Without fail, every shift I work I come across that one person who asks, “so like, what’s your real job?”
Normally stunned into silence, the person asking slowly sips on his/her drink and looks in another direction or down at a mobile device.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t go around asking people who are in the midst of working what their “real job is.” I can honestly disclose, I have never once taken my trash out while the garbage person was on his/her daily route and asked him/her what his/her real job is. I have never once gone to the grocery store and asked the person bagging my groceries what his/her real job is. I’m sure you get the point. Asking a question like that is assumptive, offensive and degrading. It assumes there is no future nor validity in bartending and that working as a bartender is not a “real job.”
So what makes a job real? Is it defined by hours worked? Is it defined by money earned? Is it defined by passion, purpose and/or necessity? Or is it defined perhaps by what society defines as acceptable?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then never, and I mean never ask your bartender what his/her real job is. Don’t assume you know someone’s schedule. Don’t assume you know their salary and don’t assume you know their motives. Instead, if you are curious about your bartender, a better approach is to ask about hobbies. Perhaps ask, “so what are some of your hobbies?” Or “what are you passionate about?” For all you know the answer might be ‘my passion is crafting cocktails and creating new recipes.’
It’s actually pretty good gig – thanks for asking.
The reality is a lot of people in the service industry make great money and really enjoy their jobs. Often times much more than those whom they serve. As a novice bartender with no experience, I was able to pay off $10,000 of credit card debt in less than six months while working at a club (and no, it wasn’t a strip club). I could still afford my NYC rent and all other associated expenses while getting rid of my debt. On average, I was making $20,000 more than other people my age in “professional positions.” In addition to that, I was working only three nights a week- namely Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturdays.
When everyone else went out to party and celebrate the weekend I was there serving them. Every cheers, laugh and drunken match-making attempt I overheard or was part of. The only difference is at the end of the night while my patrons paid their tabs, I collected money from them. Every time a customer blurted out, “another one,” my bank account went, “cha-ching”
One reason why this question is asked is because a lot of people see the bartender job as.. volatile. I have never, in real life, seen a bartender over 35. I have seen videos of bartenders that where older, but in my country, at least (Romania), i have never seen one.
So… i guess my question is: how long can one work as a bartender, if you are a decent quality bartender?. Can this be an accessible lifetime career?
This is what most people think about when thinking about “real job” – something that can provide for the lest of your life (and children).
Of course the 10% of those that start as bartenders and are of exceptional quality will have job offers for the rest of their lives. But how about the 50% (or more) that are just decent-ok-ish ? What can a 40 y/o, with family, and lacking the stamina of a 25 y/o, look forward to when the venue where he/she has worked for the last 10 years gets closed/restructured/etc ? Is the experience alone a sufficiently valuable asset when balanced against the other younger candidate (requires less pay, can work more hours, more enthusiasm – ok, the last one is debatable) ?
Please change/challenge my views.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I can certainly appreciate your perspective.
People worldwide bartend as a career for life. If you’re a “decent bartender” that’s fine, but what that probably means is you lack the passion to be great. Bartending is about far more than crafting cocktails- it also encompasses the art of communication which isn’t lost or deluded after a person turns 35. I used to work at a hotel venue in midtown NYC when I was 23. All of my co-workers were 39-58 and had been working there serving and bartending for years. They all made six figures a year and were unionized. All but one had children and spouses, and in several cases they were the sole supporters.
If you visit a country like France, working in hospitality is highly respected and positions outside of working in a club don’t teeter off based on age, in fact the more experience you have the more money you can demand. Ultimately, the most important thing to understand when you approach someone with a question such as, “what’s your real job?” Is you just don’t know, nor should you assume to know a person’s motives, passions and goals.
Nothing in life is guaranteed except the now. People spend their whole lives sometimes planning for a future they will never experience. It’s too common in our societies today to project ourselves into some non-existent future situation rather than to enjoy our lives where they are here and now.
Thank you for the info. Now that i think more about the example i gave (my personal experience), i realize that it must be a … local thing. One of the reasons why i never saw a bartender over 35 is that, 25 years ago, there where no bars, not to mention clubs or cocktails – because of communist regime. So probably there was no time for the population interested in bartending to actually get to that age.
Anyway, glad to hear that it’s a job that can be pursued as a career.
Appreciate your taking the time to comment, and your openness to seeing through another person’s perspective 🙂
I think it can be the same with ANY job. In general, it’s best to become a jack of many trades to always have something to fall back on