Why everyone should spend some time as a waiter

by: Sarah Stoner

Everyone should be a waiter—or server—at some point in their life.

This thought pops up quite often; like a few months ago in Gettysburg, when I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband after an awe-inspiring day at that great battlefield.

A sharp whistle from the table next to us had pierced through the noise of happy hour and when I glanced up, I saw a man furiously pantomime-signing a check. I was surprised at his fervor, because it was so crowded and our server had been doing a great job with our table. I couldn’t help but think that, in that moment—even in Gettysburg—some people have trouble with one of our most hard-won propositions as Americans: that we are all created equal and it should reflect in our behavior to each other. Regardless of whether we are with a friend, a client or a stranger serving us seared tuna.

The thing about being a server is: you can’t help but embrace this proposition if you want to succeed. I should know, having logged hundreds of hours of long shifts on my feet back in my school days.

When you do this day after day, you develop strong intuition and communication capabilities with customers and coworkers from all different backgrounds and situations. It enables you to quickly understand how to meet their needs while multi-tasking (so you avoid being “in the weeds”). Over the years as I advanced my education and career, I realized that the mental, physical and project management skills we servers hone out of necessity translate into empathy, insight and agility that is universally beneficial for any profession.

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