Bartending is often referred to as a means to an end. You hear it all the time when people say they’re only bartending until they get back on their feet.
“I didn’t go to college and get a degree in Biology to be no bartender,” says the 10 year bartender veteran. “We didn’t take out all those loans to pay for college,” says the parents of the 10 year bartender vet.
Let’s be honest it’s one of those jobs you get stuck in but how come?
We have met bartenders with no formal education. We have met bartenders who own their own businesses and have advanced degrees. Some have other jobs that pay them significantly more. Yet they can’t seem to escape that ‘short-term’ bartending job.
The barriers to entry are not hard so it’s easy to start bartending to make some extra money. And you can do so with the comfort of knowing this is not for the long-term. Or so you think? A lot of bartending jobs come with no benefits, no career development plan and no prospects for future growth. Yet it is still a distinctly rewarding job for so many and people pick the career in droves.
When you bartend you will encounter the most interesting people. You can be standing in front a homeless person to a CEO. You interact with folks who celebrate the highest of highs to those who want to get through tough situations. And regardless of his or her status in life, they end up in your presence.
At times, being a bartender is the equivalent of being a performer on stage. The more you put on a show, the more people enjoy and tip you. One night you are a comedian telling jokes, and on other days you may be asked to be a therapist. You get to hear all the juicy gossip and learn intimate details about people’s home life. People who drink tend to be more honest, funnier and just looking to get some things off their chest. That can be pretty addictive and hard to quit bartending.
Every day is payday. You can make great money bartending although it is highly likely you won’t be getting any benefits so you have to save your money wisely. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly bartender salary is only around $21k. That doesn’t sound like much, but so much of your money can go undetected by the government. So going home with $400-500 a night cash can be pretty appealing and keep you around for a while.
The income may not be steady, but it can be significant at times. Some regulars tip big every time. And then some nights you may get that one customer who is really excited about life. They may of either hit big gambling, won the lottery or got a huge promotion. Since they got money to burn, they end up giving you a $100 tip on a $20 bill just because. This can make for a pretty awesome night.
Being a bartender is like being a chaperone for an adult slumber party. You oversee people at their most vulnerable moments in life. And we all know drinkers are much more fun than when they are sober. The goal of a bartender is to make sure everyone else is having fun. Oftentimes you get to see the evolution of a person real-time. They start out as sober, then a little more talkative, and ultimately become your best friend after a few shots of tequila.
Sure if they drink too much it can become annoying. But most people do control their liquor you are the overseer of all that. And if you buy them a free drink, they may be your best friend for life. So now you are making new friends, getting tipped well and now you also have developed a new admirer. Of course this can be irritating, but everyone loved to be admired a little.
The people, the money and the fun are extremely compelling reasons to never quit bartending. But I believe the main reason why it’s so hard to just exit the profession is the freedom. Sure you can go to other jobs and make more money. But none offer the freedom a bartending job offers you. Sure you have more opportunities to be a responsible adult, but who really wants that?
Bartending keeps you committed because:
- Forget about working a 9 to 5. You have the ability to sleep in and make whatever you want within reason.
- You don’t take your work home with you. No stress with finishing an assignment at home.
- You get to hang out with all the cool people. Yeah you may have your share of stuffy co-workers. But with all the people you meet, you hear the most interesting discussions.
- People are more empathetic when they drink. And if you do a good job, you will hear about it. I mean who doesn’t want to be acknowledged for the good work they do?