It had been a typically enjoyable evening. The two ladies had enjoyed a cocktail two appetizers, a split salad, and glass of wine. We were all relaxing and enjoying the wonderful afterglow of an evening well spent. Truth be told, they were enjoying it, and I was working it. People sometimes forget that while they are at a bar for fun, the bartender is there to work.
I had done the easy part of my job, the delivery and construction parts and now came the harder part, the small talk. As we waited for the finale, a chocolate soufflé (ordered 15 minutes earlier), the ladies made my job that much easier, by engaging me in conversation.
“My son just graduated from law school,” said the wine drinker with the salt and pepper hair.
“He’s very smart,” said her companion in the chunky turquoise necklace.
So we discussed his smarts for a few minutes, as we did I reset their place settings and generally cleaned up their postprandial debris.
“He took the BAR recently and passed,” said salt and pepper as I took in cash from a departing server.
“Now he’s looking for a job, but it’s so hard out there,” said turquoise necklace.
I thought of all the applications that restaurants have been getting recently from out of work realtors, bond salespeople, and mortgage brokers. Not to mention the reams of applications from people who were once restaurant workers and are again reentering the business as a result of the current economy. It is certainly a whole different hiring world then it was just five years ago.
“He picks things up very quickly,” said salt and pepper.
“Yes, he’s very smart,” said turquoise necklace, again.
I was beginning to feel like I was being set up for something.
I delivered the steaming hot soufflé. As I broke open the top and poured in the chocolate sauce, it came as sure as I knew it would.
“Do you think he could get a job here?’ said salt and pepper.
“You know, as a bartender?”
“Does he have any experience?” I asked knowing full well that we were so heavily staffed that even the experienced bartenders that we already had were all looking for extra shifts. But then my job is to be conciliatory, not confrontational.
“No, but he went to law school,” she said with a decidedly condescending note.
“Well, maybe he should get a job as a lawyer,” I thought to myself.
What I actually said however was quite different.
“We tend to hire people with several years of experience,” I said politely as I refilled their coffee.
“It can’t be that hard,” she said in a far less friendly tone then she had started out with.
Well, so much for an enjoyable evening. Reality has a way of taking the fun out of things.
Recently a rival bar manager had stopped by to see me; we had worked together many years ago and remain good friends to this day.
“What is up with these people with no experience going into the busiest bar in town and asking for jobs?” she said after a shot of Don Julio.
“I only want to work weekend night,” she said mimicking one of them.
“Really?! Just the busiest nights of the week in the busiest bar in town? With no experience? Sure. Why not?” she continued waving her hands in the air. “We are all just a bunch of idiots anyhow,” she said sarcastically. Taking a sip of her tequila she added, “Idiots with jobs.”
Eventually as the night wound down and the last cuddly customers left, I joined her for a Don Julio myself. And together we came up with some simple things to consider if you are ungainfully employed and are looking for a “new revenue stream” i.e. a job in the bar business.
1) If you have no experience in the bar business, don’t go to the busiest place in town and ask for night shifts. Saying that you will work any shifts is much more likely to get you a job. As is applying at the slowest place in town. It just might work out better for you and for them. At the very least you can put down some experience for your next interview.
2) Demeaning the job you are applying for is a great way to have your resume end up in the wastebasket.
3) If it has been ten years since you last bar job take into consideration that nobody drinks the drinks that you remember. Eight hours of making hand muddled raspberry mojitos might make you reconsider things.
4) Also consider that in the small community of bars and bartenders many jobs are filled without applications or interviews, but by word of mouth, and existing friendships.
5) Don’t tell potential employers what you want from them. Putting down “I am willing to learn,” really means I want to be paid while you teach me a skill. Telling employers what you can do for them, even if it is not much, will be far better received. Remember it’s not all about you.
6) Good luck, because at the rate that restaurants are closing, you are going to competing for jobs with people who have been in the bar business for the past ten years.