The Post-University Stop Gap Some graduates take a year out after they've finished their degree to travel the world or dive into a volunteer scheme somewhere in a remote and exotic place. I am one of those graduates who has chosen to work for a year first, before I can afford to take that flight.
I currently work in what can most suitably be described as a gastro pub, in the Ribble Valley. I already have four years of casual waitressing at a Michelin-starred restaurant behind me, so I have a decent wealth of experience to draw from in this business. However, I think we can all agree that no matter whether you stay in the same business or not, every place you go to, and every person you work with, will always be different and present you with new challenges.
The pub I work in now serves much differently to where I used to work. After all, the restaurant was focused on maintaining a Michelin star status, whilst the pub prides itself more on sourcing local ales at our bar, and being a casual and relaxed establishment. Both have amazing qualities that appeal to different kinds of customers, and I have enjoyed working in both!
But what is it that I have learnt at the pub, that I hadn't yet from the restaurant? In my current job, I communicate a lot more with customers than I ever have before. I have been pushed to enhance and enrich my people skills with the many, many members of the public that visit us. Our clientele range from groups of teenagers looking for a quick sandwich and a few pints, to elderly couples that want an afternoon out and a good, hot meal. Much of what we do involves understanding and interpreting those different needs, and catering to each and every one individually. I have learnt to be unafraid of asking questions; if you can't gauge what it is that someone wants, then you must ask. Break the barriers of expectations and just be comfortable in knowing that everyone you meet will have different preferences and tastes, and it is your job to accommodate that.
On the occasion that something might be wrong, like a food or a drinks order, then I have learnt that honesty and communication will be your greatest tools. Shying away from the customers because you aren't sure how they'l l react, will only create a gap between you and them, and allow for them to become agitated and maybe also feel ignored. The saying, "honesty is the best policy", hasn't stuck around for no good reason! Telling the truth that something got mixed up is a perfectly okay thing to do; in most cases the customer will be fine with you and happy to wait for the correction, because they appreciate your respectful attitude.
Problem solving and developing people skills are things that you can practice pretty much anywhere and everywhere in life, but I can guarantee that doing so with customers is one of the toughest (but also most rewarding) experiences you can have! And at the end of the day, it's helping you save up for that truly exciting trip you've got planned. What is there to lose?
By Anna Clarey