How Being a Waitress Prepared Me for a Career in PR

By: Emily Pirt, Executive Director

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Image Credit: TheGrindstone.com

Dirty dishes, difficult customers and disappointing paychecks.

While our part-time jobs might not seem very glamorous as college students, our minimum-wage experiences can teach us some valuable lessons. You may not realize it now, but all of those Friday night shifts will leave you with skills you can take into the board room one day.

My years as a waitress has, of course, made me a better multitasker, but it has also helped me solidify key PR skills.

Overnight Expert

As a waitress, your memory is your best friend. Not only do you need to be able to practically recite the menu by heart, but you also need to remember to get napkins for table five, to-go boxes for table seven, take table two’s order and bus table eight.

Working at an ethnic restaurant presents an even greater challenge. Not only do you have to confidently describe all the dishes, but you essentially have to translate the menu for your patrons. Who knows? You might even pick up a few words in Spanish, French, Italian or Hindi along the way.

This novice to expert transformation happens all the time with communications firms. As clients come in, you have to become versed in their business model, their history and their product(s). You must then turn around and explain that information to reporters you are pitching in a concise and enticing way.

So the next time you’re trying to explain what an aloo tikki chaat is to a customer, try thinking of it as a practice pitch for a future reporter instead of just your average part-time gig.

Client-Centric Approach

If you want a crash-course in Client Management 101, work in the food service industry. Waiting on tables is the quickest way to learn how to manage client expectations, put the needs of the client before your own and deal with difficult clients.

Working for tips has forced me to think of creative ways to connect with the “client” in a short period of time. Within your first introduction you need to gauge what type of interaction will get the highest satisfaction level from your table. Do they want some witty banter? Straight-laced and serious? Bubbly and fun? Silly antics for the kids? Whichever you choose, you need to make your table feel welcome and reassure them that they are in good hands.

The same thing goes for client relations in the communications world. Not all clients want or expect the same level of interaction. As the communications professional, it’s your job to determine the best course of action when dealing with your client.

Some of the greatest lessons I have learned, however, come from the seemingly awful moments on the job: when you drop a tray of food, when you mess up an order or simply, when the table is overly demanding. In hindsight, these experiences have taught me that you’re not always going to have a perfect situation when working with clients. You’re going to have to communicate clearly and improvise a lot. But it’s the unending determination to make things right for your client which will separate you from the others out there.

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