Wine glasses hanging from a rack above a bar

Ten skills you can get from doing a bar job

You may think that all you’ve learned from your bar job is how to pull pints but you’d be wrong. Working behind a bar can give you skills that are highly sought after by graduate recruiters and internship providers alike.
Numeracy is a skill prized by recruiters in many different areas, including engineering, retail, science and finance.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss any bar work you’ve done when it comes to proving that you’ve got the skills asked for on application forms and during interviews for internships and graduate jobs. Showing that you can work efficiently, accurately, honestly and meet customers’ expectations under stressful conditions can show employers that you’ve developed some of the competencies looked for in a number of roles.

Here are ten skills that bar work can give you, why employers look for them, and the sorts of jobs that you may need them for.

1. Teamwork

Teamwork is the ability to work well with other people and be adaptable in order to deal effectively with the demands placed on the team. Employers may ask you to demonstrate this skill in your application if the placement will involve you working with other people and cooperating with them to get the best result.

Example: You will have shown teamworking skills behind the bar if you worked effectively with others to ensure all the tasks were completed, thereby providing an excellent service to your customers.

2. Customer awareness

Customer awareness is the ability to understand the needs of your customers. In many areas of the commercial world, such as retail or management consultancy, success depends on working out exactly what customers want and providing them with that in a manner they like.

Example: You will have demonstrated customer awareness when doing bar work if you asked customers what drinks and snacks they liked and used their feedback to stock the bar with items they were more inclined to buy, which resulted in an increase in takings.

3. Verbal communication

Good verbal communication skills are essential in all areas of business. You need to be able to give clear directions and listen to other workers and customers carefully to ensure that what is done in the workplace is exactly what is needed. Being able to communicate effectively is also very important in instances where you are required to negotiate, such as when two employees have conflicting ideas about how to proceed with a task. Misunderstandings can result in needless work, unnecessary expense and a loss of reputation with customers.

Example: You will have proved you have verbal communication skills in your bar job if you avoided mistakes that displeased customers and paid careful attention to what people asked for, politely requesting confirmation when you were unsure. Your negotiation skills will also have been put to the test if you’ve ever had to deal with one customer disagreeing with another, for example if one customer wanted the music to be turned up and another wanted it turned down.

4. Numeracy

Numeracy is the ability to understand and process information supplied in numerical form. It’s a skill prized by recruiters in many different areas, including engineering, retail, science and finance.

Example: You will have shown that you are numerate when working in a pub when you gave customers their change without making mistakes.

5. Integrity

Integrity is the ability to do the right thing morally, sometimes in conflicting or difficult situations. It’s particularly sought after by recruiters in areas of work including law, financial compliance and healthcare.

Example: You will have demonstrated that you have integrity if you reported a discrepancy between what was in the till and what was indicated in the log of that day’s takings to the person in charge.

6. Time management and prioritisation

Good time management and prioritisation skills are sought by recruiters in a wide range of jobs. Employers need staff who can prioritise effectively in order to plan their workload and allocate time sensibly for the different tasks involved so that deadlines are met in a timely manner.

Example: You will have demonstrated good time management skills if you can show that you successfully fitted your bar job into your busy schedule and were able to meet your commitments. Your ability to prioritise will also be shown if you can give employers examples of when you altered your working hours or allowed yourself enough time to swop shifts during periods when your attention was more urgently required elsewhere, for example if you had a test or an assignment coming up.

7. Persuasion

The ability to persuade clients is particularly important in careers in sales and marketing, where you need to convince clients to take action that’s beneficial to your business. Being able to persuade others to follow your ideas or methods if they effect a beneficial or necessary change is useful in other careers too.

Example: You will have used good persuasion skills if the bar was running a promotion and you successfully convinced customers to change their orders and try the promoted product.

8. Working under pressure

Graduate and intern employers need to know that you can make fast and sensible decisions, and not crack under pressure. This skill is vital in careers such as working in the armed forces or being a paramedic in the emergency services. However, this skill will be necessary in many, if not the majority, of jobs at some time or another.

Example: If you were in charge of a busy bar at an event such as a ball or a sporting event and dealt effectively with drunken, rowdy and difficult customers, thereby keeping the event running while turning a tidy profit, this would demonstrate to a recruiter that you could work well under pressure.

9. Initiative and motivation

Employers want candidates who are able to take the initiative when it comes to work. This means they are motivated enough to take control of their own work and use their common sense to carry out tasks or to ask for direction when unsure. Employers want applicants who have the drive to see tasks through to the end and who want to produce work of a high standard. (A lack of motivation and initiative could mean your work is of a lower standard and you are less likely to meet deadlines.)

Example: You will have shown that you are motivated and able to take the initiative by having actively sought part-time bar work in order to help support yourself. Many employers look favourably on candidates who hold or have previously held a part-time job to help support themselves because it demonstrates that they have the drive to go out and take action to change their circumstances.

10. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a difficult or unpleasant situation without letting it bother you and it is an increasingly popular trait among employers. They want candidates who can withstand constructive criticism and aren’t put off by challenging work or a bad experience. They also want candidates who can deal with the often rigorous selection processes for internships and graduate schemes and don’t give up if they are unsuccessful the first time. Being resilient shows a determination to succeed that many employers find appealing.

Example: Bar work can often require a degree of resilience, whether you’re having to deal with rude or drunken customers, or perhaps a snappy boss. If you’re able to withstand unpleasant comments without letting it affect your work it shows that you are resilient. Similarly, if you’ve been able to just get on with things after having smashed a glass or spilt a drink this shows you can cope with setbacks and have the resilience to keep going.