Three Life Lessons From: My first job

When I graduated from school, I had no clue what my occupation would be. I spent six months applying to 30+ jobs in software before getting one interview.

While I was applying, I worked part time as a waiter at a local restaurant. I learned some valuable things there:

1. A transaction is an exchange of value, but value comes in many forms. In a restaurant, a customer pays for more than food. They pay to relax. They pay to choose what they want. Or, they pay to not need to choose. They pay to feel empowered. This lesson is important because I am now more open-minded about why people pay for things. People don’t just pay for a widget. They get value from how that widget makes them feel.

2. Empathy leads to a glass half full perspective. Opening my first wine bottle at a table was the most nerve-wracking thing ever. My hands shook as I spilled wine on the table. Another time, I tripped while walking a tray of water glasses out to the patio. The whole thing drenched a man with his kids. But in both cases, instead of responding with anger, the customers gave empathy. They were patient and understanding. They didn’t dig their nails into the obvious mistake I had made. I actually ended up having nicer, longer conversations with them. On the other hand, there were other customers who found any tiny thing about which to complain. They treated me like a servant to deliver their messages to the kitchen and get some free meals. These people went in with negativity and dragged everyone through the mud to fill their agenda. These people were simply forgettable.

3. The boss sets the tone in a business. The general manager dictated the sentiment of the employees. When he cracked open a bottle of scotch to celebrate after a busy Saturday, the mood was high. When he snapped at waiters for their mistakes, everyone else got tense and bickered at each other. The engine driving us to work came from the culture we shared. This culture came from mostly the tone of the boss.

In the end, restaurant work was not for me. I ended up working at another restaurant part time a few years later, which took my learnings to a whole different level.