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Want Out of the Restaurant Industry? Here’s How to Market Yourself

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Tired of the grind that comes with jobs in the restaurant industry? You may not realize it, but your experience with difficult customers, inconsistent hours and little room to move up has provided you with valuable and marketable skills for the next step in your career.

Learn from Brianna Odom — an internal recruiter with Aerotek — about better job opportunities that need skills like yours. Get tips on how to market yourself on your résumé and during interviews.

Showcase transferable skills on your résumé

The skills you developed in the restaurant industry translate to a variety of different jobs.

Odom says, “The more people you’re interacting with, the more diverse your client base. That conveys an ability to interact with a lot of different people, which comes with a variety of skills, including problem-solving and mediation skills. These skills are valuable in nearly every work setting.”

Make sure to mention them on your résumé.

Use bullet points to show your customer service experience, strong communication skills and phone presence, if you take calls as a host(ess). Note your ability to hit regular goals and push different types of products, such as selling bottles of wine or promotional items. This ability demonstrates a combination of customer satisfaction and persuasion skills.

If you’ve been a shift lead, trainer or a manager, feature this leadership position on your résumé, too. Employers place a high value on leadership experience.

Apply for jobs that match your skills

Understanding which jobs suit your skills can be tough, but you might be surprised at the range of roles open to you. Recruiting and sales positions offer rewarding opportunities to serve people while earning more money through commission. It’s also a great idea to target sales jobs because many companies provide management training programs that develop leadership skills.

Customer service is a great option because of your expertise helping customers — especially the difficult ones. Great customer service is important to all companies no matter the industry. Many companies see their customer service reps as a pipeline of talent who understand their business well and can move into other departments.

If you love the restaurant industry but want out of the kitchen — you could look into HR positions that handle staffing, recruiting, scheduling and payroll. Look for jobs that are people-focused, like the hospitality industry: hotel operations, concierge, hosting or ticket sales at sporting events.

Many companies offer internal promotions, where development opportunities include conferences, trainings, books and other learning materials. Some companies even offer their own continued education to provide practical knowledge.

While it might feel like a step backward in taking an entry-level job, know that your brand of hard work can take you far in organizations that promote from within.

Detail your experience during an interview

An interview is an opportunity to relay more detail than can fit on your résumé. Use examples to describe your work atmosphere and experience, and include all the important tidbits, like your ability to multitask.

“For example, ‘At any given time, I balanced five walk-in customers while answering phone calls and letting servers know their tables were seated,’” Odom says.

Discuss the restaurant culture and climate, and explain the quality of service you were required to give, which varies between fast food and fine dining.

Emphasize your invaluable leadership skills, which may not have come with a formal promotion, but that’s OK.

Describe anything you’ve done to go above and beyond:

  • Extra tasks you were given based on your capabilities
  • Awards you may have received at the restaurant
  • Positive feedback received from co-workers or customers

Use the interview to share how you’re an overachiever.

Save the drama for the restaurant industry

A restaurant can be a drama-filled workplace. During your interviews, avoid mentioning any employee conflicts, or there’s a high chance you won’t move forward in the process.

Brianna says, “If you were not constructive in those interactions and had no part in bettering the environment, don't even talk about it. There's no point, unless you stepped up and helped facilitate a more productive culture.”

If you were instrumental in diffusing a difficult interpersonal situation among co-workers, be careful with how you describe it. Keep it brief, and don’t let yourself get caught up in the details of the dramatic event.

You may need more than work experience

Apart from call center jobs, lower-tier administrative work and some hospitality positions, you’ll likely need a college degree to redirect your career path quickly — particularly for a more professional office job with client interaction. Sometimes, a two-year degree is all it takes.

Many companies look for degrees because that indicates the capacity for written communication and phone interactions. But a college degree requirement can depend on what you do to develop your professional etiquette outside of the restaurant.

“Sometimes we overlook when someone doesn’t have a college degree: ‘You portrayed yourself very well in this interview. There’s no question about your ability to professionally interact with customers.’ We may test their written communication and say, ‘Send me a follow-up email’ and see what that looks like,” Odom says.

Companies that don’t require degrees typically focus on internal professional development, so starting in a lower-level position could be the start you need to acclimate yourself to a new industry.

Market yourself with confidence

How you carry yourself during an interview can completely change the tone of the conversation.

Take it from Odom: “Too often, I get on the phone with someone who obviously has the experience I'm looking for because I’m the one who called them about the job. And the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘I don't have the experience.’ Yes you do! This is your chance to sell yourself. This will be your opportunity to tell me all the things that you've done for the last five years — working nights, going to school, doing all these things to better yourself and get yourself to this point. That makes you qualified.” 

Final tips:

  • Recognize that your day-to-day restaurant grind has provided you with a valuable skill set that you should take pride in.
  • Recognize and evaluate your transferable skills before you submit an application, so you can be ready to discuss why you have what it takes.
  • Share examples of putting your skills to use at work. A great story can go a long way.

Have confidence in your experience. It could be the key ingredient for getting a fulfilling job that could change your life.