Should I Be a Bartender? 10 Things You Should Know

Updated on February 7, 2019
Bartending may have a glamorous appeal, but like any other profession, it has its downsides, too. Do your research before deciding to pursue this career.
Bartending may have a glamorous appeal, but like any other profession, it has its downsides, too. Do your research before deciding to pursue this career. | Source

Is Bartending a Dream Job?

Should you become a bartender? Do you ever think it'd be fun to work at a cool bar, serving up classy cocktails to a hip crowd? If going out to bars with friends is a great way to spend an evening, wouldn't working at a bar be the ultimate cool job?

The truth, however, is that bartending is not an easy job—and it's not something that anyone and everyone can do. So, where can you get the real story? It's easy to go online and find books, courses, and programs that will teach you the practical skills to become a bartender—but will any of these sources tell you about the downsides of the profession?

That's where this article comes in. Let's look beyond the promise of glamorous crowds and fat tips... and examine the hard truths about the job.

Reality #1: Bartending requires you to be social all the time.

Bartending is a hypersocial job that involves constant interaction with people. Good customer service is paramount, and you are expected to be friendly and ready to engage in banter, or even a slightly deeper conversation or two if a customer yearns for a chat (and the evening is slow).

What if you are an introvert? If you are not fond of mingling with lots of people, if the pressure of social anxiety gets to you easily, if you don't like the idea of starting random conversations with strangers, and if you don't know how to flirt with girls or guys in a healthy and harmless way, bartending may not be for you.

Bartending is not just about standing behind a bar and filling up one glass after another. It is a social job, and the tips you get will largely depend on your people skills.

Reality #2: The tips are not always that great.

Like many other hospitality careers, tips often make up a significant chunk of a bartender's earnings. But the tips aren't always glamorously high; in fact, many times, they're not.

There's no quick and easy way to estimate how much you might make in tips because it depends on a whole host of factors, including the type of establishment, the location, the size and type of crowd it gets, your personal customer service skills, and many other factors. To get a better idea of what you might expect in your area, ask bartenders in your city how much money they make from tips. If you explain that you're considering becoming a bartender yourself, they should be happy to share their knowledge with you.

Reality #3: Bartenders generally work late hours.

If you're a bartender, chances are you're signing up to work nights. Day shifts aren't particularly common in this profession. Most watering holes, including pubs and nightclubs, see their business pick up only after the sun sets. If you decide to become a bartender, you should be prepared to work night shifts that may possibly stretch into the early hours of the morning.

Unless you are lucky enough to get a job at a swanky hotel or pub that caters to business people coming in for lunch and a few drinks, be prepared to work late nights.

Reality #4: It doesn't offer much of a career path.

A decent hourly pay rate combined with tips to match might sound alluring to a young person who needs a bit of extra cash to buy a car—or who is still living at home in order to save money on rent.

Bartenders generally get paid an hourly rate, and not everyone goes on to become a hospitality manager at a five-star hotel. If climbing up the corporate ladder is your ultimate career goal, becoming a bartender may not be the best job for you.

It takes time to gain work experience in any profession, and the sooner you identify where you see yourself a few years down the line, the quicker will you be able to make a well-informed career choice.

Pouring pint after pint non-stop is not as easy as it looks in the movies. Working as a bartender in a busy pub or nightclub can be exhausting.
Pouring pint after pint non-stop is not as easy as it looks in the movies. Working as a bartender in a busy pub or nightclub can be exhausting. | Source

Reality #5: People will flirt with you. You may not always think they're cute.

A good-looking bartender is likely to be at the receiving end of a lot of flirting and attention. When the alcohol is flowing and the music gets louder, you never know what the tipsy customer sitting on the stool right in front of you might say or do. If you are not the kind of person who can take naughty compliments and heavy flirting with a professional smile, you may not be cut out for the job.

Reality #6: People will swear at you. You need to remain calm.

Why would people ever swear at a bartender? It could be that the bartender has refused to serve them another drink because they are becoming aggressive or are about to pass out. Or it could be for no reason at all. Should you decide to become a bartender, you will need to build a thick coat of psychological armor that will protect you from the nasty comments drunk customers might throw your way. You can't let these comments get you down.

Bartenders always have the option of calling upon bouncers if there is any trouble. But don't expect the burly bouncers to come to your rescue every time someone calls you a name.

Reality #7: Bartending is tiring! The work can be nonstop.

Do you think bartenders have lots of time to relax in between serving occasional drinks to jovial customers? Think again, because if you land a job at a busy pub, hotel, or nightclub, you are likely to be on your feet until the wee hours of the morning.

You will be scurrying around like a rat fetching drinks, stocking the bar, working the till, sorting out arguments with customers, and filling one glass after another. By no means is bartending an easy job. It can be exhausting, and a busy night will wear you down. By the end of your shift, all you are likely to think about is going to bed straight away.

If you are not the type of person who can work at a good clip throughout a long shift, you may want to look for jobs that involve sitting on a comfortable chair.

Reality #8: Customers may threaten you. You must be tough.

As a bartender, you will meet people from all walks of life—and a good many of them may become drunk over the course of an evening. A drunk customer could take offence over absolutely nothing and want to give you a shakedown outside.

If you are considering this career, you will need to have a tough psyche. If the thought of being on the receiving end of an angry rant makes you want to run away, this job may not be a good fit.

Bartending can be exhausting. By the end of your shift, you may want nothing more than to go to bed straight away.
Bartending can be exhausting. By the end of your shift, you may want nothing more than to go to bed straight away. | Source

Reality #9: You will be working when others are out partying.

How would you feel if all of your friends are partying like crazy—and you can't join them because you have to work? Not only do you have to work, but you have to watch everyone else partying like crazy on the other side of the bar? Would you feel lonely if you had to spend your evenings watching loved-up couples heat it up on the dance floor?

Metaphorically speaking, bartenders are like jokers who make the world laugh but are unable to crack a smile themselves. Bartenders work tirelessly through the night, while everyone around them is having a good time.

If you're going to go into this line of work, you need to be prepared to spend your Fridays and Saturdays evenings on the job. These are the two nights when the whole world wants to go out and have a good time, and therefore they are the two busiest nights of the week for bartenders. Think about this before you decide on this career.

Reality #10: Bartending is a science that requires study and hard work.

There is a common misconception that bartending is an easy stint to pull off. On the contrary, bartending is a science, and you will need to learn complicated mixology. This is a challenging course of study for anyone, especially those who are not already very knowledgable about their alcohols.

Memorizing the ingredients and precise quantities for each drink, not to mention their sometimes quirky names, is just the beginning. Pro bartenders know how to effortlessly juggle the recipes of multiple drinks in their heads at once and serve them to the precise specifications that each customer expects.

From taking courses to studying books, you will have to go through a long journey before you can land that first job behind the bar.

Before You Take the Plunge

There is little doubt that bartending is a cool profession. Not many people can boast about having this job, and those who do generally have a lot of cool stories to tell.

However, it's important not to be blinded by the glamorous appeal of the work. If your desire to become a bartender is based primarily on the notion that it is a cool thing to do, give it some more thought. Yes, it can be a rewarding job—but it may not always be as glamorous as it seems.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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