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If you’re looking for a second job to help make ends meet, then you might want to consider becoming a bartender. Even if you already have full-time employment during the day, working a few hours in the evening might be the perfect arrangement for you. For that matter, anyone seeking a career change might find work as a bartender very satisfactory. The potential to earn a substantial amount of money in tips in addition to a salary is also attractive. So, how do you become a bartender, especially if you don’t have any previous experience?
The job requirements are usually quite a bit different from most other jobs. While it may help to have at least some experience in the hospitality industry, the basic skill really needed is knowledge of how to pour beer from a tap and how to make popular drinks. Even in the latter department, most bartenders have a “cookbook” to refer to in the event a request for an unfamiliar beverage comes up. So, don’t assume you don’t have what it takes to become a bartender just because you don’t know how to mix a Bahama Mama off the top of your head.
Some people think that the sure-fire way to land a job as a bartender is to go to bartending school. This might be a great way to get educated about how to operate a blender and cut fruit into fancy shapes, but it really won’t teach you anything practical about the art of being a successful bartender. Your special brand of interaction with your customers is what will keep the tip jar brimming, not whether or not you put a paper umbrella in their drink.
The best way to learn how to become a bartender is to spend significant time observing someone who’s already on the job. After all, most people are flattered to get this kind of attention and will readily share the tricks of their trade. Extend your personal interest to the bar owner too, since this is the person to whom you might be making a pitch for employment. When the right time presents itself, you might be able to persuade the bar owner to let you serve a few drinks, or even spend an evening or two at the helm of the bar. As long as you’re careful to avoid creating an atmosphere of competition, the resident bartender will appreciate having a backup when they need some time off.
Before you commit to become a bartender, though, keep in mind that it’s not all glitz and glamor. For one thing, you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. Plan on having to hustle non-stop too, especially if your keep is a popular nightclub or lounge.
There are also a few qualities necessary to possess in order to become a bartender at all. For one thing, the job requires excellent listening skills, an easy-going manner, and patience. Make no mistake about it — when you become a bartender, you also become a confidant, a therapist, and an expert in diffusing people from engaging in inappropriate behavior. You’ll also likely have to handle certain safety and security issues at times. For instance, you should know when to politely stop serving a customer and offer to call them a cab.
All the bartenders I know have put in at LEAST a few months as a barback before being able to actually serve customers, even if they have been to bartending school. Often people who've been tending for years still have to barback if they switch bars.
Don't forget it can also be depressing. Every bartender I've talked to also sadly tells me about the alcoholics they watch slowly ruin their lives, day after day.