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“The Driest Bartender in all the Land”

“You’re a bartender?” they say, surprised. “That’s awesome! Where do you bartend?”
 
“Oh, I’m looking for a job now,” I say, eyes flitting around at the table momentarily, and slightly uncomfortably.

Unemployment. This economy sucks, it’s no secret. Luckily, there’s been an increase in employment percentage, but when you’re a young college student looking for a part-time position that will work with your school schedule, it’s tough. There are many factors that contribute to making this challenge one long Camelot quest for the Holy Grail of productivity.
 
I just need a job, man, you think, fiend-ing for green. I just want to go to Lazy Moon with my friends, you know, see that new movie, go to that concert…scratching at your neck like a crack addict. If that hyperbolic imagery doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will. Our world revolves around the concept of currency. To live comfortably, we need money.
 
College life gets expensive: books, rent, food, and school supplies are basic essentials. Then, we’re young, we want to live. There are concerts, bars, parties, travel plans, style to express, restaurants to sit, laugh, and eat in with our friends.
 
That’s about right, you think. Now, how do we get around the obstacles and factors that make finding a job difficult?
 
Competition
During one of my first job hunting excursions, I talked to a manager at Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Grill. Obviously, it didn’t really work out at the time, but she told me some very useful information. There are about 50,000 students at UCF all looking for jobs as close to school as possible. So, there are 50,000 people looking for jobs on Alafaya Trail. It was then I learned I had to expand my search. Orlando is a large city. When looking for a job, you have to LOOK outside the box as well as THINK outside it.
 
Managers
They don’t really like talking to hopeful applicants. The more lower-level employees turned me away and refused to get a manager, the more I got mad. Michael Henry, former restaurant manager, explained why it was so hard to talk to a restaurant manager. He said they are not owners, but they have almost the same responsibilities in dealing with advertising and making sure everything remains in order as well as keeping everyone happy – customers and employees.
 
“They’re incredibly busy with inventory,” he said, “making sure that what is needed is always on the shelf.”
 
This frequent chaos does not always leave them in a good mood. Hiring is a pain for managers. They have to start from scratch and deal with trying to weed out the promising applicants from the not so promising ones. Training is also time consuming and tough. Hiring a new employee is a huge investment. 
 
“The upside is they get to fill a spot, but the process is difficult from their end,” he said.
 
To get on the manager or owner’s good side: be concerned about their well-being. Consideration for how busy they are and appreciating the time they take to talk to you takes the rigidity out of the process. This starts turning you into a person in their eyes rather than another numbered applicant.
 
The end of a shift is usually a good time to attempt to catch a manager. This doesn’t mean come in right at closing, but try to facilitate a conversation after the rush and when you suspect they’re not under pressure. Timing all depends on what type of job you are applying for, but try to find out about the schedule your potential workplace has to wiggle your way in.
 
Limited experience
Sometimes your resumé doesn’t do much after the person you’re trying to convince should employ you has seen 1,600 others that have the same look as yours. Even if your resumé isn’t as extensive, the experience you have gained can only help you. You have to speak for yourself. Whatever you have done, even if you’re barely 20 years old, is valuable if you tell the interviewer about it. 
 
Interviewing, and especially the introduction before you snag the interview, is essentially a sales pitch. Sell yourself. Look the part, and tell them about how you handled yourself and your customers on a crazy holiday night at your old job. My favorite story to tell is the Real Madrid vs Barcelona game I worked at my first bartending job. The place would fill up with a few hundred people, and it was beer after beer after schnitzel after pretzel (I worked at an Austrian/German restaurant). Show them you can handle whatever they might throw at you because hey, you got this far didn’t you?
 
Managers like adaptable people. Don’t be cocky. Show that you know what you’re doing, but can adapt to their ways of business.

Personal Appeal
There is nothing that gives you a greater advantage in an interview than a positive attitude. Job hunting is hard. It’s frustrating and tedious. As I have explored opportunities in restaurants, bars, and even a night club or two, I learned the value of one thing: schmoozing. Even if you are not looking for a bartending gig, showing interest in the business you’re applying for is a great asset. Ask how business is going. Sell yourself as someone who is engaging and able to deal with people. No matter where you want to work, you have to deal at least with your coworkers and your boss(es).
 
Try to be observant of your surroundings. Maybe a personal object in the office will strike a commonality between you and the manager. This can allow you to fuel the conversation. They got to like you a little before they hire you.
 
Resumé
There are plenty of resources on the Internet to help you build your resumé according to specific formatting and professional standards. Microsoft Word 2010 has hundreds of templates for resumés, cover letters, etc. to help you out.
 
What seems most important is to make it easy to read. I always attach a copy of my bartending license certificate and recommendation letter from my bartending instructor from Bartending School. Yes, Bartending School was useful. Like I said, any experience helps. Give them as much information about yourself as you can without overloading them and giving THEM an extra job to do.
UCF has a Career Services department that has interview practice programs and resumé critique services. Their website is http://www.career.ucf.edu/Default.aspx.
 
Persistent but Professional
If you leave and never come back, they might forget you. If it didn’t work out the first time because they were fully staffed, check back every once in a while. Maybe someone on the staff hasn’t been working out. If you think you could be a great asset to the company and would like working there, be persistent. Don’t let them forget you, but be professional and courteous about it. Like I said, schmooze a little. It could help.

These are a few tips I have learned while going to interviews and popping my head into restaurants and bars. As job seekers, that is exactly what we have to do: seek. Jobs won’t usually come looking for us. If we halt the search, we won’t get anywhere.
 
I myself am still looking for an opportunity, but with a little persistence, practice, and definitely a little luck, unemployment won’t last forever.
 
 

Samantha Henry is a Feature Writer for HCUCF and is a junior double majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing. As a music festival enthusiast, she loves to write about music and how it influences our generation.
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