Graduates who paid their way through school by serving drinks and taking orders don’t always quit the service industry when school ends. Why don’t they immediately ditch their gigs to look for a job in their field?
Faraz Malik is a finance grad from the University of Ottawa and a bartender at Andaz in the ByWard Market. He got into the industry two years ago by applying to a bar where he knew people.
“I enjoy bartending and serving and having that customer facing role,” says Malik.
While Malik doesn’t intend to stay in the industry as a career – finance is still his goal – bartending offers financial security while his job search continues.
The downside? “It’s tough when the money is very good,” he says. “Most starting positions in my field would pay less than what I’m making now.”
Still, he’s looking to leave sooner rather than later.
My own experience is not unlike Malik’s. I started as a hostess when I was 17, amounting to six years in the restaurant industry working as a server, bartender, supervisor and busgirl.
When I was working as a hostess, I was getting paid minimum wage, plus tip out – which was a small percentage of what the servers made, and I got it at the end of the night. The more I helped the servers, the more generous they were with me.
That was enchanting. All of a sudden I was getting paid my hourly and on top of that I was making $20-$30 a night.
As I got older and got my SmartServe after I turned 18, I was after a serving position. But I started as a bartender, where I made my own tips. Soon after, I was serving my own tables at Fat Tuesdays in the Market.
I couldn’t believe how lucrative the industry was. Even though server hourly wage is less than minimum wage, you could always count on your tips.
As I continued my studies, I felt free to change jobs or leave them as was most convenient for me because there’s always someone to fill those positions.
I haven’t finished my formal education, but I know that I’ll be making more money as a server upon graduating than I could at any starting position in my chosen field. And since I have student loans to pay off, I’m quite literally banking on paying that off with tips.
Krista Mostert has been serving for over a decade. She’s an Algonquin College grad in early childhood education, and has held nanny jobs while keeping a serving job for the accommodating schedule and finances.
She recently came back from a month-long trip to Morocco where she completed her yoga instructor certification. This is something she asserts wouldn’t be a possibility if she had a full-time position in child care.
“I think just having the flexibility by working in a restaurant that I’ve been able to travel more,” she says. “If I worked in a daycare I wouldn’t be able to take off months at a time.”
Besides the schedule, Mostert says serving is one of the jobs where you don’t take any of the stress home with you. “You leave your problems at the door on the way in and on the way out.”
However, there are disadvantages to working full-time in the service industry.
“It sucks that you have to work weekends – because that’s when you make the most money, you feel guilty booking off a Saturday night,” she says. “You get addicted to the money.”
Mostert knows that serving is hard on the body, with working long hours on your feet and, often times, not a long night of rest before your next shift. But at the end of the night, the money is usually worth it.
The service industry is a double-edged sword that can be hard on your body and can put you on a completely different schedules than others. But for young professionals who need to support themselves while finding a job in their field, restaurants will always have guests looking for a drink and some food. And they’re always going to need someone to bring it to them.