Job hunting is the worst, isn’t it?
I’ve moved around a lot since graduating from high school. Each new city has brought a new job hunt along with it.
For some reason, I always seem to find myself returning to serving tables.
Before you scoff, let me say I genuinely liked serving tables while in my early 20s. I kept feeling like I should get a “real job,” but there were too many benefits to staying in the restaurant industry.
In my opinion, if you’re job hunting, don’t rule out waiting tables. Here are just a few of the perks serving jobs have to offer.
1. Flexible Hours
Serving jobs are a great option for students, parents, caretakers or anyone else who has non-traditional available work hours.
If you can only work evenings, or are limited to three days per week, that’s fine.
Restaurants are unconventional businesses with weird business hours, and employers seek servers who are available at those times of day. Granted, those “weird hours” usually consist of at least one weekend day per week. If you don’t want to work any Saturdays or Sundays, restaurant work might not be your ideal job.
Your wonky sleeping schedule could finally help you get a job!
2. A Lot of Time Off
Serving jobs might work for you simply because you want to live a more flexible lifestyle.
I continued to serve tables for two years after graduating from college because I wanted the freedom to see the world. When I worked as a server, I took time off to travel around New Zealand, Australia and South Korea, and my employers were supportive of my adventures!
No, you don’t get paid vacation time, so you do need to take your income loss into account when requesting time off.
In my experience, as long as you’re a good worker who communicates with your manager, the boss won’t look down on you for taking time off every now and then, but your mileage may vary.
3. Immediate Cash on Hand
As a server, I had mixed feelings about working for tips. One huge plus of doing so, though, was that I walked out of every shift with cash in my pocket.
Taking weekly trips to the bank became annoying, but constantly having cash on me was also super helpful.
If you have bills to pay that can’t wait until payday, you could possibly pick up an extra shift or two to pad your bank account.
Always having cash is also a huge relief during emergencies. If you can pay cash right then and there, you won’t have to resort to using your credit card and risk going into debt.
Despite having worked other jobs I’ve liked just as much as waiting tables, this is the main aspect of the job I miss. Getting paid bi-monthly or even weekly just isn’t the same.
4. Discounted Food
Working at a restaurant is a fantastic way to eat quality food for a low price.
Most restaurants I’ve worked at offered one meal per shift at a 50% discount. One place even gave us a free meal for every shift, as long as we worked for at least four hours. Keep in mind, you’re more likely to receive free meals at privately owned restaurants. The chains where I’ve worked all stuck to the 50%-off rule.
Most restaurants serve large portions, so take half your meal home in a to-go box for your next day’s lunch. Talk about stretching your dollar.
5. You Learn Soft Skills
Okay, you may not master learning to use Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint when you’re working serving jobs.
But you do learn a multitude of soft skills when serving tables, which always look impressive on a resume and still help you in your career!
Soft skills are intangible attributes you pick up at a job, such as taking initiative and adapting to a variety of situations.
The biggest soft skill I honed during my serving years was the ability to multitask.
On a busy Friday night, I would have to take orders for five or six groups at a time, enter them into the computer, clean tables and run food. Since I was a trainer, I often had to simultaneously train a new employee! And I tried to do all of it without making a mistake.
Yep, I walked away from that job a master multitasker.
Other valuable soft skills you can learn from serving include working with others (both guests and co-workers), communicating with people, contributing to a team effort and solving problems in creative ways.
Before you write off serving, think of the benefits.
Waiting tables can provide you with the balance you need to live a gratifying life outside of work. If you don’t want to be a server forever, take comfort in knowing it also gives you the preparation you need to succeed in other fields.
So if you’re job hunting, don’t immediately rule out walking down the street and handing in an application at the nearest bistro.
Laura Grace Tarpley is a nomad and freelance writer who runs the blog Let’s Go Tarpley!, where she shares tips about budget travel and moving abroad. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.