There’s a sense of entitlement that comes from people who have never worked in the service industry and you can smell it a mile off. It’s the odour of someone who berates a teenager behind a till, over the price of toilet paper.
It used to be the case that unless you were absolutely rolling in it you would have a part time job while in school and college. It might have only been a Saturday shift in a supermarket or a few evening hours in a bar but it instilled skills and values that massively shaped our social and professional development.
It wasn’t just about the value of money or punctuality, it helped us deal with stressful situations, conflict, frustration and taught us how to suppress the white hot rage that only dealing with the public can incite.
The number of young people in part time jobs is decreasing year on year, to their detriment. And ours.
As we move towards a society dominated by virtual communication, it’s important to realise the necessity of working in the service industry.
For one, it broadens your horizons. You meet customers and colleagues you would probably never engage with outside of your job. These interactions offer a different perspective to those within your own social circle and help you to better understand and empathise with others. You have a greater respect for people and a greater aptitude for dealing with them. Waiting tables teaches you social cues that you just don’t experience in an office environment. You become a master of timekeeping, of reading body language and assessing moods and behaviours.
People who have worked in hospitality or retail also tend to have a good work ethic and are more open to helping colleagues out for the greater good. The sense of team spirit is heightened in high pressure situations and during the rush of service, it’s painfully apparent if one person isn’t pulling their weight. This teaches you to be responsible, dependable and that your actions have consequences. I would never have dreamed of calling in sick or being late for a Saturday shift as I knew I would be letting my coworkers down.
As well as that it builds resilience. Dealing with people in an office environment can be tough. Having to call a colleague up on missed deadlines, poor performance or just generally annoying behaviour can lead to an awkward chat or even an uncomfortable working dynamic for a period of time. However, it’s nothing on denying a refund to a man twice your age, height and body mass because he doesn’t understand the basics of purchasing a service. They say you should never fight with fools but unfortunately this is not always possible for those who work in customer service.
On that note, if you’ve ever gone to a restaurant, ordered your meal, eaten it in its entirety and then refused to pay I hope you stand on an upturned plug everyday until you die.
I realise I may sound like an old, bitter, people hating wench and the truth is that I really loved my years working in retail and hospitality. It had its frustrations but I’ll always be grateful for the skills I built in that time, the people I met and the opportunities it afforded me that had nothing to do with money.
So forget learning to code or speak Mandarin, a job in the service industry is the key to your personal and professional development. Don’t undervalue it.