"If you can wait tables, you can do any job."
My former roommate Kaitlynn Murphy used to tell me that all the time. With the exception of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, she was convinced that the few years she spent shuffling around in a number of restaurant management positions had prepared her for any career under the sun.
Seven years later, she's the head of operations for a food brand in San Francisco. Recently, I checked in with her to see if she still believes her own advice.
Here's what she told me.
1. Waitressing teaches you to prioritize quickly
"Getting someone's ketchup so they can eat their fries while they're still hot is more important than refilling Bob's water for the fourth time," Murphy said.
This also applies to her current role — or any role, she notes. Murphy says she has an easier time identifying and prioritizing long-term projects and job responsibilities against the immediate needs of her boss or a client.
2. You learn to keep a smile on your face, regardless
"Yes, of course! Absolutely! Right away!"
Murphy says she learned how to keep calm in the face of challenging customers, and found appropriate venues off-site or out of sight to let off steam. She never lost her cool in the moment, so she never lost her job.
3. You learn the importance of communicating, and there is no one-size-fits-all
"How you talk to the chef, the line cooks, the servers, the hostess, the manager, the bartender matters," Murphy explains. "Delivery is crucial even though the message is almost always the same."
4. You learn that "time = money" is a universal truth
"The faster you turn tables, make drinks, put out quality dishes, the more people you can feed and serve," Murphy says.
This applies to your office job as well. Taking on increased responsibilities, if managed properly, can yield greater recognition from your managers. But don't take on too much and lose control.
"Quality over quantity," Murphy urges, "but try to learn how you can deliver both."
5. Embrace teamwork and don't try to outshine your colleagues
Group projects didn't end in high school.
"In a restaurant, the chef is just as crucial as the dish washer," Murphy says. "When people focus on carrying out their responsibilities to the best of their ability, everything is harmonious and the job gets done."
6. You learn to move quickly
Working at a restaurant helps you hone your skills in real-time. There's no time for breaks, complaining about how tired you are, or stressing out about how much you have to do. You just have to keep moving until every meal is on the table, every check has been delivered and every wine glass has been polished.
Office environments aren't always like this, but if you embrace that "go-go-go" pace early, you can apply it to any job and keep procrastination to a minimum.