“I’ll get a regular size cappuccino with no foam”
This is a statement that I’m sure most baristas have heard (and for you non-baristas, let me explain that no one serves “regular sized” items – what does “regular” even mean? And let me draw attention to the fact that a cappuccino is impossible to make without foam because the drink consists of MOSTLY foam.) In short, sometimes working in the service industry can be...infuriating. Especially when you’re stuck for the whole summer!
Taking a position at a retail store, a café, or a restaurant can be the opposite of what you had hoped and dreamed of for your summer. You don’t get to binge watch Netflix 24/7 – and you miss out on the (sometimes) hot Edmonton weather. Summer jobs also don’t allow for a lot of time off, so it can be hard to balance work with play – there will be days where you long to be outside with a cold drink, enjoying the ambience of summer.
I’ve worked as a barista and a waitress, so I’ve had my fair share of service industry experiences – some good, and some bad. And yes, I’ll admit, many of the “bad” experiences have been my fault. When I was waitressing at a popular restaurant in West Edmonton Mall, there were multiple occasions where I made a complete fool of myself, and my clumsiness alone was to blame. (For example, there was one time I dropped an entire pint of beer on an elderly man’s lap.)
While working as a barista, I once forgot to correctly seal the whipping cream container before putting the CO2 cartridge in it... yes, as you can imagine, I was soon covered with cream. And people saw it happen. Lots of them. Enough of them.
There have been times when customers have made me cry and feel incredibly upset. Sometimes people don’t acknowledge that there is a real person behind the till (servers and baristas have feelings too, guys!!)
Though I’ve had my moments, I’ve survived. I’ve survived and THRIVED.
You see, the key to surviving your summer job is patience and hard work (and occasionally faking enthusiastic kindness to strangers).
So that being said, here are some tips to help you survive your summer job:
1. Get to know your co-workers.
There’s nothing worse than standing around like angsty teenagers when your store or restaurant isn’t busy. Be the co-worker that everyone wants to work with! Talk to them – learn about their interests, appreciate their skills, and see if you can find yourself a new friend. (Or that the very least, find yourself a new acquaintance that you would be willing to wave at if you passed them on the street.)
2. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and don’t own someone else’s bad day.
If a customer is being outwardly rude to you, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. I know – I know, the customer is supposed to always be right. But the truth is, they’re not always right – if someone is hurting your feelings or doing something that is inappropriate, politely tell them (maybe they just didn’t know that it was rude!)
Also, chances are that you will never know the real reason a customer is upset – they could be having the worst day of their life – and aside from maintaining your own composure and trying to improve your interaction with them, you have to accept that their bad day does not have to be your bad day. Acknowledge their negativity, but don’t adopt it.
3. Be interested in people’s lives.
Yes, it’s rather easy to fake being interested in your customer’s lives - but, if you genuinely show them that you care, you might just become their new best friend (or really brighten up their day). There are a lot of lonely people out there. You’d be surprised at how many times I’ve had complete strangers open up to me about their lives, just because I chatted with them as I made their coffee or brought them their food.
It’s important to set aside your nervousness and to be more open with people, you never know what could happen.
4. Have dance parties.
At the cafe I work at, we regularly start dancing to the music (and belting along too!) You should know when it’s time to have some fun, whether you’re behind the bar or behind the till – it’s always good to break out into song and dance. If the people around you see joy, it will illuminate the room!
5. Use your staff discounts.
You have the whole summer to use the staff discounts to your advantage. Have your cake, and eat it too! (but don’t spend all your money)
6. Embrace the diversity of your day.
You never know what’s going to happen – everyday is new and different (which really keeps you on your toes!). Sometimes you might witness an old man trimming his toenails at a table or a little kid senselessly dumping a bucket of sand all over the floor – other times you might get uplifting compliments from strangers, chat with a lovely elderly woman who has travelled the world, or serve a famous hockey player. (Side note - all of these things have happened to me!)
Your summer job might not be perfect, but you’ll learn how to multi-task, how to be a more patient person, and how to handle both stressful and mundane situations. It will force you to develop your soft skills – isn’t that a good thing?
So even if you find yourself dreaming of Netflix while washing a huge load of dishes – try to stay positive. And let me tell you some more good news – it’ll only last 4 months!