When imagining a job in the food industry, certain scenarios always come to our mind: stories of horrendous, angry customers; miscommunications gone terribly wrong; confusing language barriers; and bizarre, questionable requests. In my year of working in the food industry, between my bachelor's and master's degrees, I experienced all of these, some leaving lasting impressions and others creating endless hours of laughter. Through it all, I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly of a business. Nothing will ever terrify me more than being in a restaurant exploding with a mob of new sorority girls twenty minutes before closing time. January 6, 2018 will not be forgotten.
Despite the worst of moments, I found that I enjoyed my job and loved the people I got to work with. It was my first time having coworkers; the closest'd thing I'd experience was fellow musicians in music ensembles. Connecting on a social level at work with people outside of music and academia was rewarding and refreshing. More than ever, I felt encouraged to just be myself and talk to all the different kinds of people around me. (A little sentimental mushyness, but true.) If anything, the job actually made me more social. Even simply communicating with customers, "daily strangers," helped get me outside of my social comfort zone. Most satisfying though was that when I shared something about my music, whether it was with an employee or customer, it was a personal specialty, and not just some part of my music-career-job-kinda-thing. I got to share a part of my world with others who don't engage with classical music as frequently as I do.
My time in the food industry came with a surprising amount of lessons applicable to life:
1.) Be proactive - Before the lunch or dinner rush, you better have the restaurant stocked, locked, and loaded for action. Be prepared.
2.) Keep a positive attitude - You can't escape having a bad day now and then. Center yourself, stay calm, keep going, and see the long-term silver lining.
3.) Practice your best courteousness - Just because the previous customer was rude, doesn't mean the next customer deserves attitude. Every "daily stranger" needs respect. (Well, most... Do your best.)
4.) See a need fill a need - If you see someone needing help, you can be the help! Sometimes it's only holding the door open for an elderly customer.
5.) Speak slowly and clearly - Everyone has different hearing and speech abilities. Effective, respectful communication makes a lasting connection
6.) Develop a sense of compassion and empathy - expand your ability to care about others. It will make you more responsive and more likely to go the extra inch for someone. Your tone best communicates a genuine, caring response. Kindness is a power anyone can possess.
When combined, all of these lessons contribute to our personal growth in an increasingly difficult world. As a musician, composer, human in the 21st century, I need these skills to foster a career dependent upon networking as my authentic, musical self.
Happy future purchases foodies!