If I was asked what my most working experience has been, in an interview I would probably mention a prestigious company I worked for or an interesting course or project. But that would be a lie. Most would not believe me when I say waitressing taught me a work ethic and so many other things that I use daily in my career.
When you only really get paid in tips (basic waitressing wages barely paid petrol to get to work), the harder you work, the more you earn. It drives you to pick up late tables and extra shifts. And avoid management as you will probably earn less in most front of house positions than you would off tips. That drive and self-motivation has never left me. Along with a self confidence that I will always be able to make a living because no-one earned my tips for me or paid my way. I worked for every damn cent.
You learn to be organized. You never go away from your tables empty handed – either with orders or with dishes for the scullery. And you always bring something back – at least one order. No effort can be wasted. You learn that through aching feet where the 15 meter walk to the bar begins to feel like 100 after a long shift. Is till hate to waste effort – I will always find ways in my work to minimize effort. Why write a report that can be generated electronically? Why duplicate effort or waste time debating an issue when an alternative solution will solve everyone’s problem. Needless to say I am not always the most patient person to work with 🙂
I also learned teamwork, respect (NEVER underestimate the power of even the lowliest position in the kitchen of any restaurant) and an ability to smile politely at guests at the end of a 13 hour shift who arrived just as the kitchen is closing.
I learned that waitresses don’t just take your order and serve your food. They are your host and can make your whole experience better (or worse). As with most jobs, you get out what you put in. There is something to learn from every experience in life. If you think you have risen too high to replace paper in the photocopier for the office, you probably don’t get it.
The life experiences that define us and become integrated into the way we do things are not necessarily what we learnt in textbooks or written in a job description. In fact, the qualities that I believe are my strengths weren’t learnt through study or doing what was technically my job. It is in the know how of colleagues shared and unofficial projects that are difficult to put across in a CV. Yet it is these intangible experiences, the undefined or underestimated knowledge that is the most valuable I have found in my life so far.