Learning on the Job: Waiting Tables...

Learning on the Job: Waiting Tables (French version available)

by Mara Hurst
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

With the Covid pandemic, finding jobs was extremely difficult. One of the few jobs I found was at a local restaurant. They were looking for a hostess, and I thought to myself I would be perfect for the job! I enjoy talking to people, and doing small tasks to make everyone’s job easier. The interview went very well and I was hired by the end of the week.

After a few shifts, I felt comfortable in the environment and felt like I fit in with the rest of the staff! However, as the days progressed, problems began to arise. One of the first issues I faced was with one of the waitresses. She ignored many of my questions and would not respond to me if I tried to make small talk. I brushed it off quickly; it is impossible to be friends with everyone you work with. And from that, I learned to work around her and kept everything running smoothly. One small problem, or not-so-friendly person won’t stop me from getting a job done!

But after I moved past that, I ran into another issue. Being a hostess, you need to be able to speak to all sorts of customers and maintain a professional persona. No matter what they say, you need to remain polite. Or so I was told during my time as a hostess. I ran into multiple customers who had issues with their tables, their food, their drinks, or wait times. As much as I tried to solve every problem, that was not good enough for some people. And again, you can’t be friends with everybody. I learned to adapt to the customer I was talking to and try to solve the issue in a way they see suitable. It’s a tough job to bite your tongue sometimes and let them speak, but it is a good skill to learn. Sometimes it is better to listen and step away to calm down, than it is to interrupt and elevate the situation.

Now I didn’t last very long at this job. It wasn’t because of one coworker, and it wasn’t because of a handful of rude customers. The thing that gave me the push to quit was the manager. In customer service, you can only handle so much. And when you are new to the business, and are still trying to find your footing, the best thing is for there to be a manager who has your back. That was something I did not have. No matter what course of action I took, I was either too slow, too fast, or just not doing it right. If a customer had a wild complaint and shouted derogatory things at me, the manager couldn’t care less. One day I had enough of being treated so poorly by the manager, and I just left in the middle of my shift. Why? I was dealing with some heavy family issues and my manager decided to yell at me for being overwhelmed.

If you’ve made it this far, you probably have some questions swirling around. One of them probably being, “Well, what did you learn?” From all of this, I learned a few different things. First, sometimes people are just not going to like you – and that is okay. Some people just do not mesh well together, and it isn’t because one of you is an awful person. It could just be a difference of opinion or personality. Being liked is not the most important thing when working, and the sooner that is learned, the easier customer service can be. Next, I learned how to keep my cool in intense situations. Remaining calm often helped with de-escalation, and made everyone’s lives a bit easier.  Finally, I learned that you do not have to sit down and take treatment you do not like. If you are being berated and feel unsafe somewhere, you have every right to just leave. Feeling terrible every time you go into work makes for a sad life. You should work somewhere you feel safe, accepted, and happy. And if you are not receiving these things, walk away and don’t feel bad about it. You are allowed to prioritize yourself and your well-being.

Everyone learns something from a new job, and it is important to remember these lessons and try to apply them to your everyday life.

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