Waiting tables, Selling shoes, Carrying bags


I worked for a while for a smart man in a film business who never hired anyone that hadn’t waited tables.  Or bussed.  Well he hired me and I had been a bell hop, same sort of thing.   The experience you get in this kind of service gig is invaluable.  And if you get good at it you will have mastered work habits that will propel you through life with success.

You learn about people: how to read them and how to manage their expectations. When you have a whole slew of tables with diners who all see their own needs as the most important, then you figure out how to make them all feel special.   You learn how to never waste a journey across the room:  you carry menus out and orders back and pick up a check as you pass by.  You carry food out and take drink orders on the way back.  If there is something that needs doing you see it and you take care of it.  And you get good at all this because when you are good at it and people like you and see you making the effort then you get bigger tips.

I used to work the front hall of a four star hotel. I had a red jacket with gold buttons.  I was everyone’s friend.  I greeted them by name if they liked that, or otherwise I respected their privacy.  I carried bags and ordered cars and booked tables.  I did room service at night and shined the shoes guests left outside their rooms.   I brought them breakfast in bed and threw open their curtains.  Every summer Cary Grant (under his real name of Archie Leach) would stay with us and I’d let him hide out in my porter’s office as the American blue-rinse bus tour ladies passed by.

Advice that was often given to young folk who wanted to get into the ad business – “get a job in a shoe shop selling shoes.”  You will learn everything there is to know about selling and about how people buy.  This is good advice.  Successful sales experience should be a key requirement for working in advertising.

So don’t belittle those gigs that you thought were fill-in jobs – they have been the training ground for many successful business people.  Understand what they are teaching you and don’t be shy about explaining how important they are and how good you have now become at understanding human beings and at getting stuff done.