So you want to be a bartender? Part 3


By J. Halperin [email protected]
Read Part 1 | Part 2


What experience do you have already?

Whether you’re certified or not, potential employers are always going to be looking for someone with experience. This is especially so in an economic downturn when inexperienced job seekers are going head-to-head with unemployed individuals with years of experience against you. So even with your certification, you will need some prior work and experience to help you stand out amongst the hordes of other job applicants. So where does one go for this experience? Well, it all depends on who you know.

Get ready to pour a lot of shots.

Get ready to pour a lot of shots.

There's a lot to learn about liquor, wine and beer!

There’s a lot to learn about liquor, wine and beer!

I fell into the category of “certified but not too experienced” crowd, so when I first got my certification I was in for a rude awakening when my first two weeks of bartending job applications went unanswered. I ended up taking a waitstaff job for a few months until I finally head back. It was supposedly based around bartending, but it turned out they’d just as likely have me waiting tables and prepping for dinners instead of behind a bar (it didn’t help that they neglected to mention how rarely they actually needed a bartender, but that’s why you do research before you apply).

Slowly I got experience through the few bartending gigs the place actually had. It was a lesson in humility; if I wanted to bartend full-time, I’d have to work my way up from the very bottom (though looking back, that seems a “no sh*t Sherlock” idea). If you don’t have any experience already, you’ll probably be in the same position. A lot of the bartenders I’ve talked with started out doing the same, be it on waitstaff or doing the drink-collecting and other cleaning work while the main bartenders make drinks and do the fun parts of the job. If you’re used to video gaming consider this level-grinding; it’s not glamorous and it’s DEFINITELY not going to be that fun, but it’s what you need to move forward to the actual fun stuff.

After the waitstaff job I ended up working at a high end liquor store, which was an awesome experience. Even though I wasn’t behind the bar, I at least gained more knowledge and professional training about the stuff I wanted to eventually work with. It also put me in a position to talk about bartending with people that might potentially be looking for a bartender, be it for the occasional evening party to owners and managers looking for someone to fill a more permanent position. That’s how I got hired in one of my favorite bartending jobs; an owner opening a local cigar bar heard I was looking for a bartending position and he asked me if I wanted a job. Several months later, I had my first long-term bartending position.

However, you’re still not done finding that dream position just yet. Not every bartending job is created equal, so you have to ask yourself…


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