The service industry changes you as a person. I worked as a barista on and off for several years, and full-time for the year following my college graduation. It was the hardest job I’ve had in my life- but I would not change it for the world.
Being in the service industry teaches you not only about yourself, but about society as a whole. It brings so much laughter, but also so many tears. It is a time in life I look back on frequently and something I think everyone needs to experience. Here’s what the service industry taught me:
- How to communicate
When I started as a barista I was only 17 and had recently moved across the country with my parents. I didn’t have many friends and had major culture shock. This job immersed me in the local atmosphere and gave me one of my best friends. It sparked my interest for communication, which eventually led to my passion for journalism in college.
- There are incredible people put there
My regulars are still some of my favorite people I’ve ever met. From double espresso guy in the morning, to blondie guy at night, they were all fascinating. They stopped to joke, and although you may never know their name, you knew their story and that’s what counts.
- How to curse under my breath
On the other hand, sometimes people can be really mean. They range from rude to just downright unncapetable. You have to become resilient and trust that the next customer probably saw everything happen and will go out of their way to make you smile. There is always a light.
- Tipping is important
I probably overtip now, but tips make up a large portion of service industry earnings. The bill covers the business, but the tips cover the employees.
- Eye contact is it’s own language
Don’t go too far- but simple eye contact makes all the difference. The worst is when someone can’t detach from their phone long enough to look up while ordering.
- How to appreciate music
5 a.m. is not a fun time to be at work, but the right song can make just about any time bearable. The same goes for a closing shift, the right song can make it fly by.
I worked as a barista at a hospital for a while and saw people dealing with tragedy daily. Most of these people still found it within themselves to remain kind and I realized there is always time to be compassionate.
- When to draw the line
I learned how to stand up for myself and my coworkers if need be. This instilled self respect and the ability to draw the line when people choose to cross it in all aspects of life.
Training a new employee, or even working around a newbie, can be frustrating. The line moves slower and customers get antsy. You have to remain calm and understanding in order to keep going. Stay patient with others and the favor will be rewarded when it’s your turn to be the novice.
- To Stay Humble
One of the hardest parts about working in the service industry is people treating you as though you’re beneath them. Most service industry employees work 10x harder than those with a desk job (some even make more money) and should be respected just the same. There is no set career path in life and different jobs suit different lifestyles. We are all on equal footing and just because we make you your latte before work does not mean our work is of lesser value.
“Nothing is black or white, nothing’s ‘us or them.’ But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world. There’s incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.” — Dave Matthews