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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Use My Bartending Experience to Land a Full-Time Job?

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Dear Recruiter,

I’m a 2017 graduate who worked in the service industry (bartending for 15 years, managing for seven) before returning to school. Should I consider a resume summary since I’m having difficulty quantifying my achievements? Also, is it advisable to consider positions above entry-level given my experience working in teams and managing? Thanks!


Managing Bartender

Hi Managing Bartender,

I’m torn on the effectiveness of resume summaries or objective statements. Typically, I see them filled with bland platitude, “hard working,” “organized,” “collaborative,” without any specific, quantified examples.

I prefer to see the information that would’ve been included in a summary incorporated and quantified into the bullet points under specific work experiences. It’s one thing to tell me you’re hard working, it’s another to show me how your hard work resulted in a positive outcome for your company.

There is an exception. As Muse contributor Lily Zhang explains in this article, it “can be used to tie together disparate experiences with a set of key transferable skills.” So keeping that in mind, you can use yours to tie the skills you gained in your 15 years of service industry experience to the key skills needed in the field you’re applying to now.

Ask yourself “What experiences, skills, and characteristics matter in my target jobs?” and demonstrate how you’ve gained those through your previous work. This formula makes it easy to highlight those transferable skills. (I promise, it’s not as tricky as it sounds.)

For example, here’s how I would tailor a bartending job for an entry-level position:

  • Managed over $30,000 in weekly bar inventory and consolidated vendor management saving company 10% annually.

  • Oversaw the customer experience for 500 visitors weekly, providing cheerful and helpful service.

  • Directed a team of 9 wait staff, including scheduling, mentoring and disciplinary actions resulting in a significant decrease in employee turnover.

Now, while your previous experience as a manager is relevant, in many industries managing individuals before you’ve become proficient in the nuances of the work yourself may be difficult.

Ask yourself, do I possess the needed knowledge, both in management but also in the subtle details of this industry, to be an effective manager? If the answer is yes, go for it. Just note that if companies are looking for experienced managers and they see you’re a recent grad, they might automatically put you in the “no” pile without investigating further. So, if that’s the route you’re going to go, make sure your cover letter and resume highlight your managerial experience.

But there’s still good news: You may be able to move up more quickly than expected if you effectively use your previous management experience.

Long story short, don’t undervalue your previous experience in unrelated industries. With a little bit of research and legwork you can connect the skills you’ve mastered to the in-demand skills in your desired industry.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.

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