SO, you want to hire me for your public relations job. Great! I can already tell we will be great together. Mostly because I get along with almost everyone, and you are offering to pay me to do something I deeply love. But, what is this?! My experience in PR
is a little lacking doesn’t take up much space on my resume. Not to worry, fearless employer. Besides how to carry a tray, serving tables has taught me a few things about people and life in general.
1. A good pen makes a world of difference. Every server can understand this nugget of advice. The tools you use for your everyday life and at your job should be enjoyable to use. For me, it’s clicky ballpoint pens that do the trick. Also, pens are to servers what cigarettes are to inmates. They are sort of a form of currency for us. So please stop taking them after you sign your credit card slip. In relation to my future career, I know that the tools I use will be of the highest importance. Just like I can’t take orders with a blue crayon, I know I can’t use certain forms of social or traditional media for every single client/situation. Every keystroke needs to be considered and thought out. Every campaign will employ different tactics (tools) to be successful.
2. Some people are just horrible jerks who won’t tip no matter how well you serve them and their bratty kids for an hour and a half. This is pretty self-explanatory. Every server has more than a few horror stories. I have at least two a week (I like to attribute this to my horrible luck, and not my abilities as a server). Please refer to this story of a heartless human being who has never had to wait tables in his entire life, yet insists that it isn’t a difficult job, and he shouldn’t have to tip. This lesson is a hard one to learn, but a valuable one to have learned. The ability to work through situations that seem impossible, with customers that seem thankless and out of touch, suggests a caliber of perseverance and positivity not found in your average college graduate.
3. Everyone loves working with someone who does their share of the work, nobody likes working with someone who does only their share. When it’s Saturday night, and everyone is running around like crazy, we all need to do our individual jobs. Refill the butter. Restock the expo station. Return plates to the line from the dish pit. But if you refuse to do anything but your specific job, nobody is going to want to help you out when you find yourself in a pickle. Always pull more than your own weight. This quality is worth its weight in gold to any employer….actually, it should be worth my weight in gold, a considerably larger number.
4. Be courteous, but aggressive. The back of a kitchen is not a spacious area to work in. Think of any concert you’ve ever been to. You twist and squeeze and step on people to get closer to the stage. It’s hot, uncomfortable, and inside most people’s personal space bubbles. Now picture yourself carrying a ten pound tray. Things get weird. As a server, I have a lot of people depending on me to get their food and drinks to them in a timely and enjoyable manner. Unfortunately there are about 20 other people trying to do the same exact job. I often need to push, step around, and beat people to the punch, or should I say “bread oven,” if I want to make my customers happy (Read: get a larger tip). Always push yourself to where you need to be; just don’t be rude while doing it. Don’t get me started on how to be an aggressive woman in the corporate world while still maintaining my charming maternal instincts and feminine grace….the jury’s still out on that one.
5. People love themselves some free bread. I’m not sure how to expand this to apply to the real world. It’s just a fact of life. People love free stuff, and will keep asking for this free stuff even after they have just ordered enough food to feed a small army.
6. Be nice to everyone. Not only because your livelihood as a server depends on it, but because it should be a rule to be a human.
7. Everyone should have to serve tables at least once in their life. It should be a requirement of society. You need to know what it’s like to be talked down to, yelled at, and covered in someone else’s leftovers. You need to know how hard servers work to ensure you have an enjoyable dinner. You will be a better human being because of it. I am a better employee because of it.
8. Hang in there. Some nights, while I am up to my elbows in dirty dishes, bad tips, grumpy customers, and butter, I just have to stop and appreciate the job I’m working towards. There’s a reason I’m getting a college education, and it’s so I never have to wait tables ever again, and so when I do eat out, I can afford to tip my servers what they deserve. See my reference to perseverance and positivity above. I’m willing to stick with a job for the long-haul, through the good and bad.
9. All of the world’s communication jobs should be filled by servers. We are professional communicators. That is what our job is all about (besides dirty dishes, carrying heavy things, and knowing everything there is to know about steak)! As a food server, I am the messenger between a busy kitchen staff and a customer who wants her filet mignon well done, but juicy (NOTE: NOT POSSIBLE), her salad with only three cherry tomatoes, and only toppings on half of her baked potato. Honestly, serving should be a major bonus for communication-based jobs. I know how to adjust my server’s pitch to a different clientele: parents do not want you to audibly mention dessert specials in front of their children; people celebrating something are more likely to listen to my spiel about drink specials. I’m pretty sure adjusting the message to fit the audience was something I learned in the first week of Principles of PR. But I’ve been putting it into practice four days a week for almost two years now at Outback.
10. Appearance is imperative. This is a nice way of saying “People make a lot of very important decisions based on trivial things such as looks.” Just as I can’t show up to work with a dirty uniform and messy hair, I can’t expect to impress my clients or employer without taking time and effort to craft my appearance. I am not exactly referring to my physical appearance, although there is a fine line between having a bad hair day and showing up to work in yoga pants…I believe that line is called “professionalism.” Let’s be honest, based on this entire blog topic, I think we can all admit that I am in no financial position to be dressed to the nines in designer labels. I can promise I will never show up to a meeting in Victoria’s Secret sweatpants…I can’t promise that I won’t show up in a combination of Target clearance and Forever 21 (the side that isn’t reminiscent of an 18-year-old Jersey Shore fan at the club).
Back to my point. More important than my physical appearance is my online appearance. My Facebook won the “Squeaky Clean” award in my sorority chapter (a pretty big deal, apparently). My Twitter account is an absolute fabulous look inside my life, while still remaining tasteful and unoffensive. I know the value of maintaining a positive reputation online and in person.
It’s a theory of mine that I make more money on the nights when I look cuter. The evidence isn’t as conclusive as I’d like it to be, though.