Growing up, I had LOTS of different jobs. I’ve bagged groceries, cashiered, cut fabric, spit knowledge on small animals (PetSmart), sold ferry tickets, fundraised for public television, tutored, mowed baseball fields, returned library books to the shelf — the list goes on and on. One job in particular stands out to me as building the most relevant hireable skills preparing me for the “real world,” though, and that’s waitressing. I think anyone who has been in the food service industry will agree with me.

Here are seven hireable skills you can learn from waiting tables that translate to the corporate world:

1. Customer Service: An obvious one, but as a server your income literally depends on this. The better your customer service, the more ca$h monies in your pocket. Over time the skill builds from just a courteous smile and nod to remembering names, backgrounds, how someone likes their food, and mastering small talk – basically, getting people to like you. Always a good thing to know.

2. Prioritization: This is so critical in every day life. As a waitress I learned to (quickly!) figure out which task needed to be addressed first before I moved on to the next, and then keep track of it in my head. “Table 3 ordered first, but Table 5 needs apps, so let me get Table 8 drinks, order the apps, then order Table 3’s dinner in five minutes.”

3. Multitasking: I can’t tell you how many times I was filling someone’s coffee cup with one hand while pouring soup with the other while yelling at the chef to get my food ready. Multitasking is something many can benefit from to improve their job performance.

4. Understanding and Dealing with High-Pressure Situations: Servers are literally running around in the back trying to get everything out on time. Okay, I get it, if someone doesn’t get their food on time or their dessert is late it’s not the end of the world. However, you FEEL like it is, and it’s much like pushing for a deadline at work while your boss is freaking out.

5. Time Management: This goes hand in hand with prioritization. While serving, there is virtually NO one asking you what your plan is. How have you scheduled out your day? What will you be working on first? You are a one (wo)man island and you need to figure that out on your own.

6. Attention to Detail: Especially in fine dining, I can’t even begin to get into the little nuances of the silverware, the stemware, the salt and pepper shakers. As a server it’s the little details are what make people think you’re great, so you learn to pay close attention to customers and their requests.

7. Office Politics: Are you a gossiper or do you ignore it? This definitely happens an incredible amount in the food industry. I learned early on that it’s best to just stay out of it! Instead of wondering why someone got those sweet Friday and Saturday dinner shifts for “no reason,” focus on yourself and you will succeed far more than those concerned about everyone else.

Have you worked in the food industry in the past? What have you learned from your time serving food that benefits you in your current occupation?

photo by: ralph and jenny

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