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Why I think everyone should experience the service industry

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

Important lessons work has taught me

I have worked several jobs in the past few years, but the two most prominent were at a restaurant and at a pool. I began my job hostessing at a local restaurant in my hometown when I was 15. I still work there when I’m home from school, going on three years now. Having begun working there when I was very young, that job has taught me important lessons that I carry with me today.

When I began at the restaurant, it was February 2021. The pandemic was still very much affecting the daily lives of billions of people, and the restaurant industry was definitely part of these numbers. The restaurant I worked at was small, family-owned and primarily sit-down. Although this made certain things infinitely more difficult, the personal relationship with our town is almost definitely what saved the restaurant during those years.

This being said, although we did our best to promote safety and normalcy, there was no avoiding some changes. We opened a patio with outdoor seating through all seasons (with heaters!), spaced out tables, and instituted a cap for dining time. Masks were also required at all times unless eating. As the host, I was the first face that people saw as they walked in the front door of the restaurant. Wearing a mask at all times made it more difficult to be a welcoming sight.

As a relatively young employee, it also put me in a very strange position. I was the person responsible for telling fully grown adults to put a mask on or pull it up. I was occasionally met with confrontation. I, a child, was consistently being yelled at by adults in their 60s and 70s.

Even now post-covid, I will get attitude or scorn for a slightly delayed reservation or a table not in an ideal corner. It has given me a unique perspective regarding the normalized behavior in which society treats people in the service or retail industries. To a person in their everyday life, being rude to their server may not mean anything at all. Even worse, it may just be habit. Some of the simple rudeness and bad treatment I have seen of servers or myself often just seems to be impulse. I’ve increasingly noticed this with some of my friends closer to my own age. People that I may go out for a meal with may just disregard tipping our server entirely, even if it is a sit-down meal with great service.

Although it may just be a minor inconvenience to the person eating their meal, to the server this may be the final addition to a really bad week. The thing I have begun to understand is there is a tendency to dehumanize the people who work in everyday jobs. Although they are right in front of us daily, we often do not see beyond their profession. My #1 take from this misperception is this: you never know what makes up the other 90% of a person’s life. This is so important and I think people often forget.

The portion of a person you see in front of you is rarely the full story. It is essential to treat every person around you with kindness and decency. They deserve just as much respect as anyone else, even more so when they are simply doing their jobs. Having my job in the service industry, although not always glamorous, has taught me so much about how to simply be a good person and I could not be more grateful for this unorthodox form of education.

Hi! My name is Caitlynn, and I'm a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I'm from Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. I'm majoring in Political Science and Journalism on the Strategic Communication track. I love to read, work out, and spend time outside.