have helped me grow, at least a little. These lessons I’d picked up from waitressing are the kind of real world skills that classrooms don’t teach you about. And these are the skills that employers will want to look for as well, not just the education that I’ve been afforded.

So rather than spend a summer resting after a hard year’s worth of study, why not consider take up a part-time or casual job? If you’ve never worked a day in your life, start now and experience it for yourself – you’ll perhaps find it rewarding in more ways than one. And besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little extra money for brunch next time?

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About

Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

Meld Magazine – Melbourne's international student news website © 2016 All Rights Reserved