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Should I be a bartender? Things to know before you decide to become a bartender

Updated on November 26, 2012
Bartending is a profession that has a glamorous appeal. But like every other career choice, it has some downsides too. Know them before you decide to become a bartender.
Bartending is a profession that has a glamorous appeal. But like every other career choice, it has some downsides too. Know them before you decide to become a bartender. | Source

Should I be a bartender? There are many books and online courses that boast about imparting the precise skills needed to become a bartender. But few talk about some of the practical downsides and limitations of the seemingly glamorous and cool profession. Working as a bartender is not an easy job and it is not something that anyone and everyone can do. Let's brush aside the glossy promises of fat tips and look at the real life issues before you even attempt to start learning the skills of the trade.

1) Bartending is a social job: Customer service and interaction is paramount

Bartending is a social job that involves constant interaction with customers. As a bartender, you are expected to be friendly and be ready to engage in a conversation or two if a customer yearns for a quick chat.

Should you become a bartender 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, if you don't know how to flirt with girls or guys in a healthy and harmless way, bartending is possibly not 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.

2) Tips are not always great

Experienced bartenders will always joke about how being a beautiful woman behind the bar generally rakes in a lot of tips. You can choose to look beyond similar seemingly silly words of wisdom and give the whole deal a thought again. If the tips that bartenders make are always through the roof, why would anyone else want to take up any other job?

Like many other hospitality careers, tips often make up a significant chunk of the money a bartender earns. But don't be under the wrong impression that tips will always be glamorously high.

It may be impractical to form a common guideline for how much money a bartender makes in tips because it depends on the type of establishment, the locality and suburb, the size and type of crowd it gets, your customer service skills and many other factors. To get a practical insight, speak to bartenders in different localities in your city to find out how much money they make from tips.

3) Night shift: Bartenders generally work late hours

Working day shifts as a bartender is not the most common thing in the profession. Most watering holes including pubs and nightclubs see activity after the sun sets. If you decide to become a bartender you will have to be prepared to work night shifts that may possibly stretch out up to the early hours of morning.

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

4) Cash vs. career: Bartending can be limiting as a career choice

A decent hourly pay rate combined with tips to match can sound alluring to the twenty five year old who is living with her parents just because she is unable to afford rent or a guy who needs some money quickly to buy a car.

Bartenders generally get paid an hourly rate and not everyone goes on to become a hospitality manager at a 5 star hotel. If climbing up the corporate ladder or being a suit-clad manager 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 years down the line, the quicker will you be able to make a well informed career choice.

5) People will flirt with you: Taking unwanted advances with a smile

A good looking girl or a guy bartender is likely to be at the receiving end of a lot of flirting. For example, a girl working as a bartender may receive a lot of flirty compliments from guys. She may be at the receiving end of tons of I Like You messages on a busy night.

When spirits flow and the music gets louder, you never know what could be in the mind of the tipsy customer sitting on the stool right in front of you. If you are not the kind of person who can take naughty compliments and heavy flirting with a plastic smile, you may not be cut out to be a bartender.

6) People will swear at you: Bartenders need to be calm

Why would people ever swear at bartenders? The answers can range from not giving drinks to someone who is about to pass out or possibly for no reason at all. Should you decide to become a bartender, you will need to wear a psychological armor that will stop nasty comments from drunk customers put you in a bad mood.

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 insults you with petty name calling.

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 is a tiring job.
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 is a tiring job.

7) Bartending is a tiring job: Working non-stop at busy venues

Did you think that all bartenders did was relax and sit behind the bar serving 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 toes till 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 is tiring 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 frantically while pulling off a long shift, you may want to look for jobs that involve sitting on a comfortable chair.

8) Customers could threaten you: Bartending is not for the faint hearted

'Meet me outside' is what you could hear from a customer is you happen to irk someone off. As a bartender you will meet people from all walks of life while serving up pint after pint. A drunk customer could possibly take offense over absolutely nothing and could want to give you a shakedown outside your work premises.

If you are seriously thinking about taking up bartending as a long term career choice, you will need to have a tough psyche. If an angry rant is enough to make to think about quitting your job as a bartender, the profession may not suit your personality in the first place.

9) You will be working when others party

How would you feel when all your friends are partying like crazy when all you can do is serve drinks and watch? Would you feel lonely and alone if you had to spend a Friday evening watching loved up couples heat it up on the dance floor?

Compared metaphorically, bartenders are like jokers who make the world laugh but may themselves be unable to crack a smile. Bartenders work tirelessly through the night when everyone around is having a good time.

It is not the best of feelings knowing that Friday and Saturday, the two days when the world is out to party, are going to be the busiest days of the week for you. Think about this before you decide to become a bartender.

10) Bartending is a science: Learning how to bartend requires studies and effort

There is a common misconception that bartending can be an easy stint to pull off. On contrary, bartending is a science and you will need to start by learn intricate drink mixes. This can be a complicated thing to do if your knowledge of spirits is not up to the mark.

Knowing the quirky names of drinks, memorizing the ingredients and quantities are just the beginning. Pro bartenders know how to effortlessly juggle the recipes of multiple drinks in their heads at once and serve up the precise taste that a customer expects.

From courses to books to experiencing the first nervous day at the bar, you will have to go through a long journey before you can start raking in the rewards of the profession.

11) Bartending is not always glamorous: Don't be one just because it is cool

There is little doubt that bartending is a cool profession. Not many people can boast about being bartenders for decades together and those who do, generally have a lot of cool stories to tell.

Don't get blindsided by the glamorous appeal of the profession. If your decision to become a bartender is solely based on the notion that it is a cool thing to do, give it another thought. It is a rewarding job but it may not be always as glamorous as it seems.


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