Bartender’s Manifesto: Say Unqualifed work one more time!

I held a job interview the other day with a young graduate, looking for his first professional experience in his field. He worked in different fields of customer service, but however, his CV looked blank. When asked about his working experience, or any experience related to the job advertisement, he told me he has none. I asked him: “How none, there are quite a few things written in your CV”. His response was: “Yes, but this was all unqualified work“. I know he just used the official term describing his experience, but still, the ex bartender in me roared like a lion. So I asked him about the things he’s learned during his “unqualified work”. The discussion began and a job interview turned into career counselling session by identifying all the skills and competencies he gained during so called unqualified work.

It’s been more than a month since then, but the ex bartender in me is still deeply wounded. So let me tell you why there is no such thing as unqualified work, and for all the customer service workers out there – here are some skills gained in your world. Here is what working in a bar taught me, a little something to be proud of and to sell it to the hiring manager:

Organizational skills:

  • Working under pressure   |  How not to go crazy
    Customers, co-workers, managers, environment. Not only time pressure, but also exhaustion and constant focus.
  • Effectiveness  |   How to clean and tidy up the place superfast
    Everyone hates cleaning the morning after a big party. I feel like a superhero when I’m done before Joao even wakes up. Working in a bar, you don’t have time for unnecessary moves. Everyone wants to go “home” fast after the shift is over.

Intrapersonal skills:

  • Adaptation   |   How to fit in quickly
    We learn the strategies to fit in a new group of people very quickly. Especially if the place is crowded, you don’t have the time for initial awkwardness and long introductions to your co-workers.
  • Dealing with bosses and difficult personalities   |   How to convince yourself to shut your mouth
    We’ve seen it all, believe me. Let’s just leave it here, too many stories to tell.

Customer service skills:

  • Marketing skills  |  How to be a natural marketer:
    Not only social media is full of our posts, the content we create is usually impressive. Moreover, we learn how to represent our bar wherever we go.  We walk, talk, look like bartenders. We belong.
  • Customer care  |  How to take shit from people in style
    People are crazy, that’s for sure. But we are used to it, and we learned to live with it. We don’t care anymore, stupid is as stupid does.
  • Business Development skills   |   How to sell like a pro
    We know everything about every product we sell. Or at least this is what we make you think. And we know exactly what you’d like to drink today. Even though I don’t have a clue about beer brewing process, I will sell you this low fermented fruity but still strong and firm ale.
  • Self-Control  |   How to fake it till you make it.
    Sometimes it’s hard to control ourselves. Honestly, our self-control is the only reason why nothing ever happens to anyone. We learn that customers come first. The guest is not a king only when he behaves like one, our guests come to us to be spoiled, to feel good. And we learn how to give them that. If we don’t then we don’t make any tips.

Leadership skills:

  • Transformational Leadership  |  How to lead a team from behind
    Even though we are not managers or other executives, we know how to take the lead. The real team leaders in a bar are usually not the appointed managers, but rather someone we naturally follow. I call them team captains. They always know everything, they are natural decision makers.
  • Awareness   |  How to be a leader when you’re really not.
    Not only we learn how important it is to have a team leader, we also get an insight on our own leadership skills. We gained a lot of them, we had to. But if we didn’t, we at least have a clear view, because we were frequently exposed to situations where we had to take the lead and initiative
  • Cooperation and teamwork  |  How to negotiate and be frenemies with other bars
    Not only within the team, but also among different bars. On a Friday night, when we run out of ice, limes and other goodies, we always find a way to get them from our fellow bartender friends.
  • Appreciation of Authority   |  How to obey the rules
    Even though I think it’s sunny outside, if my boss says it’s raining, it’s raining. I can question, suggest, make a statement, but in the end we learn that they know what it’s best for their bar. It is their story and we learn to respect that.

Soft Skills

  • Creativity   |   No worries, we got this attitude
    No triple sec, no problem, we will find something similar enough to put in your cosmopolitan. Latte art, bar quotes, problem solving
  • Self-control  |   How to perform when we are not really motivated
    Customers don’t care if we’re sick, hungover, were dumped yesterday, we always need to put on that fake smile and serve our customers the way they deserve it.
  • Calmness  |  How to keep it together
    Be it 12 hours of Christmas songs, or that old lady who just called you all that names. We can handle it. We are experts in covering chaos and mistakes.
  • Presentation skills   |   How to speak loud and clear
    We need to speak a lot to people we do not know. Because we realize quickly that being shy is a no-go, we learn to pitch our products confidently. Remember that time when you were amazed how a bartender could remember all that long order? If you think this is a superpower, imagine how amazed you would be if you knew we know by heart everything that is written in the menu and more.
  • Being comfortable |  How to rock that ugly shirt
    Sometimes the uniforms are hilarious and they almost never fit perfectly. But we learn the tricks to adjust them and look good

Skills and knowledge to avoid pitching: How work and alcohol complement each other, how to tell someone to fuck off in a creative way, spotting customers who tip big, how to work in extreme conditions (massive hangover, no time for morning coffee, annoying co-worker).

Here it is, a bit of wisdom on how to present our skills. What we need to do is just to think about what we learned, call it the right names and here it is, CV looks much better. Another reason for posting this facts: Truth being told I miss the sound of steaming milk and the smell of coffee grains. But most of all I miss the rush and adrenaline. I miss that beer after and awesome, crowded shift, when you and your co-workers just sit there, too tired to say anything but still feeling like rockstars.



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