Life lessons you'll learn from working in hospitality

April 19, 2016
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Ah, hospitality -- that wonderful industry of odd hours, cheeky staff banter and blissful servitude. Unfortunately for many of us, this happy world only occupies us during the awkward years between high school and our forever-job, that mythical future where we will experience consistent work hours, regular pay and, dare I say it, weekends.

Despite all its flaws, working in hospitality during these formative years provides us with invaluable life lessons; ones that will never really leave us. As they always say, you can take the girl out of the café, but if you take the caffeine out of the girl, she’s probably going to be completely useless.

Just smile and nod

When that one customer takes a shine to you and proceeds to tell you about their new hip replacement, their kids or whatever else you’re not interested in, it can be difficult not to let your irritation show. Dealing with people you don’t like can be draining, but it’s important to remain friendly and professional with even the most exasperating customers. Hospitality gives you ample practice with this one, particularly if you serve alcohol.  

No rest for the wicked

Hospitality work spans crazy hours and seems to be a prime exemplar of Murphy’s Law. Everything always goes wrong on the busy days, but you have to learn to keep going -- even when you’re exhausted, and even when you think you might just strangle the next person to ask you whether the milk is gluten-free. This is how you learn to go Zen in the face of chaos, to just take a deep breath, knuckle down to work, and remember that every bad day comes to an end… eventually.  

Harden up

If you went out the night before a shift, you need to grab some Clear Eyes, down some aspirin and get your ass to work. This teaches a hard lesson in responsibility: if you compromise your ability to fulfill a commitment, you have to suffer the consequences. People are counting on you to be there, so the least you can do is turn up and hope the remnants of a big night will fade with your hundredth espresso.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can get done today

It’s closing time, but those giggly ladies-who-lunch haven’t finished their last bottle of chardonnay, so you’re not going anywhere. In hospitality, you don’t leave until everything is cleaned and ready for tomorrow’s shift, but taking that extra time to set up is really just investing in an easier start for yourself the next day. This principle works in any setting. Get yourself ready for tomorrow before you leave work, before you go to bed, or before you open your own bottle of giggles with your own giggly friends. Just please don’t pronounce it ‘kardonnay’.

Can I speak to a manager?

Sometimes customers will yell at you, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. The first time this happens to you, it can be pretty confronting. Someone is angry and upset about something you probably can’t control, but they’re taking it out on you anyway. What you need to remember is that most of the time, it’s not about you, and you shouldn’t let them upset you. Even outside of work, people will get angry with you for things that are probably not your fault, and often it will be easier to just let them be angry and hope they feel guilty afterward. Stand tall, and remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Some people are just assholes.

Natalie Stevens

Natalie is a writer, reader and Olympian grade procrastinator studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney. 

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