waiting

If at one point you donned an apron and goofy hat and stood at a register, you are decidedly not alone. Largely, a job in retail or food service may appear to be mundane and thoughtless on the surface, but in a very real sense, those irritating jobs counting drawers, stocking shelves, mopping bathrooms and smiling at customers is a training ground for life.

Here are five lessons that service jobs teach you:

The Customer’s Always Right
Few things in life are as difficult as accepting someone else’s stupidity because you are paid to. Knowing you are right and not being able to explain yourself is a serious lesson that should be learned at a young age. Perhaps as the years pass, being right will become less important, but accepting compromise is both challenging and rewarding. Being able to work with others is the result and that, too, is also pretty damn important.

Appearances Matter
Yes, there are jobs out there where no one cares what you look like when you show up. But, barring a few exceptions, are those jobs that anyone should aspire to? Your appearance throughout life is a big billboard that says: “I want this opportunity,” or “I care about my future,” or “I was out drinking until 4 a.m. and these bright lights just suck.” No one should be someone they aren’t, but dressing your best when it really counts pays off in spades.

Don’t Forget the M Word
Multitasking is a silly word. It’s a word that conjures domesticity and self-improvement, but when push comes to shove, it is a skill worth honing under the right circumstances. Some of the best professions involve managing several things at once, so why not start practicing now?

Smile Through the B.S.
A good smile is a skill worth its weight in gold. It can be charming, disarming and immensely helpful. The ability to smile while the whole world is crashing down is an ability that should never be taken lightly. Retail jobs are stressful positions, but they are also excellent opportunities to learn to excel under pressure.

Watch Things Eat
In the film The Departed, Jack Nicholson’s character states, “You know what I like about restaurants? You can learn a lot, watching things eat.” We as a culture are consumers. We consume in massive quantities and understanding how and why we consume what we do is a powerful tool. Working in retail and food service is a brilliant opportunity to examine human behavior, impulsiveness and the magic of merchandising. Did she order the tacos because of the waiter’s description? Because of the image in the menu? Because a friend recommended it? Because he was cute? Pay attention.