I have had the pleasure of being a waitress, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. At a staff lunch recently, I found out that several of my co-workers had also waited tables at some point in life. The skills learned and duties navigated as a server are unquestionably translatable to a career in marketing and PR, so I’m not too surprised that so many of my colleagues prepped for life in the real world by tracking tines for tips.
1. Whether feeling in the mood or not, a server needs to be welcoming, patient and kind.
Even if a server is having a bad day, she must make her customer feel welcome and do everything in her power to help them enjoy their dining experience. When I was in college, I was a work-study waitress in the University Union Building restaurant. Despite the fact that I had to wear a polyester uniform and hair net while dutifully serving my professors, administrators and, oftentimes, peers, I never let them know that I had just done poorly on a test, spied a guy I liked with another girl or had only an hour of sleep the night before.
The same holds true today with our Bohlsen Group clients. Even if we have a fender bender on the way to work, it is our job to assure them that they are the only subject on our minds and that we are eagerly working for them.
2. Servers need to pay attention to detail, make recommendations and anticipate needs.
Sizing up a table is one of the first things a server must do, and the situation isn’t always as it seems. I can recall a certain professor who would come to eat at the U.B. restaurant regularly. Because of his dress and the fact that he ate alone, I assumed he wanted quiet so he could grade exams or write curriculum. We became fast friends, however, because I was willing to fill his iced tea repeatedly and make small talk when he needed it. I later found out his entire family had been killed in a car accident. He knew my story, too, and showed me he appreciated me by leaving $20 tips occasionally. He’s now remarried with children, and he told me that in all the four years of college he can count on one hand how many times I was not his server. I had made an impression.
If we’re doing our jobs, we pay attention to our clients’ various communication styles every day. We engage with them in the way they prefer, strategically align them with other clients and report what they need when they need it. We let them know they matter.
3. Servers must have the ability to multi-task.
The summer before my senior year of college, a few college friends assured me that if I moved to Nantucket, I could get a great job and, therefore, pay the tuition bill for my final year of school. I moved out there with them and ended up getting two gigs – one at a fancy restaurant serving five-star lunches, and another at a casual and busy hamburger/beer joint on the island. I would run from lunch to dinner with no break in between, and go from explaining how the foie gras was prepared to schlepping basket meals and 20 kinds of condiments without losing a beat.
We shift gears like this with our clients at Bohlsen Group every day. Even if we’re in the middle of a deadline, if another client calls with a question about their account, we stop what we’re doing and answer it. In any given day, we might interact with a dozen clients – always with a smile.
I honed a few other skills while waitressing that I am pleased about. I can still add quicker than most and almost always in my head. I can size up what’s in the fridge and turn a bunch of nothing into a glorious meal. And I can get nearly anyone to tell me what’s on their mind (without even knowing I’m doing it).
So, if you are in a pre-career position and looking for something to do to pay the rent – consider being a server while you sort it out. Bohlsen Group isn’t going to look down on that choice. In fact, when poring over the last bunch of resumes that came in, I found myself scanning for server positions …